By James Stanford for PickupTrucks.com
The Mazda BT-50 is the sister truck to Ford's all-new Ranger global small pickup. Both were developed by a team led by Ford’s Australian engineering team, although Mazda had considerable input from the start.
While the trucks are almost identical underneath and share many parts, Mazda’s designers have given the BT-50 a radically different look. The Ranger is more traditional with predominantly straight edges, while Mazda has gone for a much more shapely design that it describes as emotive.
The BT-50 shares certain hard-points with its Ford twin and has the same general dimensions, but it features a different shell and tub. Its dramatic nose sets it apart from other more conservative commercial vehicles and links it to the Mazda passenger car range. In Mazda’s own words, it wanted the BT-50 to look like a “sophisticated beast.”
The truck’s chief designer, Ryo Yanagisawa, said he looked to nature for inspiration when it came to shaping the BT-50 — more specifically, a picture of a lion.
"[The lion] looked like a magnificent predator, with his muscles all bunching up as though he was about to pounce on his prey," Yanagisawa said about the picture. "His sinews were stretched taut, ready to strike, and his mane framed a sharp, masculine countenance that seemed to say, 'I am the proud king of the beasts!' In profile, that lion appeared to be both intelligent and powerful. I really wanted the design of the truck to project that kind of image. This kind of inspiration was the basis of the emotional design that we worked so hard to achieve with the all-new BT-50."
The BT-50's interior is not as wild as the exterior, but it’s a more adventurous design compared with other commercial vehicle interiors and could have originated from a car. An asymmetric dashboard arcs down and links up with the center console and a sporty instrument cluster that could be from an RX-8 sports car.
Mazda says the BT-50 was developed as an "active lifestyle vehicle," which is hardly a new claim in this segment.
The company says the BT-50 offers unique value with expressive styling, a comfortable and high-quality interior, the feel of a passenger car, and sporty and responsive driving dynamics that match the fun-to-drive characteristics that Mazda is all about.
While Ford released a lot of detail on its new Ranger, Mazda declined to release any information on the production BT-50.
It is likely there will be some sharing of the engine lineup Ford has announced, including the 2.2-liter four-cylinder and 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder turbo-diesels and 2.5-liter naturally aspirated gas engine, but Mazda is tight-lipped. It has already been announced that the two vehicles will be produced in Thailand next year. This plant is a joint venture between Ford and Mazda.
As is the case with the Ranger, there are no plans to bring the BT-50 to North America.