First Drive: 2012 Mazda BT-50

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By James Stanford

Meet the Mazda BT-50, another “ute” from Australia, closely related to the new Ford Ranger. Both come out of the same lines of the same factories, but they have unique interiors, exteriors and suspension tuning.

While we hear a fair amount of criticism from frustrated Americans who would love to buy a Ranger, the BT-50 doesn’t bring out the same kind of passion, partly because Mazda isn’t as well-known for its commercial vehicles, but it could also have something to do with Mazda’s styling as well.

The BT-50 is not your average-looking ute. Mazda gave it all the curves of a futuristic coupe, and it’s a little confronting. But it would be foolish to dismiss the Mazda for its looks because it is a lot tougher than it looks.

This platform is new from the ground up, and the BT-50 has instantly become one of the best work trucks around. It’s one of the bigger ones in its class. The dual cab is 211 inches from nose to tail and 71 inches tall, but it is relatively narrow, at 73 inches wide, so it also appeals to many Asian customers who need to get it through narrow spots. You can get it as a chassis cab if you want a flat tray or go with the steel box, which measures 61 inches wide, 61 inches long, 20 inches deep and 45 inches between the wheel arches.

You can get it as a regular cab, extended cab, and dual (or crew) cab, the latter of which has room for five. There is a choice of two- and four-wheel-drive models with an on-demand system four-wheel drive system with low range and an electronic rear-locking differential.

The ground clearance is 9.3 inches for the 4x4, and it has 31 inches of wading depth, which we tested out through a creek near the Australian capital of Canberra. It made it through easily. As for the 4x4 capability, the BT-50 easily handled some steep and slippery tracks with ease.

BT-50-Engine 2II
A gas four-cylinder is available in some markets; the Australian BT-50s are diesel-only, and buyers can choose from a 2.2-liter four-cylinder or a 3.2-liter five-cylinder. Both are common-rail units with a variable-geometry turbocharger and are available with a six-speed manual or a torque converter-type automatic with six speeds.

We didn’t get to try the small engine, but we do know it makes 147 horsepower at 3,700 rpm and 277 pounds-feet of torque between 1,500 rpm and 2,500 rpm. The 3.2-liter manages a more respectable 197 hp at 3,000 rpm and 347 pounds-feet of torque between 1,750 rpm and 2,500 rpm. Like the Ranger, these engines come from the Ford Transit family with some revisions.

Our utes were empty, but this engine handled 1,540 pounds in the Ranger without a worry. The BT-50 has a payload capacity of up to 2,802 pounds and can tow a very respectable 7,385 pounds. For the full specs on the three cabs and their capacities in pdf format, click here: Download BT50 Specs-1 (1)

The suspension is a rigid axle with leaf springs at the back and double wishbones and coilovers at the front. Combine that with a far stiffer ladder frame and new liquid-filled chassis mounts, and the BT-50 can handle big loads, yet it is also relatively civilized on the road.

As to ride, it's not quite as comfortable as the Ranger’s. Mazda says its engineers opted for alternate bushings, anti-roll bars and shock absorber damping rates to give the truck a sportier and firmer feel — some might even call it more car-like. As a result, the truck handles a little better on smooth surfaces, but it feels more jittery and slightly less controlled on rougher surfaces as it picks up all the bumps and imperfections from the road. It does handle extremely well for a workhorse ute, though, and the rack-and-pinion steering feels sharp and precise.

Mazda decided to make the interior more car-like as well. The cabin looks every bit as good as a premium Mazda passenger car, and the quality is top notch. It is extremely quiet in there, too. Sure, you hear some diesel clatter, but it is still quite serene, and there is no need to raise your voice to chat with backseat passengers.

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Like the Ranger, the BT-50 has heaps of headroom and legroom for all occupants, and there are tens of cubby holes for all your gear, including spots beneath the floor in the rear passenger footwells, much like the full-size Ram 1500s. We especially like that the rear seats fold up and down to allow for extra practicality.

Safety was given a high priority, and the BT-50 comes standard with front and side curtain airbags and electronic stability control. Mazda Australia also offers two approved bull bars that work with the airbag sensors. It proved their strength with footage of a test in which the BT-50 hit a specially made kangaroo crash-test dummy at 60 mph. There wasn’t much left of the hefty dummy, which weighed the same as a male adult kangaroo, but the bull bar and front end of the Mazda was in perfect condition.

Will buyers in the U.S. see the BT-50 anytime soon? Not likely, but it’s good to know there is a little truck out there that could be imported by Mazda if the small-truck segment in the U.S. were to surge. 

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BT-50 audio controls

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What did you get for mpg during your test drive? Curious as to how fuel efficient this vehicle is.


That looks HORRENDOUS! Not even the bull bar helps it. The front 3/4 resembles the Mitsubishi truck but this is even worse! I'm sorry, I was looking forward to seeing this truck but not anymore.

I could live with the Mazda 3 styling with all of that capability but Mark you obviously meant a 20 inch deep bed that is 45 inches wide at the wheel wells.

The picture of the engine shown above is wrong, that's the previous model bt50 engine.

Whew, that front and back styling is like nothing else.

Oh those poor Aussies.

They have to look at ugly trucks and choke on all those diesel fumes. Their government must not love them as much as our government loves us.

So glad that our government protects our air from small turbo diesels. And also protects oil industry jobs. We must do our part and fuel our 15 mpg engines to keep people employed and drilling away!

Can you imagine how awful for our economy if we had these B50s with a hybrid turbo diesel that got like 50 mpg?


If it got 50 MPG we'd all be driving one right now. Heck if it got 40 MPG we'd all be driving one right now!

Looks like a Mazda3 and a Toyota Tundra love child.

Terrible front. Terrible lines. Front Wheel Well looks stupid.

I do like the proportions and the stance.

Would be cool if back door handle was high and hidden like the Tundra.

Would be cool if it came standard with some kind of lite bed rack.

A big rear window would be nice.

@max. Problem people have in the US, what diesel fumes?. No these are as clean as a petrol model. The ugliness cannot be hidden, this thing is confronting.

@max sorry missed your point too it literally.

@DenverMike US USLD quality and Diesel refinery capacity keep on coming up when talking to people I know about selling small diesels in the US. The leeway the US Government has given on Pickup diesels as regards Tier regulations does not apply to smaller Car/European diesels. As a result they cost a lot more than they comply to US Tier regulations A Euro V or Euro VI Diesel would run like a hairy goat or have its engine stop if it ran on US grade USLD.

Mazda messed up big time when they got involved with Ford for the production of this vehicle. What an ugly pile of cow dung, just like the new Butt Ranger that the Ford girly girls won't be able to buy in the US. Another HUGE LOSS for Mazda and Ford.

This is ugly. they talked about "organic" lines. Well, it doesn't get more organic than a turd. Reminds me of the slant eyed Chevy headlights of a few generations ago. For once, I'm thankful there is the "chicken tax".
I'd love to see that 3.2 diesel end up in something in NA.

the tail lights look a lot like the Lexus RX300's

Even the interior is Butt ass ugly on it...I agree with Lou on this one...Thank god chicken tax is keeping this ugly monster in Europe.

@Nate M. More like Asia. It makes your eyes water looking at in the "metal", absolutely hideous. The Chrome Bull Bar they have as an option is as bad as the unadorned vehicle. The Black Bull Bar makes it less hideous though. I talked to a Ford Spokesman at the Sydney Motor Show roughly 3 yrs ago now and he commented the styling was "different"

@Robert Ryan - calling something "different" is like going on a blind date and being told your date "has a nice personality". Break out the paper bag. LOL

There is no other truck that looks more feminine then this!

You should have seen the expression on his face when he said"different" LOL

@Fred G Try Asiatic, that is what they like

Wouldn't it be funny if Mazda exported the BT-50 to the U.S.? As for the styling, I think it is pretty bad, but not much worse than the 2011 Super Duty.

The rear tail lights really ruin the truck. The front end could grow on me.
What were they thinking by extending the tail lights into the tail gate, where their sure to get broke.
and so far down the side of the truck?
The front is not all that bad.

Ford did the same lame tailgate thing with their Lincoln rebadge of the F150.

PEE YOU !!!!!!!!!!thats the best they could do.

Anyone else notice? This may be a historic moment. For the first time in PUTC history, EVERYONE IS IN AGREEMENT!

Finally a truck for Mazda lover's. I'll take one. Zoom!Zoom!

@Robert Ryan

Once again an article about something non-US and you have to find a way to bash the US in your comments.

BTW US ULSD diesel is being shipped to Europe because they have the demand and the dollar is lower right now. It doesn't make anyone's engine stop.


Love child of Tundra is the very first thing I to also thought of.

And I'm just not a fan of my pickup interior looking like a car interior. If I wanted that I would buy a SUV like the Chevy Traverse and chop the back off, wait GM just did that.

I do like the built in mud flaps.


I agree, I keep hearing people talk about how dirty our diesel is and I can't find anything to support that. 5 years ago it certainly had more sulfur in it, but not anymore.
It reminds me of the myth of how Euro cars are so much cleaner than ours and that wasn't true either. Typically our emission standards are tougher.
Lots of Euro-centric BS out there.

Only one thing saying "no" to me--too many doors.

Well, and maybe the fact that "It’s one of the bigger ones in its class."

For those of you who never got the Mazda pickup in years gone bye , dont under estimate them. They have built some very very good reliable trucks over the years. Dont know if this one will be the same (due to its Ford connections) but time will tell...

@gomjabber US diesel was supposed to have gone from 500ppm to 15ppm(Euro is 10ppm) that was supposed to be by 2010.The problem is getting enough refineries to produce increasing quantities at that level. The cost is pretty prohibitive. The bulk of refinery capacity in the US is for Petrol(Gas)Euro V and EuroV1 have shut down systems if the diesel is too impure.

@Toybvoxrv US USLD is not being shipped to Europe and yes it can stop an engine.

@MauriceS. They are still pretty capable and reliable, too bad about the looks in this case.

If they changed the front grill and the back tail lights it would not look so bad. The smiley front grill that Mazda has been using hurts more than helps. Mazda makes some good vehicles. I am willing to bet that the Mazda dependability is still there but the grill and taillights are a turnoff. Since this truck will never make it to the North American market then this is not an issue. Toyota, Nissan, Suzuki will be the only midsize trucks after next summer and then the new Colorado will be released in 2013. The new Colorado you will have to admit is better looking than this. It would be nice if all these manufacturers would get off this large emblem kick that they are using on the front grills. Enough please we can tell its a Chevy. Toyota, Mazda, Ford, or whatever. Please reduce the size of your emblem by at least half.

Happy New Year to All!!

@Jeff , Happy New Year to you as well. I believe the new Colorado(with diesel) is rated at 7,700lbs towing. Ford is looking at improving the Ranger's performance as well. I think a lot of these new 3 Litre pickups will be getting 8000lb towing with 2800-3300lb payloads in the not too far distant future.

@Jeff - Happy New Year to you and all of the bloggers.

I'd like to see a PUTC New Years Resolution - post comments based on the premise that you are looking your fellow blogger in the eyes when you start to speek.
Or more simply put - no trolling.

Wow, ugly.

Thanks Lou and Robert Ryan. I agree about the trolling and I will treat my comments as if I were looking fellow bloggers in the eye in a face to face conversation. I would never call people names or criticize their trucks face to face even if I did not care for what they drove. What brand you drive or what type of vehicle you drive is a personal choice. Even if that vehicle is old and falling apart that vehicle could have a lot of memories for you. Giving reasons why you will not own a particular brand is your right but slamming a brand and name calling is below the belt. I as a reader might learn about a particular problem with a certain truck or possible a certain fix with my current truck from a commentor on this blog who gives a constructive comment. Maybe just maybe there might be a certain feature on a Ford or Toyota truck that I have not considered and might sway me to consider either brand in the near future. As a human being I should always be willing to learn from others experience and to consider new ideas. Maybe a comment on this blog will help me to make my current truck last longer for less money just like I have learned that stainless steel razor blades can last months or a year by rinsing them off and drying them after every use and every few times running the blade on the back of a leather belt with the grain. Not a big deal but an interesting money saving tip that someone shared. I am open to new ideas and a new view point and if I appear to not be I trust that you, Lou and any other commentor will use constructive criticism to bring me back to objectivity. Thank you and Happy New Year to all!!

Thanks Lou and Robert Ryan you too. I agree to treat all readers in a respectiveful manner as if I were talking to them face to face and looking them in the eye. There is always room for constructive comments and it is possible a comment that someone makes could sway me to consider a particular brand in the near future. Whatever brand or condition a person's vehicle is should not be bashed. I will try to be open to constructive comments and if I am not I trust that you, Lou or any other reader will remind me to be more open. As a humans we should all be open particularily if a commentor has ideas for how to make our trucks last longer and spend less money. I have learned on other blogs tips for making a stainless steel razor blade last for months or possibly a year by rinsing them off after each use and drying them with a towel and every few times running the blade against the back of a leather belt. This is not a big deal but it is an interesting bit of information that I learned as well as blogs that tell readers how to make their vehicles last over 200k or 1 million miles. I might not want to keep my car or truck a million miles but there are suggestions that I can use to extend the life of my vehicles. That is one great thing about the Internet is the ability to find information on just about any topic you can think of. Happy New Year to All!!

Does anyone not notice the zoom zoom on the plates. Cool.....

@Robert Ryan

You are completely FOS. Show us some credible source for US diesel stopping a Euro diesel engine. None of the Euro diesels that are sold in the US have to have Euro diesel imported for them to keep them running.

There is plenty of 15 ppm diesel available in the US. Only off highway use diesel can be higher. On highway diesel has to be ULSD.

It's been in the news many times that a reason our diesel prices are so high is due to exporting so much to Europe.

"You are completely FOS. Show us some credible source"
Yes what evidence / reference do you have?URL? None? Zip Zero. You post what you know is positively untrue. without a reference and expect me an others to believe it.

@Jeff , Yours, Lou's UncleBuds, mhowarth and a few others have been worthwhile posts and "really flesh out " the news items, rather than silly "my truck is better than yours" sort of posts that detract from them.

@Robert Ryan

Uhh the fact that many Euro diesels are sold here and run fine on US diesel.

You have evidence / reference a URL? None? Zip Zero. You are making up s##t and talking out your a##, yet you expect others should believe you. Apparently there is a different standard for you than everyone else.

I can't believe some of the idiotic things you say.

@Toyboxrv. You have managed to say nothing, do not have a clue about the subject. You are a troll.

@toyboxrv Keep trolling. You have no idea about the subject.

Robert Ryan, "toyboxrv" has it in for must have said something pro-Toyota in the past. That person really hates anything be carefull....... :)

I like the size of the truck in this article, not much for the looks though. Would love to have a truck like this with the diesel engine in it, crew cab, usable bed, and 4x4 for ~ 27K with nice options. Plus it would fit in great with the upcoming FE standards set by the govt. We need these type of trucks here, give the consumer a choice instead of what the establishment pickuptruck crowd says people should drive.

@Robert Ryan

Please show all of us your link to anything that supports your ridiculous claim that US diesel would cause a Euro diesel car to stop running. There isn't one. You brought it up to begin with and then expect me to prove you wrong.


Nothing in this thread has anything to do with Toyota. I didn't bring up anything about Toyota here, only you did. Because people make statements about Toyota that don't have merit and I call them out on it doesn't mean I hate Toyota. Robert Ryan made a false statement about US diesel and can't back it up.

I am puzzled by the animosity towards Robert Ryan. I have not seen any posts that are "Anti-American", but hey, what do I know?, I'm not American. LOL
@Robert Ryan - don't make any posts about snow, beavers, moose, bears or hockey. I might take it personally. LOL

This is ugly. It will sell well in countries making up the former USSR.

@Red 4 X4 Not that I know of as I do not like Whitegoods LOL

@Lou Beavers are cute. Do not worry.

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