When Mazda facelifted the BT-50 pick-up, it introduced a new flagship 3.0-litre version. Ian Robertson tests the top-of-the-range Intrepid
Once the preserve of the building site, it was only recently that pick-up trucks became glamorous, as they previously survived on bog-standard levels of trim and equipment levels similar to a 1970’s Ford Fiesta. But with canny buyers realising that there were tax-breaks to be had, they sought ever better equipment levels to equal that of the family cars they had abandoned. Most pick-up makers had cottoned on, and manufacturers like Mitsubishi with its Warrior and Animal range of L200’s, tempted buyers out of their family estates and 4×4’s. Mazda is late to the party, and introduced the plushest of the BT-50 range, the Intrepid, when it was facelifted last October. Made in Thailand, BT-50 shares its basic design with Ford’s Ranger, and makes use of the same range of engines.
Out on the road, there’s no mistaking that you are driving a commercial vehicle. The noise level from the engine is high and refinement is low. The automatic gearbox is ponderous, with few rewards when attempting to make swift progress. Many of the BT-50’s rivals make a better fist of things, especially the Nissan Navara which offers a much more car-like experience. Ride comfort is no better, nor worse than other class members and on-road stability is good. Handling is about what you would expect.
The interior is awash with hard plastics, with the modern soft-touch slush mouldings from the car world not having reached the BT-50 pick-up yet. Still, durability is the name of the game and the BT-50 feels well screwed together and built to last. There are plenty of cubby holes and the interior is brightened up by silver inserts around the centre console.
At £21,448 including the VAT, the BT-50 Intrepid compares well with its peers, especially as a five-speed automatic gearbox comes fitted as standard – there’s no manual alternative with the 3.0-litre engine. While many will regard the BT-50 basic when compared to similarly priced cars, the Intrepid comes reasonably well equipped with heated leather seats, 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, an MP3 compatible six-disc CD autochanger and radio, along with a tough load bay liner. The exterior is blinged up with chrome mirror covers, metal-look side steps and a rear stainless steel bumper. One feature that should be standard equipment by virtue of the Mazda’s sheer size is parking sensors, but those are resigned to the options list, at extra cost.
There are undoubtedly better pick-ups out there if you’re judging purely on dynamcs and how well the vehicle drives, but most owners won’t be concerned with this. What they will be interested in is the excellent 3,000kg towing weight, keen price, overall durability and reliability that the BT-50 offers. On that basis alone, the Mazda offers a compelling choice, albeit lacking in driver appeal.
RIVALS: Ford Ranger 3.0 TDCi Thunder Auto , Isuzu Rodeo 3.0 Denver Max LE Auto
- Engine: 2953cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 5-speed automatic
- Max Power: 154bhp at 3,200rpm
- Max Torque: 280lb ft at 1,800rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 3,000kg
- Combined Consumption: 27.7mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 271g/km (LCV)
- 0-62mph: 13.3secs
- Max speed: 105mph
- Insurance group: 10
Well equipped, good value, durable feel, class leading 3,000kg towing weight
Parking sensors extra, noisy engine, umbrella handle style handbrake, ponderous auto gearbox