22 May 1998

MAZDA LAUNCHES FIRST UK 4X4

New pickup models are usually rarer than hens teeth, but this spring has seen a flurry of

launches. This month we look at new 4WD models from Mazda and Tata and a fresh 750kg

model from Citroën. Also coming soon are uprated pickups from Nissan and reportedly a

double-cab L200 from Mitsubishi. Look out for road tests in future Country Car issues

MAZDA has at last joined the ranks of four-wheel-drive pickup makers selling in the UK with the launch of its B2500 Cab Plus. It has also uprated the power in its workhorse 2WD model.

&#42 Two-wheel drive

The two-wheel-drive B2500 has a new 2.5-litre, non-turbo engine producing 86hp (up from 64hp on the old B2200) and 126 lbft of torque at 2000rpm. More spartan than its 4WD brother, it has manual front windows, mirrors and locking and retains the workmanlike vinyl bench seat. However, the dashboard has been freshened up and power steering is standard.

Payload capacity is 1t and the load area measures 2.27m long x 1.44m wide (7ft 6in x 4ft 9in). Towing capacity is 2t and price is £9999+VAT.

&#42 Four-wheel drive

Four-wheel-drive B2500s come in Cab Plus form only. This gives room for two occasional rear passengers in a lengthened cab, but without the extra pair of doors used on double-cab models. The engine is the same 86hp, 2.5-litre non-turbo diesel, but it drives through a high-low transfer box.

The bigger cab reduces load area length to 1.82m (6ft), but width stays the same at 1.44m (4ft 9in). However, the loss of load area length looks to be somewhat less than on double-cab pickups, which typically shrink to 1.5m (5ft) long. The Cab Plus sits higher, too, with ground clearance of 210mm (8.3in) compared with 170mm (6.7in) on the 2WD version. Payload and towing capacity are more or less the same as on the two-wheel-drive version.

Cab Plus drivers also get a more sumptuous life, with electric windows, central locking, bucket seats, cloth fabric and electric mirrors. Price reflects this at £12,953 + VAT. The VAT status of this type of two-door extended cab appears to be the same as for four-door double-cabs – ie if the vehicle is available for multi-driver use, is parked at the place of work and does only business journeys, then VAT can sometimes be reclaimed. Its a grey area, so check with your local VAT office before you sign the cheque.

Verdict: New engine puts a spring in the step into what used to be a laggardly pick-up. Cab Plus provides surprisingly decent rear seat accommodation and 2WD version retains its impressively no-frills, workmanlike interior.

New Mazdas (2wd left and 4wd right) have bigger 2.5-litre diesel engines.