Mazda BT-50 ups the ante

Mazda’s latest BT-50 pick-up is inclined to get overshadowed by its better-known Ford Ranger cousin; Ford even nabbed the 3-litre engine and stuck it in the Ranger Wildtrak some time before Mazda could bring one to the UK market.

But now that 3-litre powerplant is here in the shape of the Intrepid. Refined looks, courtesy of a relaunch last year, smooth out some of the bland edges common to the older models and subtle changes to the headlights and two-tone colour options give it a presence it lacked before.

The bold styling and smart interior have been introduced as a result of customer feedback, says Mazda. And certainly the comfortable leather seats, 6-CD multi-changer, stainless steel bumper bar and Intrepid branding emblazoned across the front doors do raise the BT-50’s game somewhat.

Nice touches like the auxiliary jack socket for MP3 players and plenty of cubbyholes, as well as tinted windows, will appeal to the leisure market and go some way to making it a more stylish option for those who use it as a workhorse, too.

The 3-litre engine has been mated to a five-speed auto gearbox (the only option in the Intrepid range). Traditionalists might find the auto box a bit alien in a working vehicle, but after a few miles it seems a natural progression and is great for towing.

The under-dash handbrake may look quirky and old-fashioned, but it keeps it out of the way. And it’s a lot more reassuring than the button-operated electric handbrakes popping up on more and more 4x4s.

The Intrepid has surprisingly car-like driving characteristics, too. Once you’ve got used to the autobox hunting slightly in lower gears, longer journeys are a doddle and the 156hp diesel engine has more than enough poke to cope with motorway miles.

The load bay can handle 1219kg and even without a load in the back the back end doesn’t skip about too much, either. Off-road, the high/low transfer box and limited-slip diff mean it’s more than up to the job.

Towing capacity is 3t and fuel consumption figures of 28mpg are par for the course. A high fifth gear makes motorway cruising a reasonably pleasant option.

FW Verdict

A 3-litre engine and attractive finish now allow the BT-50 to pitch squarely against the Ranger. Good ride comfort and towing capacity are definite attractions, too. Prices for the Intrepid start from £21,453 inc VAT.

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