Long-term test (Update 2): Mazda BT-50 3,2 SLE 4x4 AT
The BT-50’s mileage has steadily risen following a stream of trips to my mountain farm between Worcester and Robertson. I’m trying to limit driving so as not to reach 20 000 km (the cap we place on 12-month test cars) before the end of term, but there is nothing else in our fleet that can take on the task of carrying so much while towing a heavy trailer.
A recent example includes someone who was relocating towns and had asked me for help; I hired a large double-axle trailer to do the job. I drove sedately, knowing that the fuel consumption would be affected.
Even driving home with an empty trailer was a challenge due to the drag created by the trailer and its mesh sides. That trip saw a consumption figure of 13,26 L/100 km, which has hiked the overall average. Considering there isn’t much that we haven’t loaded onto the Mazda, however, an average of 11,56 L/100 km is commendable.
The BT-50 then went in for its 15 000 km service at Mekor Mazda in Tygervalley. We had no issues for them to inspect and servicing went smoothly. While the BT-50’s sheer size isn’t unusual in its segment, it does pose problems when trying to find parking in the Cape Town CBD or at shopping malls. The rear-sited parking sensors do help, but they do not extend round to the sides; thankfully, there’s a camera feed displayed in the rear-view mirror that makes it easier to squeeze the big Mazda into a bay.
Interestingly, I haven’t yet used low range, which bolsters the argument that 4x2 double cabs are often the better option for most city dwellers, but four-wheel-drive high has been useful out on the farm on steep, slippery gravel roads.
After 7 months
Current Mileage: 15 731 km
Average fuel consumption: 11,56 L/100 km
We like: rear parking sensors and rear-view camera
We don’t like: parking in space-challenged bays
Long-term test (Update 1): Mazda BT-50 3,2 SLE 4x4 AT
We have already notched up quite high mileage on the big and powerful BT-50. The bakkie’s sturdy towbar has been put to good use towing small and large trailers that have been carrying everything including kitchen cupboards, but not the sink.
The downside of using this pickup’s workhorse functionality is that the unlined loadbay is taking quite a beating despite cardboard placed down for protection. The Mazda is in such demand among the CAR testers that it’s taxed my scheduling skills, too, to make sure everyone gets a chance to jump behind the wheel.
The driving ease on the freeway, as well as on country roads and rough gravel, is mighty impressive. The BT-50 has no issues overtaking trains of cars, while it cruises with aplomb at 120 km/h, especially with cruise control activated to remove strain from the driver.
On the other hand, parking can be tricky due to the sheer size of this bakkie. Leather upholstery is easy to clean and I have fitted a sheepskin cover to the driver’s seat for some added warmth in winter.
I like to keep an eye on things like fuel consumption, range remaining and outside temperature, especially as I often traverse
Du Toit’s Kloof. It is a pity that this can be achieved only by poking your arm through the steering wheel spokes and pressing the trip button.
Using four-wheel drive is seldom necessary, except for towing a trailer on the farm, and I have yet to require low range.
The audio system still includes a CD player, which is useful, but the USB port is hidden in the glovebox, making it tricky to swap sticks.
After 4 months
Current Mileage: 10 151 km
Average fuel consumption: 11,24 L/100 km
We like: great mid-range pull for quick overtaking
We don’t like: too much low-speed engine noise
Long-term test (Introduction): Mazda BT-50 3,2 SLE 4×4 AT
Some of us in the office are of the opinion that every household needs a bakkie. Often you have stuff to move and, if it is not your own, it is a friend or family member who could benefit from having access to a bakkie for a variety of reasons.
This is exactly why I snatched the Mazda BT-50’s key from its custodian, Peter Palm, mere days after it arrived in our garage. The plan was not for a mere weekend jaunt, but a 3 000 km round trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg and back. Apart from visiting some classic-car collections I had another motive: to fetch a 1966 Honda C95 motorcycle that I had bought as a restoration project.
The BT-50 had just returned from our double-cab bakkie shootout (May 2017) and, although it didn’t end up on the podium, I knew it would be one of the better vehicles for the open road. For the first part of the trip, photographer Duwyne Aspeling drove the Mazda up to Johannesburg over the course of two days. There we rendezvoused and collected the bike. Fortunately, it fitted perfectly in the loading bay and the tailgate closed behind it.
After two photo shoots in Johannesburg, we started making our way south with an overnight stop in Bloemfontein. The time spent on this road trip with the Mazda saw some of its better characteristics quickly come to the fore. It is without a doubt comfortable on the open road, fairly quiet inside and stable at high speeds, with the 3,2-litre’s power and torque (147 kW/470 N.m) making overtaking easy.
On the downside, the moment you drive into town and start looking for a parking space, the bakkie’s size does become a big consideration.
Although I normally make use of Google Maps on my phone for directions, I was still disappointed with the dated-looking, small infotainment system that appears out of place on a new leisure bakkie (especially when it’s compared with the large screen offered in the Ford Ranger).
In the end, the BT-50 brought us safely back to Cape Town and posted a average fuel consumption of 11,23 L/100 km. That figure looks steep, but it’s hardly surprising given both the bike we were carrying and the occasional lead foot.
The BT-50 now has another 11 months to show us what it can do. Peter will use it often to visit his farm near Grabouw, while I’ll soon put it through its paces on a challenging 4×4 track.
After 1 month
Current Mileage: 5 391 km
Average fuel consumption: 10,77 L/100 km
We like: pulling power, improved styling
We don’t like: still not as good-looking as the Ranger