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
Long-term test (Update): Mazda BT-50 3,2 SLE 4×4 AT
As usual, the BT-50 has been hard at work, carting all manner of goods to the mountain farm between Worcester and Robertson. To list what has been transported over the last few months would take up this entire issue, but included are the following: a heavy steel filing cabinet, two desks, wardrobe, double bunk steel bed, hay bales, 40 kg horse-feed bags, harvested drinking water, chest of drawers, 125 cm3 motorcycle, irrigation piping and a swimming pool cover. I am trying not to tow the Venter trailer too often so as not to bump up the consumption, but sometimes it is needed.
The only time that the Mazda took any real strain was during a furniture move for a friend from Cape Town to Worcester. This involved filling the cabin, fully loading the bay and towing a double axle trailer also fully loaded with heavy furniture.
Again, the only stage on this trip where I felt there was a lack of surplus power was while climbing the long and steep section of the N1 to Huguenot Tunnel. Without a trailer, this hill climb is easy for the five-cylinder, 147 kW engine with its high torque output of470 N.m.
I had a request from a colleague at our sister title Getaway to help her stricken classic Volkswagen Kombi that was overheating and failing to start. The best plan was to tow it back to our offices where we discovered that the alternator was not charging and the engine was low on water (a Toyota engine had been fitted). The Mazda took this challenge in its stride, too. Someone took a fancy to the Mazda badge on the tailgate. A new one is on order.
After 10 months
Current Mileage: 17 935 km
Average fuel consumption: 11,62 L/100 km
We like: towing ability
We don’t like: no standard loadbay protector