The managing director of Mazda Southern Africa has revealed to CARmag.co.za the next-generation BT-50 bakkie will feature “more robust” exterior styling and a cabin "probably comparable to the current CX-5".

Speaking to us at the local launch of the new Mazda3, Craig Roberts conceded the current (Ford Ranger-based) version of the company’s bakkie was “a little too soft” in terms of its exterior design.

The next-generation BT-50, of course, will share much with the next version of the Isuzu D-Max thanks to a deal between the two Japanese firms struck back in 2016. And, having seen the design of the new model, Roberts promised a more “truck-like” appearance.

“There’s been a lot of talk around what it [the new model's styling] should be in relation to the current BT-50, which in all honesty was potentially seen as a little too passenger-car like and a little too soft,” he told us.

“We have seen both the exterior and the interior and got some insight into powertrains, and it definitely is a bit more robust in terms of its 'truck-like' appearance. From that perspective, it would be a good product for us to launch to the South African market, where that’s pretty much the demand in that segment, for that purchaser.”

His comments echoed those of Mazda chief designer Ikuo Maeda, who late in 2018 said the next version of the bakkie would be more “butch and masculine”.

In addition, Mazda SA’s managing director promised the new bakkie’s cabin would take a major step up in terms of quality.

“We’ve seen the interior and it’s not even passenger-car like; it’s really SUV-like, probably comparable to the current CX-5. It’s moving into the direction we’ve seen now with seventh-generation interiors in terms of quality," he said.

“We’ve excited about it but it’s still a way off for our market,” Roberts added, revealing the local launch would likely take place only in the second quarter of 2021.

Roberts added the SA arm of the Fuchū-based company would likely continue to target private customers in the leisure market rather than fleet buyers when the new BT-50 arrived on local soil.