Mazda's all-new BT-50, released in South Africa this week, appears to be an attempt to move the practical, workhorse world of bakkies a step closer to the upmarket ambience of the big SUV, much as Nissan did with the Navara some years ago.
With its smmoth 'car-like' styling and luxury features, the new Mazda would seem aimed at the lifestyle, rather than the 'works for a living' segment of the market.
And one thing bakkies can do that most SUV's can't, is offer you choices - lots of them.
The BT-50 is available in three body types, with four engines (well, three and a half), manual or auto transmission and rear or all-wheel drive - and that's before you choose the colour and interior trim.
NUTS AND BOLTS
The all-new engine line-up consists of 2.2 and 3.2-litre turbodiesels, and a 2.5-litre petrol engine, driving through five or six-speed manual 'boxes, or a six-speed auto transmission. All-wheel drive models also have a shift-on-the-fly transfer case.
The baseline prime mover is an four-cylinder, 16-valve, 2.2-litre, common-rail, direct-injection turbodiesel that comes tuned for either 88kW at 3700rpm and 285Nm, or 110kW at the same revs and 375Nm.
The five-cylinder 3.2-litre turbo-diesel is rated for 147kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm from 1750 to 2500rpm.
The 88kW four has a five-speed manual 'box, the rest six-speed manual or self-shifter transmissions.
The 2.5-litre four-cylinder DOHC petrol engine, for which Mazda quotes 122kW and 225Nm, is mated to a five-speed manual 'box.
Whether in single cab, Freestyle extended cab or double cab layout, the new BT-50 is longer, wider and higher than its predecessor, with more head and shoulder room, as well as bigger load boxes.
More space inside also means more room for redesigned, more comfortable seats, says Mazda SA's Doreen Mashinini, and more adjustability for the front seats.
All the extended-cab (except the entry-level 2.2 diesel) and double-cab models have radio/CD/MP3 player with auxiliary socket as standard, while SLX models have a two-line info display and SLE variants a 90mm monochrome screen for infotainment functions at the top of the centre stack, controlled by a jog pad, surrounded by dedicated buttons
There are speakers in the doors and a new dual-zone auto aircon keeps you cool and Herself warm at the same time.
Under the comfort zone, however, there is still a real bakkie, running double-wishbone front suspension with coil-springs and seriously load-capable leaf springs and live axles at the rear.
WHEN WE SAY CHOICES, WE MEAN IT
2.5 SL five-speed manual - R190 330
2.5 SL 4x4 five-speed manual 4x4 - R228 070
2.2CD SL five-speed manual - R200 330
2.2CD (115kW) SLX six-speed manual - R266 020
3.2CD SLX six-speed manual - R306 920
3.2CD SLX 4x4 six-speed manual - R306 920
2.2CD SLX five-speed manual - R231 950
2.2CD (115kW) SLX six-speed manual - R286 420
3.2CD SLE six-speed manual - R361 650
3.2CD SLE six-speed auto - R362 970
3.2CD SLE 4x4 six-speed manual - R398 970
2.2CD (115kW) SLX six-speed manual - R340 480
2.2CD (115kW) SLE six-speed manual - R372 760
3.2CD SLE six-speed manual - R403 560
3.2CD SLE six-speed auto - R414 890
3.2CD SLE 4x4 six-speed manual - R450 890
3.2CD SLE 4x4 six-speed auto - R462 210