Softer styling makes the BT-50 a non-identical twin of the Ford Ranger.
Softer styling makes the BT-50 a non-identical twin of the Ford Ranger.
What were they thinking?
What were they thinking?
Cabin of the SLE model is stylish and luxurious.
Cabin of the SLE model is stylish and luxurious.

QUICK TEST: Mazda BT-50 2.2 DC 4x2 SLE

No point in beating around the bushes here - the Mazda BT-50 is a pleasure to drive, by bakkie standards.

Not that I would have expected anything less, considering that it's so closely based on the latest Ford Ranger.

Click here for more pictures

The ride is very compliant (once again, for a bakkie) and inside the noise, vibration and harshness levels are impressively low. I also enjoyed the slick and effortless feel of the clutch and short-throw gearshift, and the fact that the steering gives you an idea of what the wheels are doing.

Cruising ability is another strong point, which I found out after subjecting a 2.2-litre diesel 4x2 model to a road trip.

Its 110kW/375Nm engine provided effortless performance on the round trip between Gauteng and the coast, two-up and with some luggage and heavy toolboxes in the back. Given this vehicle's relatively modest outputs (relative to its size and 1963kg kerb weight), I suspected that it might struggle up the hills, but the Mazda's motor never felt like it was running out of breath. It's a good, solid and comfortable cruiser.

Granted, the performance it provides is more adequate than outright brisk, but then there is always that 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel option (147kW/470Nm) for those willing to splash out an extra R30 000.

But what does the Mazda offer that the Ford doesn't?

The interior is a good place to start. If you opt for the SLE, you receive a higher spec level than you can get in a 2.2 Ranger. This means you don't have to buy the 3.2 to get things like climate control, cruise control, multifunction steering wheel and leather seats.

If I'm to nitpick, I also feel the BT-50's dashboard is easier on the eye. Though the surfaces are still hard, the design follows in the footsteps of the Mazda6 - ultimately making you feel like you're in a car rather than in a bakkie.

It's clear that Ford and Mazda put much effort into conceiving non-identical twins, and this also applies to the exterior styling.

Which brings us to the big elephant in the room.

While the Ranger has won acclaim for its butch, truck-like design, the Mazda's softer and more car-like front and rear design has drawn criticism from many fronts.

As for those taillights that extend onto the tailgate, I'm really battling to imagine how they thought that was a good idea.


Expensive it may be, but the Mazda BT-50 2.2 SLE is a brilliant bakkie in almost every respect. Then again, so is its Ford twin. I'd take the Ford because I prefer the way it looks but if the Mazda's styling has grown on you and you want a higher-spec 2.2 then there's no real reason to overlook the Japanese badge.


Mazda BT-50 2.2 DC SLE (110kW) - R368 520


Ford Ranger 2.2 DC XLS (110kW) - R339 270

GWM Steed 2.0D DC Lux (110kW) - R234 900

Isuzu KB 300D-Teq DC LX (120) - R366 900

Mitsubishi Triton 2.5 DI-D DC (100kW) - R329 990

Nissan Navara 2.5dCi DC SE (106kW) - R370 300

Ssangyong Actyon Sports 2.0D (114kW) - R289 995

Toyota Hilux 2.5 D-4D DC Raider (106kW) - R358 000

VW Amarok 2.0 BiTDI DC Highline (132kW) - R384 500