MELBOURNE - If there’s one country that worships its one-tonne bakkies as much as South Africa does, it’s Australia and as a result that market also gets its fair share of locally-adapted models.
The latest one to surface is the Mazda BT-50 Thunder. The new derivative is based on the new-generation Mazda one-tonner that’s built by Isuzu in Thailand, but it’s fitted with numerous components that were developed by Mazda Australia’s in-house engineering team.
Designed to make a “bold and assertive” statement, the BT-50 Thunder receives an integrated steel bull bar in place of the front bumper as well as a Lightforce dual-row LED light bar, black 18-inch alloy wheels, wide fender flares and side steps, a sports bar and electric roller tonneau.
The rest of the package is as per the range-topping BT-50 double cab model, which is based on the new Isuzu D-Max following Mazda’s split from Ford. Power comes from a revised Isuzu 3-litre turbodiesel, which produces 140kW and 450Nm, the latter provided from 1600 to 2600rpm. The Thunder only comes in 4x4 guise, but buyers can choose between a six-speed manual and six-speed automatic gearbox.
It may look rugged on the outside, but the cabin is somewhat luxurious, offering features such as Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Automatic High Beam, Emergency Lane Keeping, eight-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat and brown leather upholstery.
The new-generation Mazda BT-50 is expected to reach South Africa some time in 2021 as a full import, but it’s unclear whether a sporty edition such as the Australian-market Thunder will be offered to local buyers.