September 21, 2022 By Kevin C. Limjoco Photos by Author

2022 Mazda BT-50 4×4 (Long-Termer Update)

The Dapper Bakkie

Since the 4th of July this year (2022), we have been comprehensively testing our long-term mid-sized 2022 Mazda BT50 4×4 pickup test unit in Gun Blue Metallic without the factory optional extra fenders, front bash guard, and retractable metal tonneau cover. With less than 3,000 kilometers clocked on the odometer thus far as we extend its duty to our new C! Explorations campaign, we mostly have great things to state about the best-in-class second placer in the 18th C! Awards. It’s source platform, the co-developed Isuzu D-Max, its twin brother, defends its best-in-class position by the narrowest of measures.

The Isuzu D-Max was able to secure its triumphant place primarily because of its slightly more complete packaging and its deeper bench of eight (8) variants beginning with the top-spec 3.0 4X4 LS-E 6-speed AT priced at ₱1,835,000.00 to the commercial Single-Cab RZ4E 4X2 6-speed MT at ₱862,000.00. The all-new 4th generation Ford Ranger, despite its handsome purposeful looks, slightly retuned engines and transmissions (for better efficiency and smoothness but retain the exact power figures and the same 10-speed gear ratios), stronger front brakes and rear vented disc brakes on the Wildtrak Bi-Turbo model, longer wheelbase, wider track, bigger infotainment screens, new packaging, excellent rear bed configuration with sidesteps, and more is a very close third-placer. The Ford Ranger also has eight (8) variants beginning with the Ranger 2.0L Bi-Turbo Wildtrak 4×4 AT priced at ₱1,875,000.00 to the Ranger 2.0L Turbo XL 4×4 MT priced at ₱1,198,000.00.

The new Ford Ranger model series are great too and they now finally have rear climate control vents but if you get past the very attractive 12-inch portrait SYNC®4A infotainment screen, 8-inch digital instrument cluster, and Cyber Orange interior stitching on the new interiors, the Isuzu/Mazda twins still have more refined straightforward interior cabins, especially with the top-spec brown leather seats and 8-speaker audio systems that create a more car-like ambiance. The Ford’s have certainly grown in size and ability but you also feel the more pronounced weight increase since the 245 bhp / 442 lb-ft of torque 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel is currently not offered in our market along with the 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen™ audio system, 9-airbags, 12.4-inch instrument gauge, and more kit. Both the Mazda and Isuzu are more athletic and nimbler on the road, and more comfortable, though the off-road ability of the Ford is best-in-class.

Whichever pickup is chosen from the top 3 and even the 4 other contenders (Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Strada, Toyota HiLux, and the Maxus T60) that missed their marks also by incremental measures, all buyers will be very happy with their purchases that suit their particular needs and budgets. We in fact have all of them including a couple of Ford Ranger Raptors in our C! Fast Fleet, except for the very latest Ford Ranger Wildtrak. But as Executive Editor Chris Van Hoven stated in the special feature in the C! September issue # 239, inspired by the iconic Highlander films and TV series reference, “There Can Only Be One!

All versions of both the Mazda BT-50 and Isuzu D-Max are capable of carrying more than 1000 kg in the bed, and can tow 3500 kg, although not at the same time. A neat feature that is not commonly pointed out on both models with full dual cabins are the extra two hidden storage compartments found beneath the 60/40 split rear bench, one larger than the other with the same usable depth. The rear seat backs can be folded forward to access the vehicle jack and tool kits cleverly and securely tucked away. The excellent brown leather seat materials and their overall designs look identical from a distance but if you do look closer, the Mazda BT-50 has additional fine design nuances.

In fact, all the mechanicals/drivetrain, chassis, brakes, suspension, mirrors, stepboards, all the electronics (except for the infotainment system and instrument gauges, more on these later), the exterior doors, glass and roof are identical. The most obvious differences in design/execution are the signature front Bi-LED headlights with DRL, front grille, front bumper and its lighting that includes LED fog lamps, front hood, front fenders, rear bed, rear bumper and rear lights, and wheels. Mazda chose to have more chrome on the exterior than interior. While Isuzu did the reverse, more chrome in the interior than exterior. The dashboards, center cluster, door panels, and steering wheels are different even if they look extremely similar. The illuminated gear knob looks great and functions with expected dependable behavior.+

The attractive 3rd generation flagship Isuzu D-Max LS-E mid-size pickup test unit you see here in Mercury Silver exterior paint (other color options for the variant are the signature Valencia Orange, Onyx Black, and Splash White) with tastefully contrasting grey cladding, is genuinely the unexpected dark horse in the segment. The improvements throughout the new vehicle range are profound, Isuzu fans will be blown away and new customers will also rejoice. I can say whole-heartedly that the new D-Max is the finest and greatest consumer vehicle that Isuzu has ever built.

The D-Max and BT-50 are built in the same factory in Thailand, which I reckon shares more than 90 % of the entire vehicle. One very important highlight that Mazda Philippines has over Isuzu Philippines is the 5-year factory warranty backed up by the 5-year free maintenance program. Every component is all-new or significantly improved. Isuzu’s very strong reputation in the Philippines for durability, dependability, and appeal to the working man is enviable. With the new model, that success will certainly grow much further without orphaning traditional fans of the brand.

For Mazda, the 3rd-generation BT-50 (designed by Eiji Kimoto once again applying the Kodo design theme to another partnered twin) is all new as it broke away completely from Ford in 2008 so the previous generation model ending with the special Pangolin edition was the last to use the shared Ford T6 platform and engines. For Isuzu, the 3rd-generation D-Max uses a 30 mm longer wheelbase, on the new body-on frame Isuzu Dynamic Drive Platform which is 23 % more rigid while reducing weight. The optimized crossmembers allowed suspension retuning (reduced the angle of the rear shock by 7 degrees which increased rear stroke travel by 30 mm on new 3-leaf springs instead of 4), for better impact absorption and improved weight distribution. The stronger new 4JJ3-TCX 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine featuring Isuzu’s “BluePower” system (which produces 13.4 bhp more and 52 lb-ft more torque than before with a Double scissors idler gear and it is mated to a recalibrated 6-speed automatic) has been moved slightly behind the front axle, resulting in a “semi-midship” layout for better handling and steering response. The old Ford-sourced 3.2-liter turbodiesel on the Pangolin actually produced more power on paper but in reality, the new engine is more energetic and more efficient.

The rear tub of the D-Max is better configured with a cleaner integrated rear two-step bumper one-piece design which is both practical and good looking combined with full LED rear lighting that measures 1571 mm long, 1530 mm wide and 490 mm tall with 4 tie-down points, an excellent bed liner, lockable tailgate, and model-specific special trim. Though I don’t like the 4×4 sticker. The BT-50 has the same rear load capacity and also has an excellent bed-liner but the separate rear bumper is more old-school and lacks the rich features found on the new Ford Ranger. The roof rails on both the BT-50 and D-Max can handle up to 100 kg of weight for additional load capacity. Another outstanding feature that needs to be highlighted is the unique aluminum rear driveshaft which is lighter and stronger (more responsive) than the steel units used by the competition. Both the Mazda and Isuzu top-spec models use balanced performing 265/60R18 110H Dunlop Grandtrek AT25 tires wrapping 18” x 7.5J alloys but the donor pickup truck has the nicer looking wheels. In other markets, Mazda offers other optional wheel designs that are far more attractive.

I prefer the Mazda’s smaller 9-inch infotainment system compared to the larger 10.1-inch system on the Isuzu despite not having the full factory interface and functionality (MZD-Connect) and the additional clinometer found in the D-Max. Both infotainment systems have rear guided cameras, intuitive smartphone connectivity with Android Auto™ and wireless Apple CarPlay™, but the Mazda’s head unit optimizes the sound quality of the bespoke 8-speaker surround sound system that includes the strategically located ceiling speakers more profoundly. The Mazda has additional knee padding and heated front seats for more comfort when needed, the Isuzu D-Max has neither. The nicely designed dual-zone climate control has essential rear vents with an additional USB outlet. The rear seats are quite upright yet still comfortable, look great, with dual ISOFIX mounts, a grocery hook behind the driver’s seat, and ample liquid holders.

The nice analog instruments on both the D-Max and BT-50 have a fairly comprehensive 4.2-inch color LCD Multi Information Display differentiated by unique fonts, graphics, and markers. The Mazda BT-50 seems to be a bit quieter in the cabin than the D-Max, perhaps Hiroshima ordered even more foam fillers in strategic locations around the cabin, along with sound insulating carpets, tighter door and window seals combined with the infrared reflecting windshield glass. To further reduce heat and the interior-damaging UV-light from the sun with a touch of more security, we requested Mazda Philippines to install the brilliant Vkool OEM-35 tint, the effective yet economical and lightest available tint offered by the Philippine distributor of Vkool.

The fully adjustable steering wheel is appropriately weighted and communicative. Once again both look very similar and use the same remote-control switchgear but the center airbag monikers are different and the Mazda has a more elegant design with less chrome for the bottom half. Along with 7-SRS airbags, they also both feature the Smart 3D DUO Camera on the windshield that has the ability to detect obstacles intelligently to improve safety as well as convenience. The Advanced Driver Assist System (aka Mazda Active Safety Technology) features adaptive cruise control with stop/go, pedestrian detection, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and traffic sign recognition. Other safety features like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert use the 4-eye sonar (front & rear). Additional active, passive, and peripheral safety measures include high tensile steel reinforced passenger cells, hill decent control, remote engine start, automatic door locks, rain-sensing wipers with built-in washer nozzles, auto-dimming mirror, turn assist and driver attention monitoring. The new front and rear brakes are larger and more robust to manage the more potent powertrain as well. All of these efforts culminate to a verified 5-Star ASEAN NCAP rating for both the D-Max and BT-50.

The Mazda BT-50 4×4 also has a very critical additional feature for severe off-road use that is missing in the Isuzu D-Max LS-E, a standard Rear Differential Lock which you can engage when you are on 4L for enhanced traction. The 2022 Mazda BT-50 4×4 is a an excellent, desirable and wonderful pick-up truck that will reward its owner and passengers with a lifetime of adventure, duty, and versatility. It may feel more traditional on the road, and it certainly is not the most dynamic or has the best ride, but we love its overall balanced packaging, excellent design, balanced performance, utility, and confident heavy-duty dependability.

Specification – 2022 Mazda BT-50 4×4 (Long-Termer Update)

Engine: Inline-4

Location: Front Semi-Midship, Longitudinal

Displacement: 2999 cc

Cylinder block: Cast Iron upper with induction-hardened cylinder bores, Cast aluminum lower

Cylinder head: Isuzu-patented Special Cast Aluminum, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, Variable Swirl System

Fuel Injection: Direct Commonrail Fuel Injection, Intercooled Variable Geometry (VGS) Turbodiesel

Max power: 188 bhp @ 3600 rpm

Max torque: 332 lb-ft @ 1600-2600 rpm

Transmission: Aisin AWR6B45 II 6-speed with sequential shift and brake shift lock electronically controlled, tri-mode with fuel-saving lock-up torque converter on gears 3, 4, 5 and 6. Primarily rear-wheel driven. 4×4 System: “Terrain Command” control with ‘shift on the fly’ 2-high↔4-high selection at up to 100 km/h & 4-low. Rear Differential Lock.

Front suspension: Independent double wishbone, high-ride, coil springs, gas shock absorbers, anti-roll bar.

Rear suspension: Heavy Duty Solid-axle alloy-steel over slung long-span semi-elliptic 3-leaf springs; gas shock absorbers.

Fuel Capacity: 76 liters (20 gallons)

Ground Clearance: 240 mm

Wading Depth: 800 mm

Approach Angle: 30.4 degrees

Departure Angle: 24.2 degrees

Ramp-over angle: 23.8 degrees

L x W x H: 5280 mm x 1870 mm x 1810 mm

Wheelbase: 3125 mm

Brakes: Front 12.6-inch (320 mm) ventilated discs with 2-piston calipers / Rear 11.6-inch (295 mm) drums, ABS, TCS, EBD, ESC, EBA, AEB, HAS, HDC, Misacceleration Mitigation and Turn-Assist.

Wheels: 18” x 7.5J Multi-spoke Brilliant Black with Machined Finish Aluminum Alloys.

Tires: P265/60R18 110H Dunlop Grandtrek AT25

Weight: (kerb) 2130 kg. (4686 lbs.)

0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 9.5 seconds

Top Speed (mph): 196 km/h (123 mph)

Fuel Mileage: 7.9L/100km Overall

Price as tested: PhP 1,790,000.00 (4×2 AT variant: PhP 1,430,000.00 and 4×2 MT variant: PhP 1,390,000.00) in Gun Blue Metallic

C! RATING 10/10

+Superior to its predecessor, best looking pick-up from the front with the most refined overall interior, very full-featured, paired expertly with its Isuzu twin, Mazda’s brilliant free 5-year service plan.

The active safety can be too aggressive, no wireless phone charger, drum rear brakes, conventional rear light assembly, wallows a bit when unladen, no option for a powered retractable aluminum tonneau bed cover yet.

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