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Mazda BT-50 1.9 XS dual-cab review

 

Mazda’s new entry-level BT-50 XS ute might get a less powerful engine than the rest of the range – but it’s good going for a work vehicle


Good points

  • Very refined for an entry-level ute
  • 1.9L engine not that far off 3.0-litre
  • Good seats and interior tech
  • Comprehensive safety aids

Needs work

  • Big $7K jump from 4×2 to 4×4
  • Steelies reveal base status
  • Cheapo plastic steering wheel

You can now get into a new-gen Mazda BT-50 ute for $2000 less than before thanks to the introduction of a new XS base model that slots beneath the XT that launched – with the rest of the range – in 2020.

For all intents and purposes, the XS is an XT … just with a smaller engine. The new $38,490-driveaway entry-point to the BT-50 lineup swaps Isuzu’s familiar 3.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine for a new 1.9-litre unit that makes 110kW of power and 350Nm of torque – 30kW/100Nm less than its big-block sibling.

There’s no option of a manual here: Mazda says the kind of fleets that will be the main customers of the cheapest BT-50 spec only want an auto, so a six-speed slushbox it is.

2022 Mazda BT-50 1.9 SX ute white exterior driving shot 4

You can also tell an XS from its workhorse steel wheels, fitted to the price-leading single cab-chassis 4×2 and the $43,490 high-riding dual-cab 4×2. Spend a not-insignificant $7000 more on your 1.9 XS and you’ll get a dual-cab with 4×4 for $51,490 – and Mazda chucks in alloy wheels along with your low-range transfer case.

While the 1.9 XS is the least expensive BT-50 yet, other utes do offer cheaper entry points – but the difference is that the base-model Mazda just doesn’t feel entry-level. Instead, with its comfortable seats, wireless smartphone mirroring and broad, standard safety suite, it feels for work in the 2020s – as long as the fleet manager sees the value.

How does the BT-50 1.9 XS drive?

We tested the new BT-50 XS in both dual-cab guises – 4×2 and 4×4. Both score the same new 1.9-litre engine making 110kW/350Nm. We say new, but the 1898cc RZ4E-TC, produced by Mazda’s platform partner Isuzu, was actually introduced in 2015.

Admittedly, that’s ‘new’ in the world of diesel engines, which routinely last 20+ years before they are replaced. And it feels new: reasonably quiet, refined and torquey, the Mazda’s 1.9-litre engine is miles ahead of the anaemic base petrol engines you’ll find shoved under the bonnet of the XS’s rivals.

2022 Mazda BT-50 1.9 SX ute white exterior driving shot 7

Compared to the $2000-dearer XT with the more familiar 140kW/450Nm 3.0-litre, you do notice less low-end torque but by the time you get the 1.9-litre revving into the mid-range it feels nearly as strong as its big brother.

Unfortunately, we could only sample the XS unladen and we suspect the heavier you go, the more you’d appreciate the big engine’s effortless nature – but if this will be a lightly-loaded workhorse then the 1.9-litre really is more than enough.

It is paired well with the Aisin AWR6B45 six-speed automatic transmission that also does service in some overseas Toyota vehicles – but the BT-50’s tune, completed by Isuzu, is more intelligent, providing smart and early shifts to keep the engine in its 1800-2600rpm peak torque wave.

2022 Mazda BT-50 1.9 SX ute white engine bay

A manual option would have driven the price down further (manuals are typically $3000 less in the BT-50 lineup) but we are told the demand simply would not have been there.

We didn’t drive the single cab-chassis version, but both dual-cab iterations of the BT-50 XS ride quite well even when unladen with limited rear-axle skip.

Like the more plush BT-50 SP double-cab we tested in the same week, the 1.9 XS handles better than most of its ute rivals, with reasonably quick and direct steering with the benefit of a pleasantly small steering wheel.

Refinement is also noticeably better than a Toyota Hilux or Mitsubishi Triton, with the cabin remaining fairly quiet at speed unless you’re revving the guts out of the engine.

2022 Mazda BT-50 1.9 SX ute white exterior driving shot 5

Mazda take pride in the BT-50’s five-star ANCAP safety rating (achieved in 2020), and removing safety tech to drive down the cost of the XS wasn’t an option.

So despite being the base model, this is one safe ute – crashworthy, as ANCAP determined, but also packing forwards AEB, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and a lane keeping aid that can helpfully be turned off with a long-press on a steering wheel button.

Drivability scorecard
Power & performance
7.0
Ride & refinement
7.5
Handling
7.5
Safety
8.5

How is the BT-50 1.9 XS’s interior?

We appreciate the fact that despite being the workhorse of Mazda’s very broad BT-50 range, the 1.9 XS still benefits from the same basic seats as the most expensive versions. They’re trimmed in hardy grey cloth, rather than leather, but the well-bolstered shape is retained.

These are possibly the most comfortable seats ever deployed in a base-model dual-cab ute, providing great back support and good lateral support even over longer drives. It probably goes without saying that the adjustment is manual, but even the thigh angle has been set correctly.

Other materials used about the cabin are more durable than plush as you’d expect and desire in a vehicle like this, but the build quality seemed solid – at least on the low-kilometre testers we sampled.

Wireless smartphone mirroring tech is retained from more expensive varieties of BT-50, which means that the XS has benchmark connectivity for an entry-level ute. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto lets you cast navigation, media, phone and messaging apps to the car’s screen for safer use.

The stereo is the same as that found in the range-topping $68,990 BT-50 Thunder, too – so sound quality is actually more than decent. You’ll notice a bit of cost cutting from the fact that the screen’s bezel is chunky, having been designed for the 9.0-inch unit used in more upmarket trims.

Still, life’s good in the XS and storage options are fairly plentiful too, though this ute is missing the centre bin atop the dashboard found in many rivals.

Manual air conditioning is simple to operate and the 4×4 version also has a clear twist-knob operation for enabling four-high and four-low. Meanwhile, a colour trip computer is shared with top-end trims and is comprehensive, if small.

Move to the back seat and there’s more than enough space for six-foot adults, with good knee, head and toe room behind fellow six-foot drivers.

Interior scorecard
Layout & materials
7.0
Cabin technology
8.5
Driver comfort
8.5
Passenger space
8.0

What are the BT-50 1.9 XS’s running costs?

The BT-50 range is covered by Mazda’s Australian new vehicle warranty that lasts for five years with unlimited kilometres.

Servicing is scheduled to be completed every 12 months/15,000km with all BT-50 varieties. Maintenance is a little cheaper for the 4×2 models but over five years this amounts to less than $100.

The first five years/75,000km of servicing amounts to $2005 for the 4×2 and $2088 for the 4×4.

Fuel consumption on our test was considerably lower than the 3.0-litre. By contrast to the bigger engine which managed 9.0L/100km, we scored 7.0L/100km in the 1.9-litre – which is really good for this segment. Note that our testing route did bias higher-speed country roads over suburban work.

Running costs scorecard
Consumption
Great
Servicing
Good
Warranty
Good

The final verdict

The Mazda BT-50 XS is a great entry-level ute. You do pay for the privilege: Toyota’s cheapest high-rider Workmate dual-cab 4×2 ute costs $695 less, for instance – and that vehicle is regarded as premium-priced. But unlike the Hilux, the base-model BT-50 actually feels like decent value for money.

That’s because it’s comfortable to sit in, has good ride quality (for a ute), handles quite well, has benchmark cabin tech, and the entry-level engine isn’t a bad unit.

2022 Mazda BT-50 1.9 SX ute white rear 3/4

Benevolent fleet managers should see the value in the BT-50 XS and spend the extra money over stripped-out competitors that remind you that they are el-cheapo commercial vehicles every time you turn the key.

Perhaps the most ‘Mazda’ element of all to this Isuzu-developed ute is just how complete it feels for the price.

Overall rating
Overall rating
7.5
Drivability
7.5
Interior
8.0
Running costs
Good
Overall rating
7.5
Drivability
7.5
Interior
8.0
Running costs
Good

Variant tested XS (4x2)

$33,650
Details
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges
$35,704

Key specs (as tested)

Engine
Capacity
1898 cc
Cylinders
4
Induction
Diesel Turbo
Power
110kW at 3600rpm
Torque
350Nm at 1800rpm
Power to weight ratio
68kW/tonne
Fuel
Fuel type
Diesel
Fuel capacity
76 litres
Consumption
7L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
1085km (claimed)
Drivetrain
Transmission
Automatic
Drivetrain
4x2
Gears
6
Dimensions
Length
5320 mm
Width
1870 mm
Height
1790 mm
Unoccupied weight
1620 kg

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