Brilliant Tourer

$21,000 - 39,000 AUD




  • Strong factory turbo diesel
  • Low running costs
  • Load carrying ability



  • Holding their sale price
  • Small back seat (in freestyle and dual cab)
  • Limited off-road clearance


You could be forgiven for overlooking the humble Mazda BT-50 in your search for a used 4WD ute. The used market gets flooded by ex-government Rodeos and HiLuxes.


It can be easy to miss one of these little beauties tucked away in a car yard. With the number of stylish 4WD utilities growing stronger each year, it was only a matter of time before Mazda followed the trend.


Mazda’s ‘make ’em last’ commercial vehicle attitude has come through into the facelifted BT-50 range. With only a diesel engine on offer, it’s a strong indication that Mazda is targeting the off-road and work ute market with this model of vehicle. With a solid history in the ute market, it’s easy to see why the BT-50 is becoming a popular choice for the 4WDer.




The trusty Mazda BT-50 was developed by Mazda from late 2006 onwards, with Ford also bringing out a rebadged version known as the Ranger. Each model rolls out of the same factory in Thailand and is finished off to suit either Mazda’s or Ford’s requirements.


Both models are identical in the chassis, body and mechanicals with only minor details changing. Apart from the obvious badge change, the Ranger was released with a different front grille. Current models of the Ranger also have a revised badge insert in the front guards.


The BT-50 has only undergone one facelift in the model range. In August 2008, the BT-50 took on a new look with a very minor facelift. The upgrade wasn’t much more than a visual revamp to bump up sales, with the mechanicals remaining the same. The face-lifted BT-50 is what you see as the current models in showrooms now.


The earlier 2006–2008 BT-50 is known as the ‘L’ series. It can be quickly picked from the later models by taking note of the instrument panel. The L series came with the green coloured needles on the gauges, while the later ‘M’ series had red needles. The ‘M’ series BT-50 runs from 2008 onwards. These models had an updated grille, changes to the head and tail-lights, and an auxiliary input on the MP3 player. Apart from that, Mazda has used the same reliable platform across the BT-50 range. The VIN can be found on the driver’s side front chassis rail, which can confirm the model you’re looking at.




The BT-50 was released with a 3L, four-cylinder intercooled turbo diesel across the 4WD range, making the choice simple in the engine bay. The in-line four engine is a strong little performer, and more than up to any task you can throw at it. The engine uses current common-rail diesel technology to push out some impressive figures: 115kW @ 3200rpm and 380Nm @ 1800rpm is up there with the best diesel utes out there. Having such a bullet-proof diesel power plant built on a solid chassis rail platform, the BT-50 handles loads with ease.


While you’re looking over the vehicle, lie down and take a good look for any scrape marks or damage along the chassis rails and transfer case bash plate. Most of the essential driveline components are well tucked away underneath the BT-50, but keep an eye out for the usual off-road abuse. This will tell you a story about the history of the vehicle.


Even BT-50s that have spent their time on the farm or around building sites should have held up well over time. The steering should feel direct and firm on the road test and not wander at all in your lane.


This will indicate wear in the tie rods ends and the front control arms. If the vehicle is fitted with a towbar, spend some time checking out the rear suspension and towbar mounts.


A BT-50 that has spent its days on the blacktop with the previous owner may have never been put into 4WD. Check the operation of the transfer case lever to see that it moves smoothly (Transfer operation on the auto is via electronic dial). There is also a switch on the dash to lock the front hubs remotely (labelled RFW). Find a patch of dirt or gravel road to check it’s engaging 4WD and the front vacuum locking hubs are functioning.


With a 3000kg towing capacity on the manual models, some vehicles get pushed to their limit as a workhorse during the week. While most owners observe towing limits, it’s easily overlooked when there is work to be done.


From a standing start, the turbo lag when towing is a setback. On manual models the clutch may have been abused to get the vehicle moving. Look out for any heavy rub marks between the bump stops and sagging in the rear leaf springs, as this will be a good indication of any excess loads it may have been carrying.


Check out the service history and take a close look for regular servicing. Like most late-model diesel engines, they rely on a clean oil supply to stay reliable. Apart from the general wear and tear items like brakes and tyres, there isn’t anything major that can catch you out on a BT-50.


If factory warranty is on your list of priorities for added peace of mind, keep a close eye out for a vehicle built after mid 2007. If you’re lucky enough to find a low-kilometre example, it will still have the balance of the factory Mazda new car warranty. This covered all BT-50s and runs for three years or 100,000km (whichever comes first).




The BT-50 was one of the first 4WD utilities to introduce the second set of rear doors to its single-cab range, known as the Freestyle cab. The large open area created when both doors are opened from the centre is great for rear cab access when packing. The leg room for rear passengers in these Freestyle cabs is non-existent. Check that the doors open and close smoothly, particularly in these models. With no middle B-pillar, the doors can rattle slightly if they are out of adjustment. As for the dual cab, you gain a little more leg room in the back. Like most utes it’s still a little cramped for long trips.


The single and dual-cab chassis models come with vinyl flooring, as opposed to carpet in the other models. While it makes for a practical off-road vehicle, expect to get a little more road noise in the cab. In general, the BT-50’s interior is built to be practical and well put together. Most of the interior dash design coming across from the passenger car range. Check that all of the buttons and dials work as they should. While the electrics are known to be reliable, you don’t want any surprises after handing over your cash.




Crowned the 4WD Ute of the Year here at 4WD Action back in 2007, the Mazda BT-50 is a serious contender. Since then, the BT-50 has earned itself some respectable credibility off-road.


The standard BT-50’s diesel tank is 70L, a little on the small side if you plan on doing some long-distance touring. The 3L engine pulls out a consumption figure of 10–13L/100km. You would expect to get a 538– 700km range from each fill, which makes for an average range off-road. The limited ground clearance does leave you scraping the belly and rear overhang over obstacles if left in standard configuration.


Compared to some of its coil-sprung counterparts, the BT-50’s torsion bar IFS would benefit off-road with a little extra clearance. Being slightly narrower in its wheel track compared to its rivals, the BT-50 has some advantage on the tighter tracks. Combined with the good low-range reduction of 2.48:1, it’s at home touring in the bush. It manages to manoeuvre through most off-road obstacles with some careful wheel placement.




In the short time that the BT-50 has been around, it has managed to rack up a growing list of aftermarket modifi cations. Most aftermarket manufacturers are offering a full range of their equipment for the BT-50. While the factory tyres and suspension are adequate for general driving, the BT-50 lacks a little in off-road clearance under its belly.


The first thing it would benefit from would be a mild suspension lift. The factory tyres fitted on the 4WD models were an acceptable all-purpose tyre. The large wheel arch clearance will allow you to fit some decent off-road tyres to help with traction. If you’re planning some long-distance touring in the BT-50, adding a second tank would be ideal.


With some clever vehicle mods, a BT-50 can be built up to take you to most places around Australia with ease.


While the drivability of the 3L turbo diesel is impressive from factory, it still responds well to minor tweaks. By fitting a larger-capacity intercooler and a 2.5in exhaust, it can easily pick up extra power if needed.


If you’re after that bit more, there are also plug-in diesel modules available from the likes of DP Chip and other manufacturers.




The BT-50 is still a relative late-model used vehicle buy. As such, they are holding onto their sale price relatively strongly. A good thing if you’re a new vehicle buyer, but not so good if you’re hunting for a cheap used ute. Vehicles still covered by the balance of Mazda’s new vehicle warranty are well sought after and would be the pick of the bunch.


Ultimately, the BT-50 is best suited to someone looking for a tough work and play touring 4WD. You get the practicality of a traditional 4WD ute with some modern creature comforts. Set up with the right mods, the BT-50 will be up for whatever you can throw at it – or in it for that matter!


Back in early 2009, 4WD Action experienced just how impressive the BT-50s perform.


After the tragic Black Saturday bushfires, we were assisting with some relief work down in Victoria. We had two fully loaded BT-50s towing loaded twin-axle trailers in a round trip from Sydney to Victoria. These BT-50s drove around morning and night for 36 hours straight without missing a beat, only stopping to swap drivers and fuel up. If that’s not an indication of performance, we don’t know what is!






115kW @ 3200rpm
380Nm @ 1800rpm


AUTOMATIC: Five-speed (electronic controlled)
MANUAL: Five-speed (four-speed with overdrive)



FRONT: Independent double wishbone, torsion bar with doubleacting shock absorbers
REAR: Rigid axle, leaf springs with double-acting shock absorbers


FRONT: Ventilated discs
REAR: Drum with automatic adjusters and load proportioning valve


STEERING: Power-assisted ball and nut (steering box)



KERB WEIGHT: 1633–1919kg
GVM: 3063kg
HEIGHT: 1762mm
WIDTH: 1807mm
LENGTH: 5169mm
BRAKED: 3000kg (manual) and 2500kg (auto)







This is the base model that came out in the DX variant only. It came standard with steel wheels, vinyl flooring. No airbags and not too many of the power gadgets (ABS and airbags were available as factory options) The single cab only came out in manual.



The Freestyle cab fits in between the single and dual-cab size, with the clever extra pair of rear-opening doors. The freestyle cab came out in cab chassis DX +, utility DX + and utility SDX. All Freestyle cabs came out with carpet, driver and passenger airbags and ABS and power options.


The SDXs are Mazda’s full-option sport models coming with all the bells and whistles. SDX models include side airbags, fog lights and six-stacker CD player. The wheel arch fl ares are also colour coded. In the Freestyle cab, an automatic gearbox was only optional in the SDX.



As with the Freestyle cab, the dual cab came out in the cab chassis DX +, utility DX + and utility SDX. Dual cabs had the same level of options for each model, although the rear passenger area of the cab was slightly longer and fitted with traditional ute-style rear seats and doors.




DEALER USED BT-50S: $27,000–$39,000
PRIVATE USED BT-50S: $21,000–$36,500

Expect to pay up to $1000 extra for the dual cab over a Freestyle cab, with $3000–$4000 extra for the dual cab over a single cab.

RRP NEW: The top of the range dual cab SDX (auto) will set you back $44,780 off the showroom floor.




Based on an over 25-year-old driver living in Western Sydney, you would expect to pay between $1280 and $1500 for a 2007 automatic BT-50. (Please note insurance quotes vary greatly on your driving record and place of residence. It pays to shop around.)


Please Note: Prices were correct at time of review.




very helpful as we are looking for a new tow unit and it is good to read unbiased comparisons, Wonder why an auto cannot tow as heavy a trailer as an automatic. I would have thought it would have been the other way around' Cheers Con Hennessy