LIFEíS A HOLIDAY

THE HOLIDAYS ARRIVED AND THERE WAS A KITTED-OUT BT-50 SITTING IN THE 4X4 AUSTRALIA CAR PARK. HOW COULD WE REFUSE A SUMMER ROAD TRIP?

WORDS MATT RAUDONIKIS

MAZDA BT-50 XTR 4X4 SHED 078

DATE ACQUIRED: NOV 2015 PRICE: $63,645 (inc extras) KM THIS MONTH: 5099 AV FUEL: 10.4L/100KM KM 0 1 0 5 7 5 09

The end-of-year holiday period provided the perfect opportunity to put some kilometres on our BT-50, 4X4 Australiaís longterm press car.

As soon as we were dismissed from 4X4 headquarters, we made a beeline up the Newell Highway, headed for the Sunshine State. The loping nature of the relatively large 3.2-litre, five-cylinder diesel engine makes the BT a relaxed highway-mile eater. The gearing in the six-speed auto neatly matches the engineís torque so that the transmission sits in top gear on the open road, without hunting between gears. This makes the Mazda a more comfortable consideration for long-distance drives, putting less stress on both man and machine.

Conversely, with the engine ticking along at 2000rpm at highway speeds, it sucks a bit more fuel than some of the newer utes, and the best we could get the average down to was 10.0L/100km on the blacktop. Itís worth mentioning at this point that the car is fitted with slightly taller-than-stock 265/70-17 all-terrain tyres and a bulbar, both of which affect fuel economy, compared to a standard car.

After a couple of thousand road miles, we left the blacktop for the dusty tracks of the New South Walesí Snowies, and crossed the border back into Victoria, over the Alps. Itís always pleasing to drop the tyre pressures down for the steep off-road tracks of the High Country, and this adventure didnít disappoint.

Steep rutted tracks posed no problem for the torquey BT, and when a bit of surety was needed for wet climbs, the rear locker was easily employed. The BF Goodrich KO2 A/Ts really came into their own in the High Country.

Rocks, ruts, mud and dust were easily dispatched from the deep tread, and after clocking up close to 5000km, there were no signs of chipping or cuts in the tyres.

There were, however, a few little annoyances only noticeable after living with the BT for some time. First, there isnít a lot of information available on the trip computer, and to scroll through the menu you need to reach through the steering wheel to push the button on the dash binnacle; a simple task like checking the outside temperature (when the menu is showing fuel consumption) means you have to reach through the wheel, instead of being able to simply push a button on the wheel.

Also, thereís only one USB port in the front of the car and itís in the glove box, meaning if you want to plug in your phone, you need to do it on that side of the car Ė you canít do it from the driverís seat.

A big annoyance Ė and this one gets me every time I drive the BT-50 Ė is that although Mazda did a bang-up job of redesigning the dash for the 2016 upgrade, introducing a nice, big AV screen in the middle of it, and a reversing camera (standard in the XTRspec that we have), the two of them arenít linked and the image from the camera appears on a tiny, glareaffected panel in the rear view mirror. That means you need to use your hand to shield it from light whenever you are backing up. Itís stupid and annoying!

These are small blemishes on the BT-50ís otherwise polished performance, and theyíre outweighed by the driveability, comfort and allterrain ability of a great allround package.

WHEN A BIT OF SURETY WAS NEEDED FOR WET CLIMBS, THE REAR LOCKER WAS EASILY EMPLOYED