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Mazda BT-50: This beauty is a beast

WITH THE PRICES of pickups on a steep upward trajectory, they’ve become luxury lifestyle possessions — a far cry from their humble, utilitarian origins. Hand in hand with this paradigm shift is the metamorphosis in truck styling. It’s now all about the swagger: Mean-looking front ends, muscular fender flares, big wheels and tires, and a tall ride height that would make any arthritic senior citizen cringe at the prospect of getting in and out.

But what if you don’t really want — make that don’t really need — to display all that attitude on the road? What if you don’t really want to look like you’re compensating for something (wink, wink)?

You mosey on over to your nearest Mazda dealer and check out the pickup truck that bears the handsome yet understated face and the minimalist, sensual lines that adorn its sedan and sports car siblings. I’m talking about the Mazda BT-50.

You won’t find any trace of toxic masculinity in the BT-50, which marries the distinctive minimalism and sensuous dynamism of the brand’s Kodo Soul of Motion design with the durability and versatility of a solid new platform.

But don’t mistake the BT-50’s minimalism for a lack of road presence. The new BT-50’s low-rake hood and pronounced crease lines that extend all the way to the side mirrors endow it with visual dynamism. Flared fenders convey an expression of strength, while 18-inch wheels with a two-tone finish provide a stylish accent.

More importantly, the new BT-50 is ready and able to do the hard work it’s designed for. The bed’s wide 1,530mm opening, 490mm depth, and 1,571mm length make the pickup a versatile hauler for cargo of various shapes and sizes (all variants come with a standard bedliner). The 4×4 also has a functional roof rail.

Echoing Mazda’s premium direction, the new BT-50’s SUV-like cabin is made of high-quality materials that provide comfort and convenience for all occupants without sacrificing durability and functionality. From the upscale dash to the sculpted door panels, the BT-50’s cabin exudes an elegant yet highly functional finish. This attention to detail is matched in the luxurious front seats, which are covered in fine brown leather (in the 4×4) or cool high-quality black fabric (in the 4×2). There are even padded leather knee pads and armrests.

Adding a touch of class in the cabin are sculpted matte-finish accents that make their way from the doors to the dash, along with the gloss finish on the air-conditioning bezels. The multi-info display shows key information (including frequently used infotainment controls) within the driver’s line of sight. More nifty features include a seat warmer, electric seat adjustments for the driver’s seat, and a tilt-and-telescope steering wheel. Bottle holders in the doors can hold a 1.5-liter drink. There are upper and lower glove compartments, plus front and rear USB ports and an auto-dimming rear view. The new BT-50 even boasts an infrared-reflecting windshield glass to cut down the heat entering the cabin, further improving the effectiveness of the A/C.

A Remote Engine Start button on the key fob lets you start the engine from up to 20 meters away and cool the cabin. It also has Keyless Entry and Walk Away Auto Lock systems.

The rear seats offer generous space and a car-like reclined backrest, unlike other pickups that force backseat passengers to sit with their backs ramrod straight. They also benefit from dual-zone A/C through air vents. Hidden compartments underneath the rear seats let one stow valuables away from prying eyes.

The new BT-50’s nine-inch touchscreen Apple CarPlay/Android Auto infotainment system works with 6×9-inch woofers in the front and rear doors, on-dash tweeters, and special roof speakers to provide an eight-speaker surround setup.

All three variants of the new BT-50 will use Isuzu’s tried-and-tested 4JJ3 3.0-liter four-cylinder intercooled variable-geometry turbo (VGT) diesel engine that develops 190ps and a stout 450Nm of torque from as low as 1,600rpm. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic.

My BT-50 4×4 test unit is equipped with an electronically controlled Drive Selector featuring options for Two-wheel Drive Low, Two-wheel Drive High, Four-wheel Drive Low, and Four-wheel Drive High. Together with an electronic rear differential lock, maximum contact and traction is achieved even on loose and undulating surfaces. Negotiating downhills is also easy with the new BT-50’s Hill Descent Control. The new BT-50 sports a ground clearance of 240mm and a wading depth of a mighty impressive 800mm.

On the road, the BT-50 exhibited impressive refinement, especially in terms of NVH. Wind, road, and engine noise are effectively suppressed. The only giveaway that you’re riding a pickup truck is the ride that’s noticeably stiffer than any car’s (but certainly not any harsher than its pickup rivals). Floor the throttle, however, and this truck will embarrass a lot of other so-called performance cars. The 190ps and 450Nm of torque will do that. Thankfully, the handling and braking are more than capable of dealing with all that power.

The BT-50 is equipped with Mazda Active Safety Technology (MAST) pre-crash safety features such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Electronic Stability Control, Auto High Beam Control, and automatic wipers. The BT-50 is also equipped with seven air bags, including a driver’s knee air bag and front side air bags.

A big perk of Mazda ownership is its five-year free service plan. As with every other new Mazda, the plan covers all PMS costs at either six-month or 10,000-kilometer intervals, for up to five years or 100,000 kilometers. The truck has a three-year bumper-to-bumper warranty.

The new Mazda BT-50 starts at P1,390,000 for the 3.0 4×2 MT and tops out at P1,790,000 for our 3.0 4×4 AT test unit. There is actually also a limited 3.0 4×4 AT Pangolin Edition that goes for P1,858,000.

The Mazda BT-50 is the perfect truck for those that want to stand out for the opposite reason — understated, handsome, yet powerful enough to rival or even shame many of its rivals. For me, macho trucks are the embodiment of the sweaty dude in the gym who keeps flexing his muscles and looking at himself in the mirror. The BT-50 is Dwayne Johnson in a tailor-fit suit. I know which one I’d like to be behind the wheel of.

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