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January 29, 2023

Review: 2023 Mazda BT-50 Pangolin Edition II

Ask a 7-year old kid to name a truck, and chances are they’d come up with something that sounds like a character from Mad Max. You could get names like Rictus Erectus, Furiosa, and Mudguts—yes, these are actual Mad Max characters. And then, there’s the Mazda BT-50 Pangolin. The what, you ask? The pangolin. The scaly anteater with poor vision, no teeth, and rolls up when threatened. It doesn’t jive with the oh-so-common rough and tough branding associated with pickups, and it sort of tells you where Mazda’s going with here.

To recall, this isn’t the first time Mazda has come up with a truck named Pangolin. The previous BT-50 had one at the tail end of its life cycle. Though it did offer cosmetic upgrades over the stock truck, its main purpose was to raise awareness of the pangolin’s plight as the most trafficked mammal in the world. The brand’s local distributor, Bermaz Auto Philippines, believed in the cause so much that they lent one to the Palawan-based Katala Foundation to help them perform their protection advocacies to help the endemic Philippine pangolin.

Whether or not this feel-good attitude towards the conservation of a particular animal worked, but it seems like a win for Mazda’s marketing team that they’ve decided to come up with a second-generation BT-50 Pangolin.

Like the previous special edition truck, this one’s all about aesthetics. But unlike the previous one, the current BT-50 Pangolin is available as a factory-installed accessory pack. This means a BT-50 4x4 won’t be turned into a Pangolin until a customer ticks the pack. And no, existing BT-50s can’t be converted into a Pangolin post purchase either.

Starting with the likable bits first, the BT-50 Pangolin rides on 18-inch wheels with a more aggressive offset. This helps square off its stance, especially with the black fender flares. It’s also the only place where you’ll find the Pangolin logo in the form of the center caps. There’s also the tailgate assist. It’s an often overlooked feature, but it makes opening and closing of the tailgate a one-fingered affair. The body-colored side step boards also work in dark shades like Rock Gray, but we wonder how it’ll survive being pelted with rocks or stones during off-roading.

On to the bits that we don’t like—it’s basically down to the combination of that fashion bar and the bed cover. Taken separately, they would be fine, but together, it limits the usability of the bed especially when hauling larger objects. For example, the revolver bed cover is great for securing stuff away from prying eyes, but it won’t fit the height of a standard balikbayan box (20 inches or 508 mm). Then, there’s the issue of the fashion bar actually getting in the way of the bed cover when it’s unfurled. Because the design tapers towards the middle, there’s no way you’ll be able to fully open the bed cover. This will force you to fit taller cargo towards the back of the bed. Personally, we would trade that fashion bar for a set of chunkier all-terrain tires. The stock Dunlops just make it look undertired.

Now that we’ve discussed the Pangolin pack’s pros and cons, the rest of the mechanicals is every bit the same as before.

The engine, despite not having the best-in-class power or torque, pulls well. Remember, pickups are designed for hauling so it’s better for it to have a flat torque curve than high peak horsepower. It’s great to know that around 88 percent of its peak torque—around 400 Nm—comes in at just 1,400 rpm to 3,250 rpm. This means it can make short work of any steep driveway, rolling mountain road, or even off-road trails. A light tap of the accelerator is more than enough for everyday driving.

The six-speed automatic is also well-matched to the relaxed nature of the engine. There’s a bit of hunting between fifth and sixth gear, but overall, the gearing is well-suited to the engine. Engagement is also smooth and free of any shock. It helps it return commendable fuel economy of 10.41 km/L using Petron Turbo Diesel—a technologically advanced fuel with a cetane booster and combustion enhancer that provides smoother performance.

Perhaps the biggest issue anyone would have, especially for out-of-shape motoring journalists, is the heavyweight steering. The hydraulic setup requires a bit of muscle, especially during low-speed turns and maneuvers. It’s the sole chink in an otherwise solid platform package that includes a well-composed ride and excellent off-road credentials—240 mm ground clearance, 800 mm water wading depth, and a rear locking differential to go with its part-time 4x4 system.

As with other Mazda vehicles, the BT-50’s interior goes for a more luxurious rather than sporty vibe. It’s still based off a D-Max, so there are Isuzu switchgear here in the switchgear and buttons, but overall, it feels classier. The contrasting brown leather seats and knee pads add a touch of class, blending well with the brown dash highlights. The instrument cluster is somewhat Isuzu-like, but at least it’s managed to integrate the Mazda start-up sequence and font.

Compared to the D-Max’s locally-sourced head unit, Mazda opted to keep the factory 9-inch infotainment system. The interface isn’t related to the Mazda Connect system, so there’s no controller knob. Navigating through the menus require using both the on-screen and physical buttons (Back and Home, for example), which may be confusing at first, but it become second nature in time. Also, it doesn’t offer offline GPS, but standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make up for that. That said, setting up wireless Apple CarPlay isn’t a straightforward process, and the lack of a wireless charging pad means drivers will probably have to plug in anyway.

The front seats are supportive and it offers a good amount of movement for the driver to get their preferred position. It offers six ways of electric movement plus adjustable lumbar support. The steering wheel also adjusts for rake and reach as well. Meanwhile, the rear seats are comfortable, easily fitting three six-footers abreast with adequate knee and headroom. When not carrying people, the seats flip up in a 60/40 split enabling BT-50 owners to fill in the rear quarters with boxes.

In terms of safety, the BT-50 comes with front and rear parking sensors with a reverse camera. Even better, it has blind spot indicators and a camera-based driver assist system that unlocks features such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, high-beam assist, and adaptive cruise control. Mind you, for those who prefer not being nannied, overriding any of these systems require going through layers of menus (it turns back on by default whenever the truck’s started up).

In a field full of testosterone-on-your-sleeve type of pickup truck, this one’s got manners. It’s quiet, subdued, and elegant in some ways. It’s something, the brand says, helps them win over current Mazda owners. Though that base is quite small, it is made up of a fiercely loyal bunch. These are the people who seem to understand that trucks need not about jumping over sand dunes or conquering trails all the time. It could also be about a lifestyle, and that could be camping, mountaineering, or even advocating for the preservation of a certain mammal. Whatever it may be, it requires a pickup to actually be able to do the work rather than just look like they’re capable of doing it.

In the greater scheme of things, Mazda could have thrown a bit more differentiation as opposed to having Isuzu do all the engineering work, but as it stands, the BT-50 is an often overlooked choice in the segment that deserves more attention. The aesthetic upgrades don’t work 100 percent, but for those who find it attractive, it’ll let you back just P 68,000. For those who prefer the stock look, Mazda’s not forcing this package down on you. You can still get the non-Pangolin BT-50 4x4 for P 1.790 million. Either way, it’s one solid value truck.

2023 Mazda BT-50 Pangolin Edition II

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Bottom Line
Pros Decent amount of kit, surprisingly fuel efficient, 5-year free service.
Cons Aesthetic upgrades are questionable, doesn't push the bar enough.
TL;DR Looks like a Mazda, but doesn't drive like one.
Year Introduced 2021 (Refreshed: 2022)
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Pick-Up Truck
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/4WD, Low, Locking
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 3.0
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Common Rail
Layout / # of Cylinders Inline-4
BHP @ rpm 190 @ 3,600
Nm @ rpm 450 @ 1,600-2,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Diesel
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes, Adaptive
Fuel Economy (km/L) @ Ave. Speed (km/h) 10.41 km/L @ 21 km/h
(fueled with Petron Turbo Diesel)
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 5,280
Width (mm) 1,870
Height (mm) 1,810
Wheelbase (mm) 2,830
Curb Weight (kg) 2,030
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Rear Suspension Leaf Spring
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Parking Brake Hand-Type
Tires Dunlop GrandTrek AT25 265/60 R 18 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR w/ pre-tensioners x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Hill Descent Control
Blind Spot Monitoring
Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Forward Collision Warning
Autonomous Emergency Braking
Lane Departure Warning
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, LED (Front), Rear
Light Operation Auto On/Off
Wiper Operation Rain-Sensing
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-Way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-Way
Seating Surface Leather
2nd Row 60/40 Split-Fold, w/ Arm Rest
3rd Row None
Sunroof None
Multi-Information Display Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto-Dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Dual, Automatic (Front) w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay (Wired/Wireless)
Android Auto
# of Speakers 8
Steering Controls Yes


  1. More like a rebadged Isuzu D-Max

    1. Few times when the re-badge is actually better value than the original. Isuzu was caught napping on this one me thinks.


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