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June 25, 2023

Review: 2023 Mazda BT-50 4x2 Black Edition

When it comes to the Mazda BT-50, all the attention is focused on the top-of-the-line 3.0 4x4; and rightfully so. Priced at P 1.790-million, it’s an often-overlooked choice in the pickup truck segment. Not only does it offer competitive specs vis-à-vis its price tag, it also comes with one of the country’s best ownership packages (a 5-year free service plan, in case you didn’t know). Go a step down, however, and things aren’t so shiny anymore.

The Mazda BT-50 5x2, priced at P 1.430-million, feels inadequate compared to others in the 4x2 pickup truck segment. Its main draw, without a doubt, is its standard 3.0-liter 4-cylinder engine—the very same found in the 4x4. It’s a rarity, at least in the Philippines, for a 4x2 truck to get the same engine as the top trim truck. So, it makes you think that for them to achieve that price, a lot of features had to stripped out in the process. And stripped they have.

Even without having to go line-by-line in its spec sheet, I could enumerate some major causalities: the 18-inch rims, the automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, power adjust for the driver’s seat, smart keyless entry, automatic climate control; heck, it even dropped its airbag count—from seven to two, and lost its camera-based advanced driver assist tech. In short, the BT-50 4x2 is as old-school as pickup trucks get. It could have been a top-of-the-line variant…in 2009.

Mazda, realizing that no one was taking the bait for their 4x2 truck, quickly came up with this: the BT-50 4x2 Black Edition. Mind you, it doesn’t completely solve all of the 4x2 AT’s issues, but because it’s a no cost option, it does improve the value-for-money proposition.

Officially, the BT-50 4x2 Black Edition is a 50-unit limited run model. However, because it’s still on the Mazda Philippines website and pricelist, I could only surmise that either: A) they haven’t sold all 50 units yet; or B) they’re extending its availability, hopefully making it standard equipment for the 4x2.

Either way, you get a high-gloss black finish for the grille and 17-inch wheels, as well as a tailgate assist that makes the opening of the tailgate a one-finger exercise. Even better is what Mazda’s done on the inside. Gone are the cheap fabric seats, and replacing it is a proper black and gray leather seats (with perforation and even the words, “Black Edition” embossed on the headrests to boot). The steering wheel is also wrapped in leather, and happens to closely mimic Mazda’s trademark cross-stitched pattern.

Personally, I like what Mazda’s done outside, but the final judgement, I guess, rests on individual taste. I know some people complain that it doesn’t look, “Black Edition” enough, but honestly, what more can you do? Paint the door handles and side mirrors black? It’ll just look too fussy. But again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

There is no doubt, however, that the addition of cowhide is transformative. From a truck that swings too heavily to being a rudimentary workhorse, the BT-50 finally has some sense of luxury fitted in. It’s finally a top-of-the-line trim variant worthy of 2013. Now, from my understanding, the leatherwork is done locally, but don’t let that disappoint you; it’s top-notch. The choice of leather helps too as it comes across as the same kind you get on other (non-nappa leather) equipped Mazdas. If I were to lodge a complaint, it’s that the leather doesn’t fit flush near the edges of the steering wheel spokes. Also, it’s worth noting that the rear seat still doesn’t have a rear arm rest. 

Great as the leather interior package is, the rest of the BT-50 4x2’s interior hasn’t really caught up to the tech-indulgent experience people have come to expect in a modern pickup truck. You need to twist a key to start it and the climate control is still manual. Heck, at 7 inches, the infotainment screen is barely bigger than the smartphones they’re supposed to be mirroring off of. But at least it still has rear AC vents and wireless Apple CarPlay as standard. Of note, the infotainment system’s responses are so-so. There’s some noticeable lag, especially when trying to connect to CarPlay, whether wired or wireless when the truck’s started up.

With a shared powertrain, there’s almost nothing that separates the BT-50 in 4x2 and 4x4 guise, drive-wise. The Isuzu-sourced 3.0-liter engine is lazy to rev, relying instead on its broad torque curve to help push the almost two-ton body forward. A light right foot is all that’s needed to keep a decent pace going, especially since this 4x2 sheds some 100 kilograms in curb weight versus the 4x4. Furthermore, the six-speed automatic is well matched to the engine. The gear engagement could use better refinement, but at least it doesn’t shudder the cabin half the time.

However, when lifting off the accelerator—typically when the needle hits about 1,300 rpm, the engine, or at least a component of it, resonates with something underneath the truck creating a rather unpleasant drone. This isn’t present in the 4x4.

With a hydraulic power steering, turning the BT-50 in tight confines require some muscle effort. At speed though, it balances itself quite well. Ride-wise, there’s a surprising difference. It could be the result of the lighter weight or the tire-and-wheel combo, but it’s way bouncier on most surfaces compared to the 4x4. This is especially true on badly cracked roads where it will skip and shudder its way with little sense of composure. It’s overly firm when inflated to its proper 33 PSI tire pressure. Yet, as the road smoothens out, it does settle down tremendously. The difference is day and night; it’s like you’re shaking hands with Dr. Jekyll one minute, wrestling with Mr. Hyde the next.

One thing that worked to the 4x2’s favor is that there’s no over nannying ADAS here. Since the brakes bite towards the end of its stroke, you’re allowed to ride them without having the forward collision warning blare at you half the time. If only Mazda didn’t omit five airbags or the front sensors or the blind spot indicators, and you could have had something more Manila appropriate.

The introduction of the BT-50 Black Edition isn’t the curative silver bullet that’ll solve all of Mazda’s woes in the mid-trim 4x2 pickup truck segment. This segment is so competitive, so finnicky, that the zeitgeist has simply moved on. What the BT-50 4x2 Black Edition has done though is to put Mazda back into the conversation. If the BT-50 never appeared in your pickup truck buying radar before, now is a good time to consider it. In a lot of ways, it’s an old-school truck circa 2015. But at least, it’s a better-loaded old-school truck than before.

2023 Mazda BT-50 4x2 Black Edition

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Bottom Line
Pros Shared 3.0-liter engine with 4x4, no more over nannying ADAS.
Cons Old school feel and execution, bouncier ride compared to 4x4.
TL;DR It's not a curative silver bullet to the BT-50's woes, but it's a big improvement, value-wise.
Year Introduced 2021 (Refreshed: 2022, 2023)
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Pick-Up Truck
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/R
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 3.0
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Common Rail
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
Maximum Output (PS @ rpm) 190 @ 3,600
Maximum Torque (Nm @ rpm) 450 @ 1,600-2,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Diesel
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy (km/L) @ Ave. Speed (km/h) 9.90 km/L @ 14 km/h
Fuel Tank Size (L) 76
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 5,280
Width (mm) 1,870
Height (mm) 1,810
Wheelbase (mm) 3,125
Curb Weight (kg) 1,930
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Rear Suspension Leaf Spring
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Parking Brake Hand-Type
Tires Bridgestone Dueler H/T 684 II 255/65 R 17 (f & r)
Recommended Tire Pressure (PSI) 33 (front), 33 (rear, unloaded), 43 (rear, loaded)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors 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
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front (LED)
Light Operation Manual
Wiper Operation Variable Intermittent
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual, 6-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Leather
2nd Row 60/40 Split-Fold
3rd Row None
Sunroof None
Multi-Information Display / Size Yes, 4.2-inch
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Day/Night
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Manual, w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
USB Type A
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay (Wireless)
Android Auto
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes

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