Throughout most of its history, the Mazda BT-50 was a joint project with Ford, since after all, Mazda was under Ford ownership prior to its independence today. But for this 2022 Mazda BT-50, the Japanese automaker sought Isuzu’s truck expertise. The funnier thing about the BT-50 is, even though this is mostly Isuzu’s work, Mazda managed to make their pickup the better one in the end–at least that’s the case here in the Philippines.
In a sea of macho and tough pickups, the 2022 Mazda BT-50 manages to look elegant, which isn’t exactly a bad thing in my book. Whereas the previous BT-50 simply looked like a Ranger with Mazda’s pre-Kodo Design face, this new model manages to carve its own distinct identity over the D-Max. The front fascia’s signature five-point grille unexpectedly works well in a pickup format, and while LED headlights are standard across the range, only this 4×4 variant comes with LED daytime running lights.
The 18-inch wheels also look great, and the rear end likewise manages to have its own identity over the Isuzu D-Max. It’s only at the doors where the two share the same design traits, but apart from that, the BT-50 manages to stand on its own pretty well.
Likewise, the 2022 Mazda BT-50’s interior feels very similar to the D-Max. Material quality is practically identical, though Mazda sets the BT-50 apart through its horizontal design layout. This gives the interior a wider appearance as well as a more elegant look, but this also eliminated the cupholders at the outboard air vents.
Sharing the fundamental interior architecture as the D-Max also means that the BT-50 inherits its seats, which are one of the best in the segment. Along with its tilt and telescopic steering, the Mazda BT-50 (and also the D-Max) has one of the best driving positions in any pickup. Ditto the climate control keys, which are very easy and satisfying to use.
Features and Infotainment
Where the 2022 Mazda BT-50 definitely one-upped the D-Max is with regard to its infotainment. I’ve said this before and I will always say it until every automaker stops this practice. The BT-50’s factory infotainment that’s also found in overseas models is much better than the Filipino-sourced unit found in the D-Max. The user interface is far classier than the one in the Isuzu, though it doesn’t have an advantage in terms of response. And while the locally-sourced touch screen of the Isuzu is bigger, the Mazda’s 9-inch factory infotainment is far better integrated into the BT-50’s onboard electronics as a result.
Another advantage this infotainment has is wireless Apple CarPlay, though these advantages then disappear when you consider the fact that the BT-50 doesn’t have wireless charging. Android Auto is still a wired affair, though. Other features that the BT-50 gets are a power-adjustable driver’s seat and heated front seats, though they’re kind of pointless in our country’s hot climate.
Space and Practicality
The 2022 Mazda BT-50’s practical aspects are pretty much the same as the D-Max, which means they offer the same rear seat space and comfort, as well as its generously-sized bed. We don’t have any payload figures for the BT-50–as is the case with the D-Max as well, but we’re confident that it can carry at least a metric ton of payload confidently. Oh, and depending on when you’re reading (or watching) this review, all Mazda BT-50s come with a free bed cover and fender flares.
All 2022 Mazda BT-50s are powered by a 3.0-liter turbo diesel engine that’s codenamed 4JJ3-TCX. That’s hardly surprising because this is the same engine found in the D-Max and Mu-X. This is mated to a 6-speed automatic in the case of our 4×4 variant here. Now, if you expect that the Mazda BT-50 drives like the D-Max, then you’re absolutely right.
This means that in terms of ride and refinement, the Mazda BT-50 is one of the better ones in the segment. It comes with leaf springs at the rear axle, and while the inherent firmness of such a setup is still there, it’s never harsh in the same way as a Toyota Hilux. Bring it to a corner, and the BT-50 steers confidently, though not in a sporty manner that you would expect in a typical Mazda crossover SUV or passenger car. The hydraulic steering offers a good amount of road feel, but it’s not as responsive as your typical Mazda.
Also contributing to its good handling (for a pickup) is how the suspension deals with the truck’s body motions. Body roll is present, but it’s not dramatic and it comes in in a predictable manner. Refinement is also good, as road noise is well suppressed and there’s only a hint of wind noise through the wing mirrors.
The 3.0-liter turbo diesel engine powering the BT-50 doesn’t push class-leading numbers. Just like the D-Max, it produces 190 hp and 450 Nm of torque, but it also has a very fat torque curve that makes it effortless for this pickup to overtake. Likewise, the 6-speed automatic mated to this engine slushes the gears really well. Its powertrain is clearly one of our favorite aspects of both the BT-50 and D-Max. Oh, and it posts similarly-efficient fuel economy figures of 10.6-11.2 km/l.
The one aspect where the BT-50 shines over the D-Max is with regard to its off-road capability. No, the BT-50 doesn’t have a bespoke 4×4 drivetrain, but what it has that a top-trim LS-E 4×4 variant of D-Max doesn’t (at least in Philippine spec) is a locking rear differential. Without this feature, the D-Max will send its power to the wheel with the least grip in the event that it gets stuck on a trail whereas the BT-50 will easily escape such a situation. This is why we can’t even fathom why the more expensive D-Max doesn’t come with this important off-roading feature.
And that’s the funny thing with the 2022 Mazda BT-50. At least here in the Philippines, the BT-50 ended being the better pickup compared to the D-Max on which it’s based. This is due to the fact that it costs less across all variants, yet it’s also the better equipped of the two. Further adding insult to injury towards the D-Max is the fact that Mazdas come with free maintenance for 5 years.
All signs are pointing to the Mazda BT-50 being the superior pickup, and that’s because it objectively really is. The only reason you’ll probably end up with the D-Max is because of Isuzu’s more diverse dealer network, but apart from that, you’d be crazy to think that the D-Max is objectively the better pickup. The BT-50 does have one major threat though, and that comes in the form of the next-generation 2023 Ford Ranger, which pulled out all the stops in every respect–whether it’s tech, driving experience, off-road capability, and design.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Safety and Driver Assistance: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Overall: 4.6 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.