The new 2021 Mazda BT-50 ute has been developed alongside the new 2021 Isuzu D-Max. I tested the XT base model BT-50 dual cab with my family for a week, so lets see how it stacks up as a BabyDrive…
The first thing I notice when hubby and I drive home in convoy (he is driving the BT-50 and I am driving the D-Max) is that the BT-50 doesn't look like a ute in my rear view mirror! The front of it has the iconic Mazda styling and looks like the SUVs in the Mazda range (particularly the CX-9) and only when I start to see the side profile can I tell it's a ute.
The new Mazda BT-50 is nice to drive, with good visibility and a tight turning circle for easy parking in apartment blocks, school, supermarket and most importantly Bunnings carpark! There is a lovely simplicity to the way the Mazda BT-50 feels to drive, it feels lighter and more responsive than the Isuzu D-Max especially when nipping around town and on short suburban runs. Perhaps this is because it's the most basic version and the Isuzu's I've driven have had a lot more on-board luxury to haul around?
The BT-50 received a five-star ANCAP safety rating, scoring 83% for adult occupancy protection and 89% for child occupancy protection. The BT-50 is packed full of the kind of safety features you expect to find in a family SUV most models include autonomous emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning (FCW), turn assist, driver attention monitoring, emergency lane keep assist (LKA), lane departure prevention, lane departure warning (LDW), adaptive cruise control (ACC) (on models with an auto gearbox), road sign recognition and an intelligent speed limiter that can adjust by recognising road signs, blindspot monitoring (BSM), rear cross-traffic alert, trailer sway control (intervenes to bring a wobbly trailer into line), and auto headlights with auto high beam.
I enjoyed having the adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and the blind spot monitoring in the BT-50 XT dual cab ute as I am so used to using them in cars, I find it strange to drive without them, which is still unfortunately common in utes.
The tray size has been slightly increased in length by 1.8cm and in-depth by 2.5cm. It can now fit 30 shopping bags and all sizes of pram and stroller will fit in the tray of the 2021 Mazda BT-50, making it one of the biggest according to our testing method along with the Mitsubishi Triton or VW Amarok). I do find it a little harder to reach over the sides of the tray due to the increased 2.5cm depth.
Inside the BT-50 things have changed rather a lot from the previous model BT-50. Thankfully the steering wheel is now fully adjustable and feels nice in your hands.
The XT base model comes with carpet throughout and there are now rear air vents in all dual cab models. I find fantastic for cooling little passengers in the back in the Australian climate.
Storage is okay throughout the new 2021 Mazda BT-50. there are two cup holders in the central console in the front. They can hold a reusable or disposable coffee cup or a large refillable water bottle fits in them too. The cup holders are very deep and I find most coffee cups are not tall enough for it and don't touch the bottom. It's likely to knock the top off your takeaway cup unless you go for a jumbo size! I know people who put half a stubby holder in the bottom of each cup holder to help support the cups a bit higher. Shame Mazda doesn't have the little pop-out cup-holders you get in other utes like the D-Max, HiLux and Navara.
The central console box is small and the lid doubles as my armrest.
In front of the cup holders a phone charging well with USB, 12V and AUX sockets.
The BT-50 has two glove boxes, which is a great feature. I find the top glove box is handy for popping my wallet into when I'm nipping out…
…but there is not enough space in the bottom glove box for an iPad with the manual.
There is a lined glasses case in the ceiling for my sunglasses and a vanity mirror in the passenger side visor. There is not a vanity mirror in the drivers visor which I miss when I finally get five minutes to myself in the car.
A coin drawer by my right knee is handy for change, my daughter of course uses it for her shell collection.
Front door bins are large enough to hold a large refillable water bottle and I fit an iPad in them too.
There are wells in the door handles and in the back the door bins are smaller but a large refillable water bottle fit in them still.
There are map pockets on the back of both of the front seats that will hold but not conceal an iPad and a bag hook on the back of the front passenger seat.
The USB port on the back of the central console box is great for rear passengers to keep things charged up while driving and there is a little phone storage shelf too.
I find the media system in the Mazda BT-50 is very minimal and basic. It does have DAB digital radio which is helpful for listening to the Kinderling children's channel.
The BT-50 also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which I find really convenient to access everything I need from my phone while driving and access ABC Kids Listen app etc.
All models of the new 2021 Mazda BT-50 have a reversing camera which I find really helpful in the XT base model when reversing and manoeuvring.
I like that you can easily turn the parking sensors sound off with a button down in the central console.
How many child seats will fit in the back of the new 2021 Mazda BT-50?
The previous model BT-50 had no ISOFix or top tether anchorages, I had to install my own top tether anchorages behind the rear bench seat for my child seats. Good news is, the new 2021 BT-50 comes with ISOFix for the two outer seats…
…as well as top tether anchorages for both outer seats too. Unfortunately in their design both Mazda has joined Isuzu, Nissan and Toyota in opting for the woven fabric loop top tether anchorage method. They are situated behind the headrests instead of having fixed metal anchorages behind the vehicles seat backs.
There are lots of concerns around these woven loops in terms of safety, longevity and being able to safely and correctly install child seats, not least because of the difficulty in attaching and then adjusting the straps. Find out which dual-cab utes BabyDrive rates as easiest to fit child seats.
In the 2021 Mazda BT-50 you have to feed your top tether strap through the fabric loop behind the headrest and then across to clip it on to the central metal tether anchor point. The top tether strap on the passengers side also has to passover or behind the central seat belt too which is not ideal and gives another point where the strap could rub over time and get worn out.
It is incredibly difficult to do and you can only use the outer seating positions for child seats, it doesn't give you the flexibility of being able to put a child seat in the central position. That said fewer and fewer utes now have a central top tether anchorage after the old D-Max and Holden Colorado were discontinued.
It's a shame because I know when we have done island road trips in an Amarok with our daughter we'd put her in the central seat so she feels more included with us in the front and gets a good view out of the front windscreen.
There is also the obvious concern that your top tether strap is going to be constantly rubbing against the woven strap and this will cause fraying of both, thus eventually causing a weak point on the straps in the event of an accident. Being a ute it is also likely to be driven on rough and corrugated roads which could speed up the fraying process. A top tether strap can be replaced on a child seat (although it is a task you don't want regularly) but the woven straps fixed to the Mazda BT-50 would be a lot more difficult and I'd imagine more expensive to replace (that's if they can be).
I can not understand why Mazda and Isuzu have both moved to this car seat installation method. It eliminates all customers who need to carry more than two child seats. With it being mandatory for all children up to seven years old to be restrained in a child seat, that is a long time for families with more than two children to struggle in finding a modern ute that meets their needs.
Once you become a parent you realise it is not only three-child families that need to be able to install three child seats. I often have a spare child seat installed in my car as we often take our childrens' friends home from school or home for playdates, and family members too, so it's important to be able to be flexible and have room for them as well.
This now only leaves only two utes in Australia that can take three child seats in the back. With the departure of the Holden Colorado as well, there is now just the VW Amarok (which has no rear airbags) and the Nissan Navara (which has these same woven loops for all three top tether anchorages with no metal anchorage at all.
Anyway back to the BT-50. With two child seats installed in the back, using the ISOFix you can only just fit a passenger in between them. It is very tight for your shoulders. If you use the seatbelts instead of ISOFix and move the seats out the edge of the seat base you would find it a better fit for a passenger in between two child seats.
Legroom is good in the back of the 2021 Mazda BT-50 and with a rear-facing capsule installed we could fit a 170cm driver in front of it. With a forward-facing child seat or infant capsule installed on the passenger side a 184cm+ passenger can sit in front of it.
I love the simplicity and carefree feel to the drive of the base XT model BT-50, the knowledge the modern safety technologies have got my back. The ability to go off-road and have an ENORMOUS tray space is also great! I am not a fan of the new top tether anchorage woven loop system and feel this is a real step backward for Mazda, whose vehicles are usually so family friendly.