The NEW 2021 Mazda BT-50 and Isuzu D-Max were developed alongside each other so of course, these two utes share a lot of similarities (a bit like non-identical twins). I drove the base model Mazda BT-50 XT and top-spec Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain to see how they compare as BabyDrives.
With these two utes being completely different spec levels, it is hard to make a direct comparison but we can definitely compare them for family practicality. Let's see how I got on…
When it comes to child seat fitting both utes are the same. If you need to install three child seats in the back then stop and look elsewhere because you can't fit them in the back of either!
Also, both have woven loop top tethers instead of metal bar anchorages, which makes child seat installation and adjustment really, really difficult. See our ranking of easiest utes for child seat installation.
With two child seats installed in the back of either the Mazda BT-50 or Isuzu D-Max, there is just enough space to sit between the two child seats.
Legroom is good in both models and we found a 182cm driver can sit in front of a forward-facing child seat or a 170cm driver can sit in front of a rear-facing child seat. We found if you have a very tall front passenger if you seat them on the passenger side with the forward-facing child seat behind them then there is more legroom available than on the driver's side. See which child seats we used and dimensions here.
The top-spec Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain comes with a sailplane at the back. I find these really help to shield rear-facing passengers from the sun that comes in through the flat back window, a real problem with most dual-cab utes.
Both utes come with the same extensive list of safety features, the kind of list you would expect to find in a family SUV. It is great to see these vehicles occupants given the same kinds of protection as in all other cars. These 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 wibbly trailer into line), and auto headlights with auto high beam.
Both are the first utes to have eight airbags including the central airbag that comes up between the heads of the front passengers, to prevent them hitting together in the event of an accident. The Mazda and Isuzu also both got a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating under the latest, most challenging criteria.
They are also the first utes to come with rear air-con vents across all dual cab models and all specifications. This is fantastic news for our little rear occupants so they can stay cool in the Australian climate. There is also a USB port in the back of the central console box so rear occupants can also charge their devices while travelling along too.
Although we all often use the footwell of the utes to carry our shopping etc we have measured the boot sizes too and each ute holds 30 shopping bags, so there is plenty of room in there for prams, bikes and camping gear!
The Mazda BT-50 and Isuzu D-Max both have surprisingly tight turning circles, which makes driving both a joy around town as well as making parking easier in tight car parks like schools and supermarket car parks. I found both utes have good visibility out of the side windows and rear too.
The media system in both vehicles is a welcome update to their previous systems. They have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as DAB digital radio so you can listen to ABC Kids etc while driving.
These images show you how much the Isuzu D-Max media system has changed.
It is a drastic and welcome change in the Isuzu D-Max as this was its previous system.
Whereas in the Mazda BT-50 it has gone from this in the old version…
…to this. Again something you are likely to feel more familiar with finding in a family SUV.
Both utes now have fully adjustable steering wheels that can be adjusted in and out as well as up and down. This is a great improvement as they were quite uncomfortable when you couldn't adjust them previously.
The first of the main differences between the two utes is the base model Mazda BT-50 XT comes with carpet throughout whereas the base model Isuzu D-Max comes with rubber flooring that is much easier to sweep sand, crumbs and other dirt out of.
The second is the top-spec Mazda BT-50 comes with heated seats in the front but the Isuzu D-Max does not.
Where they do differ slightly is the cabin storage where the D-Max has the upper hand, which does matter to families, with a dash storage box…
…and my favourite slide-out dashboard cup holders!
The cheapest model Isuzu D-Max dual-cab costs slightly less than the cheapest Mazda BT-50 dual cab. However, the base model Mazda BT-50 is a little less basic with alloy wheels and those carpet floors.
I liked the drive of the Mazda BT-50 XT more than the D-Max as there is a carefree freedom to it and an ease of get-in-and-go, which is a wonderful sensation in a large capable dual-cab ute. This might have been because the XT base model Mazda was not as weighed down by luxuries as the top-spec D-Max X-Terrain?
To sum up, both Utes are as bad as each other in terms of child seat installation but have the brilliant upside of rear air vents, a good media system and heaps of safety features across the range.
The D-Max has more cabin storage including those great dashboard cup holders which makes it the more practical family ute but I just loved the more carefree feeling to the way the Mazda BT-50 drove!