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Car reviews - Mazda - Bravo - cab/chassis 4x2 utility

Our Opinion

We like
Modern styling, spacious and quiet interior, good build quality
Room for improvement
Lack of driver's seat adjustment, tight sqeeze for three in the front

Mazda logo22 Feb 2002

By STEVEN BUTCHER

MAZDA Bravo is not the top seller in its market segment but it outsold Navara in 2001. Given that the Courier is a rebadged Bravo, Ford sales could be added to the total which makes it the third most popular four-cylinder ute for the year 2001 in Australia - behind HiLux and Rodeo.

Mazda's recently developed intercooled, 2.5-litre, turbo-diesel, four-cylinder engine is the key feature of the Bravo or B-Series range that sets it apart from the rest.

Combine this with the excellent build quality maintained by Mazda and the differences between light commercial vehicles begins to become apparent.

The B-Series range incorporates the above mentioned 2.5-litre turbo-diesel engine delivering 86kW and 280Nm of torque and a 2.6-litre petrol engine with 92kW and 206Nm (as tested) in Single Cab Utility, Single Cab/Chassis, Cab Plus Utility, Cab Plus Chassis and Dual Cab Utility formats, mounted on a full-length, overlapped box section chassis in two and four-wheel drive configuration. (Single Cab Utility is available in 4x2 petrol only while Cab Plus Cab/Chassis is available in 4x4 only).

The B-Series range is simple yet totals 15 vehicles in all. There is a base model DX with five-speed manual transmission (or optional four-speed auto for 4x2 Single Cab/Chassis and 4x2 Dual Cab Utility Petrol models only) and an SDX model available in 4x4 dual cab only.

The SDX comes with added creature comforts such as velour cloth seats/door trim and electric mirrors and windows. Colours include Cool White, Passion Rose, Highlight Silver and Dusk Green.

Those opting for the base model DX will not be disappointed as, short of the window winder, it is hard to spot the difference.

The interior is basically two shades of grey for everything except the instrument panel, gear knobs and steering wheel, which are black.

The colours are serviceable and the coverings tough and easy to clean but the dark grey dash and black steering wheel get extremely hot in the sun and radiate a lot of heat in the cab.

The model tested had Mazda's integrated CFC-free air-conditioning fitted as an optional extra and this worked extremely well for both demisting and cooling, with only minimal drag on the engine.

The payload space and carrying capacity of the Mazda B-Series are similar to its rivals. The same is true of the body options, four-wheel drive running gear, transmission choices and suspension.

Most light commercial utility vehicles are built to a standard set of requirements - overall size, carrying capacity, seating, engine power and economy, price and lifetime service costs.

In this type of vehicle there will be no highly innovative features and technology but hard wearing, practical components and a generally long vehicle life.

Mazda has designed a 13 per cent stronger passenger cage for the B-Series and fitted it with side impact bars, a collapsible steering column and increased the leg and headroom.

But even with the increased space, it is a tight squeeze to seat three adults across the front of the single cab.

The use of galvanised or organic resin-coated steel throughout the body and the application of paint by cathode electro-coating and sealant to all joined surfaces should ensure the vehicle is protected from corrosion.

The Bravo rides best with a load on - as do all heavily sprung, light commercial vehicles.

The gear ratios are well spaced and the torque is found low enough in the rev range (3500rpm) to be able to move along without the need to peak the engine revs (safe limit of 5500rpm) or labour the vehicle while building up road speed. The test vehicle has a load capacity of 1430kg.

The petrol engine, in comparison to the diesel, emits an annoying whine when worked through the gears - due mainly to the higher revs required to extract the torque (turbo-diesel engine maximum torque is produced at 2000rpm).

But once rolling, it is quiet and responsive enough to keep pace with the traffic without the need to drop back a gear.

The 4x2 range runs 195R14C-8 light truck tyres, so the ride is firmer than in a Falcon or Commodore ute, which run passenger grade tyres.

The Bravo's torsion bar front suspension reacts slowly and predictably to large potholes, staying firm when entering corners or braking heavily, even without a load on. The rear suspension is a basic rigid axle with under-slung leaf springs and double-acting shock absorbers.

The over-ride springs are close to the main stack and therefore work much of the time - unlike large gap over-ride springs that only make contact on large bumps or when the vehicle is heavily laden. The advantage of a close gap is there's no dramatic upward thrust of the overload spring when it recovers from a bump - as it plays a more consistent part in carrying the load.

The rear springs on the first release of vehicles were a little soft, according to Mazda, which is good for handling when the vehicle is unloaded but does mean they can lose their set quicker. Stiffer springs are now fitted to all B-Series vehicles.

Engine speed-sensitive power steering is standard and nicely weighted to match the vehicle's size and length (5005mm overall, utility).

The new-look Bravo is a safe bet to return value for money and, in the long term, good resale potential if well maintained.

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