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AIMS: New Mazda BT-50 goes Freestyle

Big stage: Mazda's BT-50 Freestyle cab will make its world debut in Melbourne at AIMS in July.

Mazda reveals Freestyle Cab version of next BT-50 ahead of world debut in Melbourne

7 Jun 2011

NO, IT may not be as exciting as a new Mazda6 or hybrid-powered RX-8 sportscar replacement, but Mazda will nevertheless stage at least one world debut at the 2011 Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne on July 1 in the form of the new BT-50 Freestyle Cab.

Mazda’s second global premiere to be hosted in Australia in little more than eight months, following the world debut of the next-generation BT-50 Dual Cab at the 2010 AIMS in Sydney last October, highlights Australia’s expected position as the planet’s largest market for the new BT and one of the world’s top four destinations for one-tonne utilities.

The second of three redesigned BT-50 body derivatives due on sale here in the third quarter of this year – including a yet-to-be-revealed single-cab version – appears two months after the global debut of its mechanical twin, the new Ford Ranger Super Cab, at the 32nd Bangkok motor show in late March.

As with the extended-cab Ranger, the BT-50 Freestyle – which takes its name from the similar door configuration seen on Mazda’s innovative four-door RX-8 coupe – offers seating for four, exceptionally wide pillar-less door openings and more internal cargo capacity than a single-cab.

Of course, the Freestyle’s tray is shorter than the single-cab’s, but Mazda says the new model’s cargo tub is longer, wider and deeper than before, resulting in an overall volume of 1453 litres – 266 litres more than the model it replaces.

22 center imageLeft: Mazda BT-50 Freestyle. Middle: Mazda BT-50 dual cab. Bottom: Ford Ranger Supercab.

The dual-cab’s cargo tray – which measures 1549mm by 1560mm – is also longer, wider and deeper than the current model’s, with Mazda claiming it can hold 1214 litres, an increase of 178 litres.

Like Ford, Mazda claims its new extended-cab ute takes rear-occupant comfort to new levels, with the rear seat bases lengthened by 50mm for better thigh support and more stable child seat fitment, and the seatback height raised by 128mm to improve comfort and safety.

The rear seat cushions in the new BT Freestyle, like the new Ranger Super Cab, can be removed to stow cargo within the rear seating area – an exercise made easier by rear-hinged access panels that open to an angle of nearly 90 degrees.

Combined with a pair of conventional front-hinged doors, the latter provide a 1408mm-wide side opening that allows easier ingress/egress for both front and rear occupants.

“Just as we were delighted to be given the privilege of hosting the global debut of the all-new BT-50 Dual Cab in Sydney last year, we are equally delighted to be hosting the global debut of the Freestyle Cab in Melbourne this year,” said Mazda Australia managing director Doug Dickson.

“With Australia expected to be the largest market for the all-new BT-50 it’s no coincidence that we’ve been asked to host not one but two global unveilings of this important new model. It’s only appropriate that the Australian public see it first.”

The Freestyle’s appearance comes in addition to significant improvements in style, space, towing capacity, refinement, efficiency, performance and safety for both the new BT-50 and Ranger, which are expected to match Volkswagen’s all-new Amarok by featuring electronic stability control as standard across the range.

The redesigned four-wheel-drive dual-cabs will sit on a wheelbase 220mm longer than its predecessor’s at 3220mm, with overall dimensions to be 204mm longer and 43mm wider, making the new BT-50 about 5383mm long and 1850mm wide – longer and slightly wider than a D40 Nissan Navara ST-X dual-cab.

Mazda claims this will give the front occupants 16mm more headroom and 30mm more shoulder room, while long-legged rear seat passengers get 55mm more legroom.

Ford and Mazda have also confirmed that some versions of the new Ranger and BT-50 will come with electronic stability control for the first time, as well as increased 3350kg (3.2-litre) and 2500kg (2.2-litre) towing capacities.

Mazda has confirmed the new BT will continue as an all-diesel model, eschewing the entry-level Ranger’s 122kW/226Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder Duratec petrol engine. As we’ve reported, both models will offer two new turbo-diesel engines in the shape of 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder and 110kW/375Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder.

Like the new BT-50, Ford’s Australian designed and engineered Ranger, which made its world debut in twin-cab guise alongside the new BT-50 four-door in Sydney, has been the subject of a drip-feed reveal campaign since last year.

Ford Australia will unveil the range-topping Wildtrak 4x4 twin-cab version of its new Ranger for the first time locally following its world debut at the Geneva show in March, but it is unclear whether the Ranger Super Cab will make the trip from Thailand, where the Ranger and BT-50 will continue to be built.

Toyota has confirmed it will reveal a facelifted version of its top-selling HiLux ute in Melbourne, and there is a possibility Holden could also stage the local debut of its redesigned Colorado one-tonner, which appeared for the first time in Bangkok and is also expected to feature rear ‘suicide’ doors like the Ranger Super Cab and BT-50 Freestyle.

The next Colorado will not become available here until the first quarter of next year, following the release of a full complement of new Ranger and BT-50 and facelifted HiLux models by around September.

Volkswagen’s all-new Amarok dual-cab was launched in February and should be joined by further body, engine and transmission options in early 2012, when a new-generation Isuzu D-Max is also due to appear.

Sales of Great Wall’s ute range are up 137 per cent in this year’s declining 4x2 segment and up 68 per cent in the booming 4x4 segment. With at least one other new Chinese one-tonner range set to join the bottom end of Australia’s exploding ute scene by the end of this year, the next 12 months will provide Aussie ute buyers with more choices than ever before.

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