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Mazda to toughen-up BT-50’s styling

Divisive: The current Mazda BT-50 is selling to target, but has been criticised for its car-like design, according to the company’s design boss.

Big mid-life update tipped to bring more rugged styling to Mazda BT-50 by 2016

6 Mar 2014


MAZDA is likely to give its well-regarded BT-50 light commercial a major stylistic makeover as part of a mid-life upgrade due in the next few years in order to make it more rugged and ‘masculine’.

The current BT-50, which was co-developed alongside the Australian-designed and developed Ford Ranger and revealed in October 2010, has been criticised from some quarters for its softer and more car-like styling than rival utes, notably at the front-end.

Seemingly acknowledging this as a problem, Mazda’s general manager of design Ikuo Maeda said he “hoped” to bring more masculine lines to the car, with harder edges to the head- and tail-lights and, unusually for a facelift, new lines on the side panels too.

Such a move would address criticism of the car’s looks, but would also be in-line with company’s general styling direction.

Maeda-san’s design direction for the company, called Kodo and evidenced on the new Mazda3, Mazda6, CX-5 and the Hazumi concept of the next Mazda2 shown this week in Geneva, has a tougher and more masculine approach regardless.

“Some of the city siders in Australia (said) it looks nice but still needs to have a tough look, that’s what I heard,” Maeda-san said this week to Australian media including GoAuto “(It is seen as) a little too stylish, too car-like. But that was the concept of that vehicle.” Asked whether the BT-50 was too conceptually different from Mazda’s otherwise passenger-oriented fleet, Maeda-san said Kodo could be applied, albeit “not 100 per cent”.

“I think that we will be able to find some kind of solution, even though this is a commercial vehicle and has a box at the back,” he said, adding the load space offers, to a designer at least, “almost no freedom”.

“But if I can get a solid and strong feel on the body side, probably we will be able to put some of the flavour of Kodo. Not necessarily to add movement to it, but for a strong feel.” However, Mazda Australia marketing manager Alastair Doak added that any stylistic change would be “years away”, with light commercials traditionally having longer life-cycles than passenger cars.

Mr Doak added that the mooted new styling was consistent with the brand direction and would be expected with or without customer criticism.

“That kind of more mature and male design is consistent where Kodo design as taken all the Mazda design, as we’ve seen with the Hazumi,” he said.

“BT-50 is a product of the previous-generation design language and it’s quite natural… it’s not as if were doing something to BT to that is inconsistent with the rest of the range.” Divisive looks or not, the BT-50 is finding plenty of homes, thanks to its five-star ANCAP rating and sharper pricing than its Ford Ranger twin-under-the-skin.

Mazda sold nearly 14,000 units last year, which is right on its stated target, and the 4x4 version was up 31 per cent on 2012. Sales are a little down so far in 2014, but at a lower rate than the overall LCV segments in which it fights.

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