This workhorse is a breeze to ride

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

The Mazda BT-50 range was launched in Mozambique about a year ago in the kind of "rough" environment in which you feel it really belongs.

Just as animals relish the freedom of wide open spaces, the streets of Jozi didn't feel like the ideal home for this workhorse.

The vehicle is a breeze to drive around town with its 5-speed manual gearbox but it is off-road that you will have the most fun. On test we had the top of the range 3,0 CRD Freestyle diesel. The 16-inch alloy wheels (with a full spare) holds up an impressive 4-cylinder, 16-valve 3-litre engine that spits out 115kW.

But powerwise this is where it gets interesting. It produces 380Nm of torque. What this means is you have incredible power at low revs, which is ideal for when you are using the vehicle for what it is designed for - carrying a load or towing a boat.

At just over five metres long the BT50 is no midget when it comes to size. The bin can easily carry more than a ton of whatever it is you are transporting and towing should be restricted to about two tons. Inside you could just as easily be stepping into to a normal sedan.

Cloth seats - though leather is available if you wish - air conditioning, cup holders and power adjustable exterior mirrors and height adjustable steering wheel are standard features.

Separating the two front seats is a large centre console that also doubles up as a useful armrest.

On the safety front you have front air bags, seat belt adjusters and what is a definite plus - a large mounted stop lamp that indicates when you are braking.

ABS brakes all round and electronic brake-force distribution helps when transporting a heavy load or when things get slippery.

Central locking and an alarm-immobiliser are also standard goodies. A bit of a nuisance is the hand brake, which is of the old twist-and-turn variety situated near the vehicle's steering wheel.