Mazda gives the BT-50 a nip and tuck, but is it enough?

Today’s ute serves its intended purpose of workhorse and weekender better than ever. A supremely capable all-rounder, not surprisingly its popularity represents one of the hot-spots in the new-vehicle market.

Every major make has an offering – Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Isuzu, Volkswagen – and more, including even Mercedes-Benz, are set to follow.

Competition is cut-throat, which is why the biggest-selling utes all have arrived with new or updated models almost simultaneously. Mazda’s BT-50 has just received a facelift and minor upgrade, which Mazda hopes will be sufficient to keep one of the best of the breed in the game.

The BT-50 is an example of the new-generation utes that match go-anywhere work capacity with almost sedan-like comfort and driveability. Models like the dual cab 4×4 have never been more popular in the range; on weekends, the the tradies’ ladders come off the roof, the boards and fishing rods go on and the family heads for the coast.

The Mazda’s line-up is straightforward, opening at $25,570 plus on-roads for a “tradie’s special” two-wheel drive, single cab-chassis with a carry-over 2.2 litre diesel and manual transmission or an automatic option.

The remaining 21 variants in the range all come with Mazda’s five-cylinder, 3.2 litre diesel, which delivers 147 kilowatts of power and a very beefy 470 Newtonmetres of torque.

Buyers can choose single-cab, Freestyle (extended single-cab) and four-door crew-cab bodywork, two-wheel drive or four-wheel-drive, six-speed manual or auto transmission and XT, XTR and GT trim and equipment levels up a maximum price of $53,790.

The mid-life update of the BT-50 focuses on equipment choices and a minor frontal facelift. The ute’s apparently unpopular front has been toned down for this edition, mainly by using a different grille insert. Taillights have been changed to match.

Inside, there’s a new dashboard infotainment display; XTR and GT models are available with a 7.8 inch screen and satnav. HEMA maps, regarded as the best for serious adventurers, are optional.

A reversing camera is standard on XTR and GT and an $820 option on other grades. The rest is minor stuff but enough to give potential buyers reason to look.

On a paved road, the leaf-sprung BT-50 has a slightly jiggly ride when unladen, but the suspension has plenty of absorption and articulation on the roughest bush tracks.

The 3.2 diesel is one of the strongest in the segment and feels best-matched with the auto transmission.