The next-generation Mazda BT-50 ute will be a rebadged Isuzu D-Max and not the product of a joint development with individual styling, unlike the current BT-50 (above) which shares much with the Ford Ranger.
An Isuzu Motors executive from headquarters in Japan has confirmed that last year’s joint venture agreement with Mazda had nothing to do with working together on a new pick-up truck.
“Isuzu will do everything,” Yoichi Masuda told media at the launch in Queensland of the company’s updated SUV, the MU-X.
“The joint venture between Isuzu and Mazda is simply based on supply,” he said. “We will supply our own design pick-up to Mazda. That is really as simple as the relationship is with Mazda.”
The next-generation D-Max – expected in 2020-21 – will be supplied to Mazda as a complete replacement for the BT-50.
Whether or not D-Max would use technology and interior design elements from Mazda’s SUV range, Masuda wouldn’t say.
“I understand that Mazda has very sophisticated technology coming from the passenger vehicles, but that is a touchy question …”
Mazda and Isuzu already have a commercial vehicle partnership in Japan. Both signed a deal last July to extend their relationship to supply the next-generation BT-50.
The current BT-50 sells well in NZ and Australia but not in other global markets, a failing acknowledged by Mazda HQ research and development executive Kiyoshi Fujiwara.
He told media at the Los Angeles motor show last November: “The issue is that the sales volume of pick-ups in our markets is not huge, so we cannot develop by ourselves.
“Therefore we also search for a partner. Fortunately, I reached Isuzu as a partner.”
The current BT-50 uses the same chassis and powertrain as the Ford Ranger but has different exterior and interior styling.
BT-50 also didn’t receive the upgrades that Ranger got in 2015, including electric steering, revised transmission, and electronic upgrades.
Meantime, the updated Isuzu MU-X will go on sale in NZ later this month. The SUV is of course based on the D-Max and gets pretty much the same improvements as the ute received earlier this year.
These include revised styling inside and out, noise, vibration and harshness treatment, and engine and gearbox upgrades.
But the interior of the MU-X is more upmarket, befitting its role as an SUV. There are soft-touch finishes where before there were hard plastics. Leather-trimmed seats are optional.
The main change is to the common-rail 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine MU-X shares with D-Max. It gets a host of new internals to bump it up from Euro4 compliance to Euro5 and to improve its torque delivery.
The engine retains the same 130kW of power but now delivers 50Nm more torque – 430Nm between 2000-2200rpm against the existing engine’s 380Nm between 1800-2800rpm.
The big plus is the new engine’s improved flexibility – 380Nm of the 430Nm is on tap between 1700-3500rpm, a spread of 1800rpm. The 380Nm output in the previous engine was confined to a bandwidth of 1000rpm.
The result, coupled with a six-speed (Aisin) automatic transmission is a MU-X that can be expected to get to peak power and torque quicker than before.
MU-X is also expected to pick up the diesel particulate filter (DPD) from the D-Max. A clever aspect of this is the readout between instrument dials. It tells the driver when to expect the filter to burn off at high temperatures the diesel soot collected in the filter.