2018 Mazda BT-50 Long-Term Test – Week 2
The Mazda BT-50 was recently refreshed with the entire range getting the previously XT and GT only Alpine infotainment unit. This week we take a look at the system and discuss what we do and don’t like about it.
What are we testing? The 2018 Mazda BT-50 GT 4×4 Dual-Cab
What’s running it? Isaac Bober
Why are we testing it? To find out if the BT-50 is the best real-world dual-cab 4×4…
What it needs to do? While we’ve got the BT-50 we want to find out if it really can do it all, from the school run to the supermarket shop, to highway runs, towing and off-roading.
2018 Mazda BT-50 GT 4×4 Dual-Cab Specifications
Price From $56,990+ORC Warranty five years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 15,000km/12 months (capped price servicing ranges from $431-$502) Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 147kW at 3000rpm Torque 470Nm from 1750-2500rpm Transmission six-speed automatic (as tested) Drive 4×2; 4x4H; 4x4L Dimensions 5365mm (long) 1850mm (wide) 1821mm (high) 3220mm (wheelbase) Angles 28.2-degrees (approach) 26.4-degrees (departure) 25.0-degrees (rampover) Ground Clearance 237mm (claimed) Wading Depth 800mm Weight 2147kg Towing 3500kg maximum braked GVM 3200kg GCM 6000kg Fuel Tank 80L Spare full-size steel underslung Thirst 10.0L/100km (claimed combined)
Week 2: 17 August, 2018
One of the key changes with the recent Mazda BT-50 update was the ditching of the old infotainment unit and replacing it with an aftermarket unit from Alpine (offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity), well, it was for those variants below XTR and GT which retain the system added in 2017 with an 8.0-inch screen. All other variants get a 7.0-inch screen.
The rollout of this unit across the range is good news for several reasons, the main one being that the old infotainment in the BT-50 was rubbish. More than that, I’m glad Mazda didn’t try and shoe-horn the MZD Connect system into the BT-50.
See, while Mazda’s MZD Connect infotainment system is an okay system, it doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, not yet anyway. And that makes this Aussie-spec Alpine-sourced unit the best infotainment system available in any Mazda in this country.
For starters, the infotainment screen is an 8.0-inch unit on our long-term GT which is touch sensitive and a simple plug-and-play affair with your smartphone. The USB outlet is on a small shelf above the unit and while it looks like the shelf would be slippery and that your phone would fly into the back of the car the first time you hit the brakes but it isn’t and the grippy base does a great job of holding your phone and even across bump terrain too.
Once connected you’re greeted with a home screen that offers shortcut access to things like phone, vehicle info, Apple CarPlay, camera and a More button which when you touch it reveals Alpine Connect and Set-Up. Hitting the last item allows you to easily deep-dive into things like adjustments for Bluetooth phone connectivity, adjustments to the reversing camera, and digital radio adjustment and much more. That said, it’s not an area of the system you’re likely to go into beyond the initial set-up.
Being able to shortcut straight to the reversing camera is handy (and so is being able to fiddle with the camera’s brightness and contrast etc – the below image shows a night shot after having bumped up the brightness – yes, it’s gone grainy but there’s enough clarity) if you need to check behind your car before slotting reverse. What would be even better is if Mazda had been able to install additional cameras for off-road use or when parking in tight spots.
It’s a good system and being able to deep dive into certain areas is handy but, as mentioned, once you’ve set everything up the way you want it, then you’re unlikely to move around beyond the main items like music, phone and Apple CarPlay. Still, good to have it than not.
My one gripe with the system which is otherwise excellent and easy to use is the small icons when you go to the main menu. Dive into the system and the icons are large and easy to read with swiping and scrolling easy but on the main menu screen the icons seem a little too small. And then there are the shortcut buttons at the bottom of the screen for things like Music, Mute, Scroll, Voice control, Menu, Track Selection and then Sat Nav.
The system allows split-screen functionality, meaning you can have the screen show audio information on one side and navigation on the other. But not when you’re using smartphone connectivity. You can even watch TV on the screen if you’ve downloaded a program via an HDMI input or even portable DVD players.
If you’re phone is connected to the system then selecting the Sat Nav shortcut ‘once’ will take you to the navigation on your phone, press it one more time and it will take you through to the native system. The map is rendered well with the ability to zoom in and out. Trying to put in an address means identifying the too small magnifying glass search icon (see below image) but once you do searching an address is a cinch, you can look for ‘places’ or save a destination and even use map coordinates. You can also search via voice control. The whole native navigation feels very smartphone-esque and is an excellent and simple interface. The map also shows speed limits and is accurate to adjust to school zones.
If you’re in the bush, then you can access 3D digital terrain mapping with point to point directions. I haven’t yet tried this function but will be in the coming weeks.
In all, the fact this new infotainment has been added to the BT-50 range is a good move. It’s feature rich and easily the best infotainment system Mazda offers on any of its vehicles.