What is it?
It’s the Isuzu D-Max’s chisel jawed cousin, aka the Mazda BT-50. It shares the same hardware as the D-Max, but it gains a few luxurious upgrades AND a more hardcore off-road model.
The Thunder is an Australian specific trim that aims to package the most common off-road upgrades buyers would normally opt for in a special edition model.
I wanted to find out if these upgrades make a proper difference on and off-road, and if it’s worth paying for them.
Build Quality3.9 out of 5.
You’re looking at standard ute ‘rugged’ build quality. It’s a commercial ute at its origin, so the leather seats, larger touch screen and LED lights are all additional features on an otherwise work-focused ute.
The interior feels ready to be greeted with dust, dirt and sand and feels well put together, however on the exterior of this Thunder model I wasn’t as impressed.
There was a crease in the side decal which would drive me mad if I just paid over $70,000 for this ute. And I found the weather stripping around the front bumper to look a little rough on the eye.
How Much Does it Cost?4 out of 5.
At $71,290 before on road costs, this is the most expensive Mazda ute you can buy…for now.
It packs a few important off-road upgrades, like side steps, a front hoopless bull bar with a lightbar, rear sports bar and upgraded bi-pass suspension.
You’re also getting all the important ‘top trim’ details. Heated seats, a larger centre touch screen, LED lights, a tub-liner, an electric roller cover for the rear tray and 18-inch wheels.
Look, you can go out and find and fit your own accessories, but if you don’t want to spend the time doing that this is the price you’ll need to pay for Mazda to do it for you.
Warranty and Servicing4 out of 5.
Mazda warranties all of the accessories fitted here along with its standard 5 year/unlimited kilometre warranty. A plus point for those worries about any faulty modifications they might be tempted to do themselves. As pointed out by other experts though, if you pick proper branded accessories, you shouldn’t see any major issues.
Servicing costs are $1493 for 3 years of servicing or $2307 for 5 years. Services occur every 12 months or every 15,000 kilometers.
Noise Level4 out of 5.
There’s no doubt you’re packing a diesel motor thanks to the unmistakable truck-like sounds that are generated from this 3.0L four cylinder.
Road noise is fairly minimal, even on the highway the BT-50 refuses to dramatically increase wind noise. Although that rear sports bar might make strong cross winds a little more noticeable to the ear.
Although this is a top-spec ute, the audio system certainly isn’t. Premium audio would go a long way from the standard speakers which seem to wash out the depth of the music you’re listening to.
Braking4.2 out of 5.
Discs on the front wheels, and drums on the rear. That’s the standard ute set-up for brakes, and it’s exactly what the BT-50 Thunder gets.
Supposedly drum brakes are preferred for towing, but for an off-road vehicle like this, I really think rear discs would have been a better option as debris can sometimes enter the drum (like water).
Braking is no issue in the Thunder, despite looking like it weighs a little more thanks to that massive front bumper. Although there is a noticeable amount of pitch when you get a little enthusiastic with the brake.
Acceleration/Power4 out of 5.
Using Isuzu’s tried and true 3.0L turbocharged diesel inline-four cylinder motor, the BT-50 Thunder ain’t no Ranger Raptor competitor.
Acceleration isn’t the Thunder’s strength, rather it’s a beast at towing and highway cruising. But overtaking on the highway can feel a little labored.
Producing 140kW and 450Nm and sending power to the rear wheels on the road means the daily drive is easily conquered thanks to a relatively large displacement for a four-cylinder.
Off-road, the Thunder cruises over tough and slippery terrain thanks to that accessible low-down torque.
Although I didn’t conduct a towing test, the BT-50 is capable of towing up to 3.5 tonne and is a popular option for those looking to hook up trailers to the back of their ute.
Gear Shifting4.3 out of 5.
The six-speed automatic used in the BT-50 is an uncomplicated and easy to operate gearbox. You have low-range available along-side a rear differential lock to help take the BT-50 further off-road too.
Gear changes are obvious but smooth around town, and the ute does a good job of keeping revs low at higher speeds out on the open road. It’s not the fastest gearbox, but just like its powertrain, it’s a reliable one.
Suspension & Handling4.3 out of 5.
The upgraded Old Man Emu suspension on this ute was exactly the upgrade I would happily pay money for over the standard BT-50.
The bi-pass shock absorbers offered one of the most comfortable rides in a BT-50/D-MAX I’ve ever experienced. Out on the road the BT-50 refused to slouch through corners as much as it would on standard shocks, and it was as comfortable as your grandma's couch in a straight line.
Off-road, the BT-50 gives you plenty of confidence despite being a high riding truck. I really feel at home in the BT-50, and the upgraded shocks add extra comfort and compliance when conquering the rough stuff.
Fuel Efficiency3.9 out of 5.
Claimed fuel consumption is 8L per 100km, which is pretty achievable when driving just yourself and some people and luggage out on the open road. Around town, you’ll see figures closer to 10L per 100km.
Interior Design4.5 out of 5.
Ever since Ford and VW partnered up to drop the hottest utes of 2023, the Isuzu/Mazda team have had their work cut out for them in the interior department.
The BT-50 offers some slightly nicer upgrades, like the luxurious leather trimmed seats. However, this cabin already is feeling a little aged ever since it launched back in 2021 by comparison to something like a Ford Ranger.
It’s a fuss free cabin, with plenty of hard buttons. So those who hate touch screens will appreciate the fact that the main controls for the car are not hidden inside the centre screen.
It’s a practical cabin space with some creature comforts which is what most buyers are looking for in this space.
Boot Size & Comfort4.5 out of 5.
The rear tray measures in at 5470mm in length, 1790mm in height and 1870mm in width. Max payload in the rear is 887kg.
I used this BT-50 to move a queen size bed frame the week I had it. It managed well, although if you’re constantly hauling long and large items, you’re better off with a van.
For smaller items, it’s a very practical tub that is also secure when you park it thanks to an electronic roller cover. Although I do find it extremely frustrating that the rear tray does not lock with the central locking system of the BT-50.
Rear seats are great for two adults for long trips. Although taller adults might feel a little squished there. I’ve spent a lot of seat time in the D-Max and BT-50 and have to say, they’re one of the most comfortable ways to spend lots of time on a road trip. Thanks to lots of internal space, a supportive front seat design and plenty of driver aids, it’s a ute of choice for me if I need to clock some serious mileage.
Features4.6 out of 5.
You’re getting every conceivable option you can tick and more with the BT-50 Thunder. For the price, I would say I would have liked to have seen a front facing camera and maybe ventilated seats (features that make the Ford Ranger easier to live with).
Buy it, Consider it, or Leave it?
If you don’t have the time, the know-how or the desire to buy a standard BT-50 and modify it your way, well here is your ute.
It’s cool to see Mazda offering a simple solution to buyers who want a one-stop solution when buying a modified ute, with the addition of a factory warranty for all third party parts too.
However, if you don’t fit the first description of a potential buyer. Then I’d say buy a BT-50 that fits your budget and head to reputable brands in the aftermarket to customize your ute. It could end up being cheaper if you don’t need all of the upgrades presented here too.
About the author Cameron is our resident car expert. He's here to show you around Australia's new cars and motorbikes and let you know if they're worth buying. If it has wheels and you can drive it, Cameron will review it.
Questions & Answers
Hi...my bt-50 2013 radio freezes on hello message?
I realise we have different audio systems however, my 2017 Infotainment (Alpine 8") does this often as well. It even restarts randomly (observed by music stopping and I notice the on screen start-up process starting over). It also freezes during use. I have to stop engine/accessories and restart. The greater annoyance is when the rear camera screen view freezes. If you don't immediately realise what's happening and rely on camera to reverse the still image is going to cause an accident. I have reported this at each of my yearly (warranty period) services. All they do is reinstall the firmware. Doesn't fix problem though. I wonder of it is an ECU thing with power interrupts to certain devices (infotainment system). If it is the radio then Mazda won't have a clue how to fix. If it's an electrical issue they'll probably never find it. If it's a known software issue and they haven't done anything about it now, they won't.
Get an answer from our members
Mazda BT-50 4x4 3.0L Thunder (2020-2023)No reviews yet
|Warranty Distance||Unlimited kms||Unlimited kms||Unlimited kms||Unlimited kms|
|Transmission||Automatic||Automatic and Manual||Automatic||Automatic and Manual|
|Drive Type||Four Wheel Drive (4WD)||Four Wheel Drive (4WD)||Four Wheel Drive (4WD)||Four Wheel Drive (4WD)|
|Wheels||18" Alloy (Satin Black)||17" Alloy (Silver)||18" Alloy (Black and Machined)||18" Alloy (Black and Machined)|
|ANCAP Safety Rating||5 Stars||5 Stars||5 Stars||5 Stars|
|Doors||4||2 to 4||4||4|
|Seats||5||2 to 5||5||5|
|Fuel Consumption||8 L/100km||8 L/100km||8 L/100km||8 L/100km|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||76 L||76 L||76 L||76 L|
|Engine||3.0 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC intercooled turbo diesel||3.0 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC intercooled turbo diesel||3.0 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC intercooled turbo diesel||3.0 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC intercooled turbo diesel|
|Max Power||140kW @ 3,600rpm||140kW @ 3,600rpm||140kW @ 3,600rpm||140kW @ 3,600rpm|
|Max Torque||450 @ 1,600-2,600rpm||450Nm @ 1,600-2,600 rpm||450 @ 1,600-2,600rpm||450Nm @ 1,600-2,600 rpm|
|Country of Manufacture||Thailand||Thailand||Thailand||Thailand|
|Phone Connectivity||3.5mm Aux Port, Android Auto (Wireless), Apple CarPlay (Wireless), Bluetooth and USB||3.5mm Aux Port, Android Auto (Wireless), Apple CarPlay (Wireless), Bluetooth and USB||3.5mm Aux Port, Android Auto (Wireless), Apple CarPlay (Wireless), Bluetooth and USB||3.5mm Aux Port, Android Auto (Wireless), Apple CarPlay (Wireless), Bluetooth and USB|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Telescoping (Manual) and Up/Down||Telescoping (Manual) and Up/Down||Telescoping (Manual) and Up/Down||Telescoping (Manual) and Up/Down|
|Maximum Towing Capacity (braked)||3,500 kg||3,500 kg||3,500 kg||3,500 kg|
|Maximum Towing Capacity (unbraked)||750 kg||750 kg||750 kg||750 kg|
|Tray Type||Pick Up||Cab Chassis and Pick Up||Pick Up||Pick Up|
|Cab Options||Dual||Dual, Extra and Single||Dual||Dual|
|Maximum Payload||887 kg||1,065 kg|
|Ground Clearance||240 mm||235 mm||240 mm||240 mm|
|Manufacturer Warranty||5 year(s)||5 year(s)||5 year(s)||5 year(s)|
|Ignition||Remote Start||Remote Start|
|Headlight Features||Auto High-Beam Dip and Automatic On/Off||Auto High-Beam Dip and Automatic On/Off||Auto High-Beam Dip and Automatic On/Off||Auto High-Beam Dip and Automatic On/Off|
|Cruise Control||Adaptive (ACC) and Speed Limiter||Speed Limiter||Adaptive (ACC) and Speed Limiter||Speed Limiter|
|Parking Sensors||Cross-Traffic Alert (Rear), Front and Rear||Cross-Traffic Alert (Rear)||Cross-Traffic Alert (Rear), Front and Rear||Cross-Traffic Alert (Rear)|
|Hazard Perception||Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Forward Collision Warning||Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Forward Collision Warning||Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Forward Collision Warning||Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Forward Collision Warning|
|Lane Assistance||Emergency Lane Keeping (ELK), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Keep Assist (LKA)||Emergency Lane Keeping (ELK) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW)||Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Keep Assist (LKA)||Emergency Lane Keeping (ELK) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW)|
|Speed Sign Recognition||Yes, read only||Yes, read only||Yes, read only||Yes, read only|
|Kerb Weight||2,213 kg||2,035 kg|
|Ground Clearance||240 mm||235 mm||240 mm||240 mm|
|Gauges||Analogue and Digital||Analogue and Digital||Analogue and Digital||Analogue and Digital|
|Built-In Navigation System||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Heads Up Display||No||No||No||No|
|Digital Radio (DAB+)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
ProductReview.com.au has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence our content moderation policies in any way, though ProductReview.com.au may earn commissions for products/services purchased via affiliate links.