Head-to-head review: Nissan Navara ST v Mazda BT-50 XTR
NISSAN NAVARA ST
$45,490 drive-away, 18pts
VALUE 4 stars
The Navara outsold the BT-50 by almost 40 per cent last year. Now it is undercutting the Mazda on price - and it doesn't need a bullbar to look good. Beyond the visual impact, the ST has keyless entry and rear door pockets. The Nissan has an average three-year/100,000km warranty but only needs servicing every 12 months/20,000km and the first three services will be about $1832.
DESIGN 3.5 stars
It looks tough but is probably the most car-like to travel in courtesy of a five-link rear suspension. The set-up means it can't match the leaf-spring layout of its rivals and sags under any decent load. The actual payload is 982kg for the auto model. Most buyers are chasing the look not the cargo capacity, which puts the Nissan right in the picture.
ENGINE 4 stars
The 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel (140kW/450Nm) cedes displacement to its opposition but doesn't lose much in performance due to the light weight and seven-speed transmission. The Navara is the leaner runner of this duo at a claimed 7.0L/100km. Expect about 10.0L in the real world - still better than most in this class.
SAFETY 3.5 stars
Seven airbags and a five-star rating give the Nissan solid safety credentials. A 2015 ANCAP assessment gave it 35.01/37. The ST comes with a reversing camera and cruise control but misses hill start assist and hill descent control.
DRIVING 3.5 stars
The Series II updates to the NP300 resulted in stiffer suspension that now controls body roll through the turns and gives the Nissan better balance when loaded. It shares the Mazda's tendency to bounce over small bumps but, again, it's far from a deal-breaker. The steering is noticeably slower than the BT-50 - not so great in carparks but better off-road.
MAZDA BT-50 XT-R auto
$47,990 drive-away 17/25pts
VALUE 3.5 stars
Prices on the BT-50 range have been tweaked to compensate for the fact this Ranger-derived workhorse was outsold by everything this side of a VW Amarok last year. That makes the XT-R exceptionally good value right now. Default equipment includes satnav, an eight-inch Alpine-derived infotainment screen with satnav and dual-zone aircon as standard. The two-year/unlimited km warranty is ordinary but extends to three years if you haven't hit 100,000km. Servicing isn't great at 12 month/10,000km but the price is competitive at $1800 for the first four years/40,000km.
DESIGN 3 stars
The ugly duckling of the four-wheel-drive pick-up range suffers for its lack of visual toughness. Mazda has tried to address that with a midlife facelift but the BT-50 still has a more car-like front than its competitors - and buyers haven't taken to it. The interior boasts an eight-inch Alpine infotainment screen that thankfully relocates the reversing camera display from the rearview mirror to the screen. Payload is 1100kg.
ENGINE 3.5 stars
A 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre turbodiesel certainly isn't lacking in power. It does lack for fuel efficiency at a claimed 10.0-litres/100km and on-the-road figures will see that blow out around 12-13L/100km. The six-speed auto (like the Navara a six-speed manual is standard; no-one buys it) is a syrup-smooth performer though there's a bit of noise when you hit the accelerator to tap that performance.
SAFETY 3.5 stars
ANCAP crash-tested the Ford Ranger on which the BT-50 is based in 2011 and awarded the Mazda five stars, though it noted design differences between the two models meant the Mazda's pedestrian protection wasn't tested. Standard gear includes six airbags, cruise control, a camera, trailer sway and hill ascent/descent controls.
DRIVING 3.5 stars
The Mazda is still the pick of this pair for on-road manners. Firm dampers make the ride mildly jittery over corrugations if there's only a driver on board but it's far from uncomfortable. Add some weight and the BT-50 settles onto its leaf rear springs and absorbs the worst our substandard roads can throw at it.
The combination of looks and fuel efficiency edges the Navara over the line. High-spec 4WD pick-ups are intended for family duties and the Nissan fulfils that brief marginally better than the BT-50. A revised Navara is coming later this year for those prepared to wait for suspension that deals with a decent load.