CarAdvice decides: New D-Max, or new BT-50?

Isuzu and Holden, Ford and Mazda… it’s all in the past now, with new-gen D-Max and BT-50 twins on sale in Australia. But which would our team lean to?

Never ask a parent who their favourite child is – doubly so when it’s twins.

Of course, the crowd in the CarAdvice content team could never cower before such tough questions, so here it is: of the new-generation 2021 Isuzu D-Max and 2021 Mazda BT-50 twins, which would our team

James Ward – Director of Content

D-Max – the black contrast elements on the X-Terrain look much tougher than the chrome on the Mazda, and for mine, that’s a big part of a ute’s appeal.

Trent Nikolic – Managing Editor

I’d go D-Max, even though they are effectively identical. I’ve spent nearly a week in both of them now, and my only disappointment with the BT is that Mazda didn’t do enough ‘Mazda’ to it. The styling is spot-on to appeal to a different buyer, but the cabin could be different. There could be ‘MZD’ in there, the infotainment graphics could be more like a Mazda SUV, and there are other small things, especially in the cabin, that Mazda could have tweaked to offer a stronger point of difference.

Mazda was in this exact same position not so long ago with the Ranger. Excellent platform beneath. Ford kept tweaking the template, and Mazda did, well, nothing. Let’s hope there was a lesson learned there, because once again, we have a dual cab with a Mazda badge that has an excellent foundation beneath it. There’s no doubt the platform is exceptional. It’s an excellent dual-cab, but the Isuzu is more authentically Isuzu and the one I’d buy.

Joshua Dowling – National Motoring Editor

Without trying to state the obvious, I think the design of the Mazda BT-50 will appeal to Mazda buyers, many of whom may not know or care about the Isuzu origins of the vehicle. The surface design in the rear fenders of the Mazda looks better than the more bland surface on the Isuzu D-Max. But, if faced with a choice between the two, I would buy the Isuzu – because the D-Max is the original.

Perhaps, had Mazda put a spanner on it somewhere or differentiated it in some meaningful way, I would reconsider. For the record, the Isuzu and Mazda utes are identical twins under the skin. They drive the same. There is no Mazda “zoom zoom” on this one. The pick of the range for me is the Isuzu D-Max LS-U, especially with the chrome grille and the machined alloy wheels. The charcoal finish on the D-Max X-Terrain wheels isn’t for me.

I also like the base Mazda BT-50 on 17s. Looks especially good with a layer of dust over it.

Sam Purcell – Off-road Editor

D-Max for me: extra cup holders and storage inside, and I can live without the heated seats and carpet floor-mats that the BT-50 GT scores.

Also, X-Runner specification gets roller cover and tub liner in comparison to the bare tub of the BT-50 GT. Although, if I was throwing down money, LS-U is where the party’s at.

Rob Margeit – Culture Editor

A ute isn’t supposed to look sophisticated, or be driven by middle-aged men in shirts and ties. You want a ute to look, well utilitarian, like it could conquer the world.

And that’s where the D-Max takes the win for me over the BT-50, which looks like it could barely conquer a speed hump at your local shopping centre car park.

Justin Narayan – Senior Journalist

I’d go the D-Max, because:

1) I can’t buy anything else Isuzu really, and I like what the brand stands for in our market. In other words, exclusivity from passenger cars.

2) It both looks and feels somewhat utilitarian still. The older model feels way more so, as they’ve since smoothed-off the sharp edges with this new car. It’s better for it, however.

Kez Casey – Road Tester

This feels like one of those answers that would change on my mood, how hungry I am, and what song is playing on the radio. Right now the BT-50 speaks to me a little more.

I quite like Mazda’s more angular chrome grille and the slightly more formal interior design. In some ways the D-Max really lends itself to chunky wheels and tyres, a lift kit and a bullbar, so perhaps it’d be good to see the street side of the BT-50 4×2 with less ground clearance, low profile rubber and some key handling improvements.

I will hand it to Isuzu though, there’s some fresh colours available, while Mazda’s muted sea of greys just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe now’s the time to bring back Sunburst Yellow, Sky Blue, or RX-7 inspired Mach Green… Ask me tomorrow though, I may have changed my mind.

Susannah Guthrie – Journalist

BT-50 without a doubt. I’m not your typical ute shopper, so the BT-50 looks like a non-intimidating ‘starter ute’ that wouldn’t look out of place on my mostly urban commute.

I’d normally be swayed by the longer warranty and lower pricing on the Isuzu, but the BT-50 gets heated seats and the D-Max doesn’t so… decision made.

Ben Zachariah – Journalist

BT-50 for me, without hesitation. The Mazda just looks sophisticated and mature next to its competition. A big part of the appeal for me too is the fact that it runs an Isuzu powertrain, so it’s the best of both worlds – great exterior and interior design, with arguably the most trustworthy engine in the game.

In GT spec you get heated leather seats and Apple CarPlay. Add to that four-wheel drive, a tub, and five seats, and for $59,990 plus on-road costs, it could well be the best jack-of-all-trades vehicle on the market today.

Mike Stevens – Production Editor

It’s a super tough call for me. I think, on balance, I prefer the ‘architect slash project manager’ look of the BT-50.

It’s a more mature and understated design, yet it still has presence. It’s a fairly complete look overall, and the same goes in the cabin: a more refined and premium look – working as best it can within the shared design language. (Damn you, accountants!)

It’s really only the bulbous and boring front bumper that puts me off. It’s a fine line between classy and boring, and this bumper leans a bit too far towards the latter. Our man Theophilus Chin rendered a nice alternative, actually…

The D-Max looks really damn tough in its X-Terrain form, but still a little cheap, I think. Where something like the Ranger Wildtrak (and even the Raptor) looks both mature and imposing, the D-Max turns the sports style dial up a little too hard.

The headlights are just a little too heavily angled, the fog-light bezels are just a bit too big and chiseled, the grille area just a bit too big… And in the cabin, those big sharp silver trim pieces are just too much.

So, while the D-Max is hot but a bit too much, and the BT-50 classy but still not quite right… it’s the foreman’s BT-50 for me.

“I pick it up on Monday.” “Love it boss, love it.”

Bailey Mackin – Deputy Production Editor

BT-50 here. It’s odd because I am usually a fan of the harder-looking utes (love the Raptor) but the Mazda has a sleeker look that has won me over.

Also not a fan of the harsher angles in the D-Max interior, Mazda seems to be a leader in interiors a lot of the time.

Alex Misoyannis – Contributor

Like many others here, these siblings are a hard pair to split… so let’s resort to a technicality.

Out of all the variants in both the D-Max and BT-50 ranges, my vote lands with the D-Max X-Terrain. Compared to its range-mates, it’s far tougher, particularly in the orange hero colour that fits well with the black flares and sports bar.

However, in terms of an overall winner – in other words, not just one specific variant – I’d have to opt for the BT-50. The grille and headlight design are classier, the rear tailgate and tail-light designs look more sophisticated, and all variants look sharp, not just the burly range-topper.

That said, it’s not perfect: the array of shared body panels result in a side profile that’s more Isuzu than Mazda (and as a result it slots oddly into the range, particularly alongside cars like the stunning Mazda 3), and the interior isn’t unique enough for my liking versus the D-Max. Yes, yes, keeping development costs low and all…

Stevo says: fine, here’s one more D-Max photo…

On votes alone, who wins it?

BT-50: SIX

Oof, a tie?! Y’all are gonna think we rigged that.

Which do you prefer, on style alone? There’s not much else separating these two, after all – ignoring, for the purposes of this debate – the dealer networks and ownership experiences each brand offers.

Tell us in the comments: D-MAX or BT-50?

(And so help me if I see a “Neither, I’d take the…”)