Ford and Mazda may have gone their separate ways, but you'd never know it by looking at the BT-50 and the Ranger. Despite superficially different skins, these two trucks could be twins. The big question for buyers is: Which one's the evil twin and which one's the real deal? It's a mixed-martial-arts mix-up right here, and the last truck standing wins. Let's get ready to rumble!
ROUND 1: STYLE
While Mazda has moved on to the sharp and stylish Kodo design language, the BT-50's design was signed off during their "Nagare" phase. As opposed to the Ranger's chunky, industrial-inspired style, the BT-50 carries many familiar Mazda styling cues, even including hints of Nagare styling with swooping curves etched down the flanks. The BT-50's front end is sharper, and the deletion of the lower airdam from the Ranger makes it look slimmer still. It's still a big hunk of truck, tall and imposing; 17-inch wheels look almost lost inside the large wheel wells.
Meanwhile, the Wildtrak takes the machismo of the Ranger and dials it up to 11. An integrated roll-hoop and plastic-cladding on the front bumper dress it up nicely. It's still the most imposing truck on the market, even with the release of the Chevrolet Colorado and the all-new Isuzu D-Max, and it's got more swagger than Jagger.
Inside, the two use switches, digital displays and AC controls from the same parts bin. Still, they couldn't look any more different. While the BT-50's interior echoes other Mazdas, it is strangely restrained compared to the Ranger's, which has a lot of chunky, exciting-looking bits. The Mazda has more cubbyholes and power points inside, but the Ranger's under-seat cargo compartments have lids. The coup de grâce here is delivered by the Ranger's deeply bolstered black-and-orange leather seats, which are more supportive and fantastic to look at.
Winner: Ford Ranger Wildtrak
ROUND 2: PERFORMANCE
There's literally nothing between these two trucks when it comes to handling. Both possess excellent electric steering, and come standard with traction and stability controls to keep things tidy. The Mazda feels a bit softer, but this is probably all down to the different tires.
Both use Ford's new five-cylinder 3.2-liter diesel. While it puts out 197hp and 470Nm of torque, it's strangely sluggish from a standstill. Full power and boost don't seem to come in until you're well into second gear, probably due to the weight of the new body. But on the highway, it boogies hard, reaching license-imperiling speeds with ease. It's best to short-shift at 3,500rpm, as power drops off sharply after the 3,000rpm power peak. This is in stark contrast to the old 3.0-liter engine, which was very eager off the line and throughout the rev range, despite having less pull at speed. Observed fuel economy is nigh-on identical between the two trucks, at 6-8km/L in traffic and 14-16km/L on the highway, though most owners will get 10-12km/L when flexing those big, heavy diesel muscles.
ROUND 3: COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE
While the Ranger's 265/65 R18 Bridgestone Dueler HT tires give it slightly better handling and a more stable demeanor on the highway, the Mazda's 265/70 R17 Dunlop Grand Trek tires are quieter, softer over bumps and better in the wet. And while both vehicles have power-adjustable driver's seats, the BT-50's leather is suppler and the cabin provides a more relaxed driving atmosphere. Both vehicles share the same voice-control system and commendable audio system, though the head units are different. Although the Ranger's backing-up camera makes parking an easier affair, the BT-50 is definitely the more relaxing place to be in.
Winner: Mazda BT-50
ROUND 4: VALUE FOR MONEY
Here's where the Wildtrak pulls away from its cousin. For just P60,000 more than the BT-50, you get 18-inch wheels, a suave bodykit, an integrated roll-hoop and flashy graphics. You also get that backing-up camera and an external 12V power point in the bed to run an air compressor or an emergency light. If you want to save some money, Ford gives you the option of buying a Wildtrak package with the 2.2-liter engine for P130,000 less. While not as powerful as the 3.2, it's still got more torque than the outgoing 3.0 and a useful 145hp.
We don't need to tell you who wins this one.
Winner: Ford Ranger Wildtrak
It's pretty obvious that the Ranger Wildtrak wins this bloody brawl by a hair, but the BT-50 gets to hold its head up high. The BT-50 has been acclaimed truck of the year in the past, but Ford's new Wildtrak looks set to reap more rewards, as various award-giving bodies and publications announce their winners for this year. On the other hand, the new 200hp Chevrolet Colorado 4x4 might have something to say about that. We've already had a taste of its power, and we can tell you right now it isn't all hype.
SPECS: FORD RANGER WILDTRAK/MAZDA BT-50
Engine: 3.2-liter five-cylinder direct-injection turbodiesel
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Power: 197hp @ 3,000rpm
Torque: 470Nm @ 1,700rpm
Drive layout: 4WD
Price: P1,549,000 (Ford Ranger Wildtrak), P1,490,000 (Mazda BT-50)
Photos by Ken Tamayo