CarsSumo – Compared to other Japanese juggernauts in the off-roading sector, Mazda was slow to introduce vehicles that could traverse through any terrain without major dramas. Partnerships with Ford, and now Isuzu, have lent the carmaker the blueprint for an off-road worthy ute in the form of the Mazda BT-50. The car is now in its third generation and proving a popular alternative for Aussie buyers. It was just edged out of the COTY award for 2021 by its sibling, the D-Max, with which it shares much in common.
The shared underpinnings are not a bad thing. It gives buyers access to a larger array of off road vehicle accessories that work across brands. The second-generation BT-50 was essentially a redressed Ford Ranger, and the current car is a better-looking D-Max. Some body panels may be different, but any exterior additions, like bull bars, are fitted to a chassis with the same dimensions. Just food for thought when shopping.
You’ll want a BT-50 if you’re regularly driving through the tough stuff. Unsealed roads on new construction sites, dirt trails adjacent to national parks, or the really red soils in the bush. Anywhere where curiosity takes you, you’ll need some sort of front-end protection. Equipping your ute with Mazda BT50 bull bars, means your investment will stay protected at all times. Damage from road spray, debris, animals or any other obstacles that come in your path is virtually non-existent. The benefit is that bull bars are also handy in heavy urban traffic, where any mishaps won’t incur expensive repairs afterwards.
Why Bull Bars?
Stock utes come out of the showroom with little in the way of protective bodywork. The front bumper is useless in anything other than minor scuffs in the driveway or car park. And it won’t last in head-on collisions at speed with other vehicles. You can opt for a nudge bar if you still want the bumper on, but this is too low and won’t have the strength of a fully-fledged bull bar. Bull bars, after all, are best at keeping the bodywork and engine behind it in top shape.
They might be unwieldy or heavy for some people, but you won’t find anything stronger. In addition, if you use your ute regularly for camping and off-roading, a bull bar also offers a better approach and departure angles allowing you to go over higher obstacles without getting stuck.
Designs and Types
The purpose of a bull bar is to shield as much of the car as possible. There are two basic designs – single hoops, that consist of a single piece extending from the chassis and extend mid-height and in line with the radiator. This is a better alternative to a nudge bar, though leaves other parts exposed. For the best possible protection, a full bull bar in a three-hoop design covers more of the front, with the top bar in line with the bonnet, and additional side hoops that shield the headlights. This is the type of bull bar most ute owners go for. The extra realty also helps with additions like space for a winch cradle, if you do off-roading on a regular basis, integrated tow points in the bar for vehicle recovery, or fog lights and light bars to light up dark off-road trails.
Build and Materials
Heavy-duty designs make the best use of high-grade steel alloys for optimum strength. This is also sprayed with a protective coating that prevents rust and staining. Tubing is thick, at 6mm, and has enough flex to contain a head-on collision with vehicles or larger animals at higher speeds. Individual parts are welded together with precision manufacturing processes, meaning a high-quality finish that also looks good. Additions like winch cradles and tow points are rated for double the BT-50’s weight loading, so no issues here. Lighter aluminium bars can also be found, though don’t yet have the strength of traditional steel bull bars, so aren’t intended for more serious use.
Bull bars can have integrated fog, parking and turn lights. This is one factor that helps aftermarket Mazda BT50 bull bars meet strict ADR regulations. Another is the carefully integrated airbag sensors and unobstructed cameras. These are in no way impeded, and function like on the stock vehicle.
Bull bars, especially steel triple hoops can get heavy. Some can weigh up to 100 kilos and this weight needs to be compensated with changes to the suspension. Stiffer shocks will prevent the front end from sagging, and steering dampers are often needed to keep steering feel unchanged. Brakes can also be updated, with bigger rotors and better callipers to bring the extra weight to a faster stop.
Another thing to take into account is installation. Though most bull bars are simple bolt-on systems, coming with everything you need for a tight fit, there are some that require drilling into the chassis. Attention is also needed for correct wiring of lighting, cameras and sensors. In addition, once the bumper is off, that’s the way it stays.
Look for approved bull bars that are compatible with the Mazda BT-50. This can also mean some that also fit the previous generation Ranger, or the current version of the D-Max. Buying a bull bar and other off road vehicle accessories that complement bull bars, like bash plates, sidebars, CB antennas and winches, is best done in reputed 4×4 stores stocking all things off-roading. They’ll have the largest range, the cheapest prices, as well as staff that can offer the best advice and answer any queries you might have.