Mazda B4000 Quad Cab 4X4
Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Russell Purcell


Big value in a small package


When the compact pick-up truck trend kicked off in the mid 1970s, Ford, the world’s largest producer of light trucks, turned to Mazda to help them develop a small pickup platform called the Ford Courier, largely based on a model already in production by Mazda in Japan. This relationship allowed Mazda to get a better foothold in the lucrative North American marketplace while offering Ford a look at Japanese manufacturing techniques – as well as a way to jump start some new relationships in booming Asian markets.

When it came time to redesign the line in the early 1980s, the two companies went their separate ways. The Ranger was born and represented a home-run for Ford, whilst Mazda debuted its slightly smaller B-Series pick-up truck for 1986. While not as successful as the Ford Ranger, the Mazda struggled along creating its own niche until the next redesign was in order.

Mazda went back to Ford to provide the basis for the 1994 B-Series as it was obvious that the company had a better idea as to what the North American truck-buyer really wanted in a truck. Park a Ranger and a B-Series side-by-side and you will immediately recognize them as siblings, if not fraternal twins. Minor styling tweaks, largely to the lighting, grille and wheels- differentiated the two models, until a facelift in 1998 brought flared fenders and unique interior and exterior trim pieces to the Mazda plate.

For 2001 Mazda redesigned the B-Series’ front end once again, as the company sought to bring its grille treatment closer to that worn by the other members of the Mazda family, and give it a more distinctive look than its Ranger brethren. Enter 2003 and the B-Series is starting to show its age as most of its competitors have already introduced slick new models. This isn’t to say that the Mazda Truck isn’t a competent player, but limited configurations and vanilla-styling keep it from standing out from the crowd.


The Line-up

Mazda B4000 Quad Cab 4X4
Click image to enlarge

Mazda’s B-Series Truck can be had with one of three engine options. The B2300 features a 2.3-litre four-cylinder producing 140 horsepower, the mid-range B3000 gets a 3.0-litre V6 that generates 150 horses, while the subject of this review, the B4000 gets a 207 horsepower 4.0-litre V6. All three variants can be had in two-wheel drive form, but only the B4000 is available with four-wheel drive. The B2300 is only available with a regular cab, the B3000 can be ordered with either a regular or quad cab, and the B4000 is only offered in quad cab form.

Once you have selected your engine size, next step is to outfit your Truck with one of Mazda’s three trim levels which include SX, SE and Dual Sport. Dual Sport is only available on the B3000, in either regular or Cab Plus, and offers the buyer the look of a four-wheel-drive truck without the extra weight, thirstier engine and extra costs associated with a 4WD system. Dual Sport models feature a monochromatic paint treatment, as well as body-coloured bumpers, fender flares and front fascia. The suspension set-up is the same as that of the 4X4 models so the truck rides nice and high, similar to Toyota’s Pre-Runner Tacoma.


Popular Options

Mazda B4000 Quad Cab 4X4
Click image to enlarge

Most B4000 buyers tend to order the SE Plus Package, which includes air conditioning, durable ‘sport’ cloth seats, matching floor mats, a premium CD-stereo and 16-inch alloy wheels. Selecting four-wheel drive allows you to select the Off-Road Package, which consists of oversized all-terrain tires, skid plates (to shield the transfer case and fuel tank from damage), bucket seats, sturdy side step tubes, bed rail caps, an MP3 player, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and monochromatic paint. Other packages include the Convenience Package (tilt steering, cruise control, bed liner) and the Power Package (power windows, locks and mirrors; and remote keyless entry).

An integrated bed-liner is available as a low cost option ($334.05) and acts to protect the finish from marks and dings when hauling cargo, and features vertical ribbing to keep items away from dirt and moisture. As is commonplace in modern bed-liner design, the Mazda unit features integrated slots fitted for 2X4 planks, an effective means to divide the bed and keep items from sliding around. My test vehicle also came equipped with clever tie-down hooks ($47.94) and loops ($55.44) in all four corners. These conveniently fold away when not in use.

Compact trucks are handy, but sometimes you may find yourself wishing you had a larger cargo bed. Mazda offers a basket-type bed extender ($587.61) that folds out over the tailgate area to offer almost 6-feet of length. Other popular add-ons include bed-rails ($139.06), a soft tonneau cover ($378.24), a foldable storage box ($999.76), side-step tubes ($614.72) and a class III trailer hitch ($281.56).


Interior Features

Mazda B4000 Quad Cab 4X4
Click image to enlarge

Mazda has always made it a priority to ensure that their truck was the standard-bearer when it came to adding value. As a result, B-Series trucks offer a greater sense of spaciousness, higher levels of comfort and a host of standard amenities to put many of the company’s competitors to shame.

The last redesign brought levels of refinement usually reserved for much more expensive cars. The quality of the interior materials and fabrics were improved and switches and gauges were made friendlier to the eyes and fingers. Controls all are within easy reach and simple to use.

While most passengers will be happy with the matching front bucket seats in the B4000, I found them a little on the anemic side when it comes to cushioning and side bolster.

Mazda B4000 Quad Cab 4X4
Click image to enlarge

The lack of a separate head rest is also a gripe in my books, as taller individuals will find themselves lacking neck support. They also sit high enough that I found my forward vision hindered by the roofline around the top of the windshield, as it tends to wrap down to meet the glass. The ability to lower the seat would benefit taller individuals who may experience the same problem.

Rear passengers must make do with a pair of fold-away centre-facing jump seats sandwiching a small storage bay equipped with cup-holders. As a result, this area is best used for small children or cargo. No crew cab model is available, but the Cab Plus treatment offers two rear-hinged doors, making rear access a breeze. Rear passengers can open a slider in the rear window for increased ventilation, but it would be nice if the rear side windows flipped out as well, as that tends to reduce the feeling of claustrophobia often felt by passengers confined in such a tight space.


Performance

Mazda B4000 Quad Cab 4X4
Click image to enlarge

The 4.0-litre, single-overhead-cam V6 that resides under the hood of the Mazda B4000 is actually sourced from Ford and with a healthy 207 horsepower and 238 lb.-ft of torque offers admirable acceleration and excellent towing capabilities for a compact truck. Passing power is readily available, even when carrying substantial loads or climbing steep grades.

My test vehicle was equipped with the optional five-speed electronic automatic with adaptive shift logic. The system seemed set-up to ensure that the truck was always poised to respond to the driver’s throttle demands. The standard four-wheel ABS brakes are always ready to bring things back under control.


On, and off, the road

Mazda B4000 Quad Cab 4X4
Click image to enlarge

I had a brief opportunity to take the Mazda on some washed-out logging roads and through some loose sand and slick mud. The truck handled the variety of conditions with ease, and with the simple twist of a dash-mounted rotary lever I was able to switch into four-wheel drive on-the-fly when I sensed wheel slippage. Simple and seamless. The system offers a four-wheel high and a four-wheel low setting, the latter for times when the going gets really rough.

On the pavement the B4000 felt as comfortable as most passenger cars, as its rigid ladder frame and independent wishbone front suspension combine to transmit road feel to the driver, while effectively smoothing out the ride. Carrying extra speed through the corners is never a good idea in a high centre-of-gravity vehicle like the B4000, but front and rear anti-roll bars are standard and act to reduce excess body lean.

With this new found agility, Mazda has fitted the B4000 with speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering, making it much easier to handle this truck during cornering maneuvers. This is especially noticeable when the truck is carrying a load, and will help to inspire confidence in the driver and passengers alike.


Conclusion

Mazda’s long partnership with Ford has been beneficial to both brands, as it enabled Mazda to offer a wider array of engines as well as to beef up their truck line to meet the needs of the typical North American truck buyer. Ford on the other hand, learned a little bit about Japanese production techniques and strengthened its relationships with Asian component producers.

As both companies are producing almost identical trucks, why would you select a B-Series truck over a Ford Ranger? Maybe the Mazda’s chrome grille and narrow headlights are more your style, as they seem to give the B4000 a more distinguished face than that worn by the Ranger. True, the Ranger offers a greater selection of options and configurations, but maybe you like the simplicity inherent in Mazda’s packaging. It’s also no secret that the current iteration of the B-Series is nearing the end of its shelf life, so Mazda dealers may be willing to deal. In short, the B-Series Truck offers a great value and is still a leader in both power and price.


Technical Data: Mazda Truck B-4000 Cab Plus 4X4

Base price $28,840
Price as tested $32,114
Type Front-engine, rear wheel drive/PT 4WD
Engine 4.0-Litre SOHC V6
Horsepower 207 @ 5,250 rpm
Torque 238-lb.ft. @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual with overdrive (5 speed automatic with overdrive, optional – $1,380)
Brakes 4-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), ventilated front discs, rear drums
Wheels and tires 16-inch alloys with 245/75R16 all-terrain tires
Curb weight 1706 kg. ( 3,761 lb.)
Wheelbase 3198 mm (125.9 in.)
Length 5153 mm (202.9 in.)
Width 1786 mm (70.3 in.)
Height 1715 mm (67.5 in.)
Ground clearance 201 mm (7.9 in.)
Towing capacity Manual 1,361 kg (3,000 lb.)
  Automatic 2,486 kg (5,480 lb.)
Fuel consumption (L/100km) Manual: city – 15.2 (19 mpg); highway – 11.5 (25 mpg
  Automatic: city – 16.2 (17 mpg); highway – 11.7 (24mpg)
Warranty 3 year/60,000 km (with Roadside Assistance)
Powertrain warranty 3 year/80,000 km

Connect with Autos.ca