Mazda and Isuzu’s partnership won’t extend to a rugged, off-road-ready seven-seat SUV.

    Mazda last week confirmed the BT-50 ute – which is the same as the Isuzu D-Max under the skin, with identical suspension and steering tunes – is all that will come from its partnership with Isuzu.

    There’ll be no Mazda based on the upcoming seven-seat Isuzu MU-X off-roader that’ll partner the D-Max ute, meaning the road-focused CX-9 will remain as Mazda’s flagship.

    “This deal is for BT-50 and to supply a ute, and that’s where it begins and ends,” Mazda Australia market director Alastair Doak told media.

    “Obviously there’s a wider collaboration… with Isuzu in Japan, but for us it’s just for BT-50 ute.”

    MORE: Read our 2021 Mazda BT-50 XTR review

    The updated MU-X is expected to launch next year. It’ll go head-to-head with the more powerful 2021 Toyota Fortuner, the Ford Everest, and the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

    Although it’s long in the tooth, the current MU-X remains a strong seller for Isuzu. It’s sitting on 5020 sales to date in 2020, making it the most popular ute-based SUV in Australia ahead of the Everest.

    It would fill a gap in the range and make a natural partner for the new BT-50, but a rugged off-road SUV wouldn’t necessarily fit with Mazda’s recent push to become more premium.

    The closest thing it has offered to an off-road capable SUV was the Tribute, a twin to the Ford Escape. Since then, the brand’s SUV range has remained firmly road-focused.

    MORE: 2021 Mazda BT-50 pricing and specs

    Mazda has, however, dabbled in the world of off-roading before. In the 1970s the brand built a rugged, pared-back off-roader in Burma. It also sold a version of the three-door Ford Explorer Sport, badged Najavo, to the North American market in the 1990s.

    Scott Collie

    Scott Collie is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Scott studied journalism at RMIT University and, after a lifelong obsession with everything automotive, started covering the car industry shortly afterwards. He has a passion for travel, and is an avid Melbourne Demons supporter.

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