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