Mazda has been manufacturing 4x4 utes since 1961 and has developed a reputation for producing strong, reliable and durable cars. Mazda’s ultimate model in the B-series, the Mazda Bravo, was manufactured between 1998 and 2006 and draws on the company’s long history of producing high-quality utes. It offers customers plenty of driver comfort, while its lines and internal styling are more commonly associated with family car design.
If you are looking for a workhorse of a vehicle or a fun off-roader for recreational purposes, then the Bravo is a 4x4 definitely worth a look. It comes in two body shapes: the standard two-door cab, and for increased passenger comfort and capacity, the dual-cab. The tray is also offered in a variety of styles, including the regular flat bed or the commercial double-walled version.
The body shape also has had a makeover; it now has a softer, curvier design and a more contemporary feel about it. Designers have added to the vehicle's overall safety by using a stronger shell and incorporating a safety cage within the passenger cab.
The new shape allows for all-round visibility, giving the driver a clear view of the road ahead, while the dashboard is well thought out, possessing easy-to-read dials that are accessible and functional. The Bravo comes fitted with a tachometer – even in the DX model – which is a great addition, especially for commercial users.
Mazda offers 2- and 4-speed transmissions, either of which, when combined with the sturdy 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine makes for a very versatile and stable ride. The 2.6-litre fuel injection petrol engine was popularly used throughout the models, with the later models being fitted with the punchy diesel engines. The newer diesels incorporate Mazda’s latest technology at the time, producing one of the most powerful diesels on the market. It features a single overhead cam construction, three valve cylinders, intercooler system, indirect fuel injection and vibration-reducing internal balance shafts. Increased turbo efficiency is also generated through the new diagonal gas flow turbocharger, producing reduced turbo lag and better low-speed throttle response.
The remodelling of the Bravo 4x4 shows its refinements on the road as well as in looks. The turbo diesel in particular offers a speedy response, and considering its 2.5-litre capacity there is plenty of power and torque on display. Traditionally, 4x4 vehicles are considered to be somewhat bouncy rides, but the Bravo’s softer suspension gives driver and passengers alike a comfortable seat. Its responsive steering and road holding make for smooth, easy cornering in an urban environment and the assured control gives perfect handling over any type of surface or gradient.
Its brakes are responsive, durable, ventilated front discs and a load sensor system offers a smooth, firm stop, whether the vehicle is empty or fully weighted down. The four-wheel drive option and its excellent slip differential put sufficient power down onto the road to face the challenge of any terrain.
Safety is another of the big features in the Bravo and in the event of an incident there are protective side impact bars, a collapsible steering column, contoured and adjustable head restraints and dual front SRS airbags to cushion front seat occupants. The later models were given two-star ANCAP safety ratings.
The Bravo’s interior offers an excellent array of equipment as standard. Even the base DX model includes air-conditioning, intermittent wipers, tilt adjusting steering wheel, and a quality AM/FM digital radio/CD player with four speakers. The cab is fitted out with hardwearing cloth seats that can be adjusted for personal comfort, auxiliary 12V power outlets, central drinks console, map pockets, and central locking.
The luxury SDX range features impressive alloy wheels, velour seat coverings, electric windows and power adjustable mirrors. Those looking to add extra customisation will find such additions as long-range fuel tanks, duel-cab canopy covers, bonnet guards and headlight covers are available.
Stylistically, too, there are many subtle touches that add to the Bravo’s modern look, with softly flared wheel arches, new headlamp rigs, and a freshly designed bumper, grille, and bonnet shape. All of this makes the Bravo a good-looking family car or a well-constructed utility vehicle.
The Bravo and its twin 4x4, Ford’s Courier, were designed to compete against the likes of the Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Triton and the Nissan Patrol.
The Mazda Bravo offers excellent value, whether you are looking for a well-designed commercial vehicle capable of facing rigorous landscapes or a modern-looking ute that is able to provide fun and entertainment both on and off the road. The contemporary design holds its own and the improved engine capacity makes it an excellent investment for work or play. Known for a workmanlike design, Mazda, with the Bravo, has taken the B-series from being considered purely functional vehicles to being considered strong, reliable 4x4s for the family as well.