Mazda's 2001 pickup is distinguished from last year by its revamped front styling, a notched hood and aggressive fender flares. Designers streamlined the overall package and strengthened all visual cues. As a result, all B-Series trucks wear smooth new sheetmetal with a definitive new face in front, and wheel blisters on the fenders.
The strong prow sparkles from new multi-beam reflector lamps flanking a wide grille in bright chrome underlined by a thick bumper with fog lamps tucked below a wavy strip of chrome. Sides show rolled shoulders and flat panels interrupted by etched horizontal character lines and ripples around front and rear wheelwells. With the Cab Plus extension, a tall and narrow side window mounts in the panel behind each door's window.
The cargo bed stretches six feet in a space with cargo hooks on the floor. Indentations in the box support partitions to segment cargo. The tailgate detaches quickly without requiring special tools. Optional exterior equipment includes protective bed rails. Also, a modular U-shaped bed extender in tubular stainless steel flips out from side pivot points to rest on the tailgate; folded flat, it serves as a bed-extending brace for longer loads of cargo, though it won't hold back dirt and other loose items.
New Dual Sport models use a monochromatic treatment with body-colored bumpers, flared fenders and lower front fascia. The name is derived from a motorcycle suited for pavement or dirt. Mazda's Dual Sport has the elevated stance of a four-wheel-drive truck because the hiked suspension of the 4x4 is aboard. It's a two-wheel-drive truck, however, like the pre-runner trucks used to check out an off-road course before a big desert race.
Mazda's B-Series pickups are engineered by Ford and share their basic structure and components with the Ford Ranger. They offer unique styling and unique interiors, however.
The cab of Mazda's truck has been revised for 2001 with added features. The most noteworthy improvement -- a new quality of quietness -- cannot be seen because the additional baffles and insulation that surround the passenger compartment are concealed in the structure.
Previous versions consistently set the standard among Japanese-brand trucks for spacious, comfortable accommodations and convenient features. 2001 models build on that foundation with new seat designs clad in new fabrics, a revised instrument panel with tachometer supplied to all trims, and a revamped center pod for climate and audio systems with large easy-to-use rotary dials.
The Regular Cab uses a bench-style seat that can squeeze three aboard. The Cab Plus offers an interior storage bay behind the front seat. Two small side-facing jump seats are supplied in the bay; each folds down from the back wall. Optional left and right rear-hinged doors for the Cab Plus 4 permit easy access to rear quarters.
Seats in our Cab Plus 4 SE truck were high-back buckets covered in premium cloth fabric. The buckets were firm in bolsters and seat, but felt luxurious. Air conditioning, and power windows, locks and mirrors are standard.