- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2003

The term “small pickup” can be misleading. This is especially true in describing Mazda’s 2003 B4000 pickups.

Most powerful in a lineup also consisting of B2300 and B3000 models, the B4000 drives home the solid macho image Mazda hoped to summon by dubbing its B-Series pickup line “Mazda Truck.”

Under the hood is a DOHC 4.0-liter V-6 engine with top-of-class “Truck” muscle. It sends the pickup rolling with 207 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 238 foot-pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm.

Teaming with the 4.0-liter is a choice of a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic transmission. The automatic has the distinction of being the only five-speed offered in the import compact-pickup class.

The 4.0-liter’s big torque numbers translate to a 5,740-pound maximum trailer-tugging capability — enough to easily pull a whopper ski boat to recreational heaven. Adding to trailering convenience is a standard Class III trailer hitch.

Increasing the possibility of getting to the lake via muddy trails, and offering peace of mind at the boat ramp, the test truck boasted four-wheel-drive traction and a 7.4-inch ground clearance. Even on 2WD B4000 models, traction is enhanced with a standard limited-slip differential. B4000 pricing starts at $21,410 for 4WD models and $20,595 for 2WD models.

The tester is not only big on power and traction, but is also enhanced with options, giving it a formidable appearance. It has a Cab Plus four-door cab configuration, featuring rear-hinged back doors to give it rear-compartment access advantage over the Cab Plus two-door extended-cab model. Regular cabs are limited to B2300 and B3000 models.

The test pickup pushes the needle of the head-turning meter to a high level. It’s painted in Platinum Frost Metallic, fitted with a pair of silver (or black) colored tube side steps, and rolls on a set of hefty BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A tires with raised white letters.

Also available is a Dual Sport model that lends 2WDs a bit of 4x4 character and off-road prowess without a weightier body or price tag. These pickups — named after a motorcycle term emphasizing versatility to handle on- and off-road conditions — have 15-inch alloy wheels and a suspension raised to a 4x4’s clearance.

Dual Sport models also are distinguished by body-colored bumpers, grille and wheel-arch moldings. Like the SE 4x4 models, Dual Sport pickups gain the flair and function of fog lamps.

Base 4x4s are fitted with 15-inch alloy wheels and P225/75R-15 all-terrain tires, and uplevel SE models ride on beefier 16-inch alloy wheels and P245/75R-16 all-terrain tires.

The test truck gets an extra injection of cool with an Off-Road Package. This package enhances appearance with 31x10.5R-15 tires and “tear drop” alloy wheels, monochromatic paint (Platinum Frost Metallic is the only offering), tube side steps and bed-rail caps.

Interior upgrades also come with the Off-Road Package: bucket seats with center console, carpet floor mats, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, auto-dimming mirror, compass and outside temperature gauge.

Standard seating is a 60/40-split bench. Fold-down rear jump seats are standard on all Cab Plus two- and four-door models. Base models are upholstered in vinyl and cloth covering is standard on all other models.

No matter which “Truck” is chosen — even the B2300 and B3000 — the B-Series offers an impressive list of standard features: four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, tachometer, sliding rear window, solar-controlled tinted glass, anti-theft immobilizer and tire lock. Air conditioning is standard on all but base 4x2 models.

While the B-Series lineup hasn’t had major changes for some time, freshenings are made for 2003. Interior upgrades for all models include an in-dash ashtray, driver’s vanity mirror and ISOFIX seat anchors.

ISOFIX is a standardized method of installing a child seat without using a seat belt. Of course, a key-operated passenger-side airbag deactivation switch is standard.

Mazda was the first import-pickup manufacturer to implement this system.

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