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SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyer's Guide

Pickup trucks once were primarily thought of as large-sized American work vehicles, but they have become far more than that. Now pickups not only fill the bill for work, but have myriad recreational uses as well. Sizes range from subcompact two-seaters to immense six- passenger dualies, and there is a pickup with the passenger, hauling, towing, and terrain capacity for nearly every need. Pickups are truly international, with many foreign manufacturers involved in their manufacture and sale.

Mazda has been in the pickup business for quite a while. Their small trucks were originally sold in this country under another name, and then under their own label. The Mazda B-Series of pickup trucks were completely revamped for 1994, becoming a joint venture product of Mazda and Ford. They are assembled at the Ford plant in Edison, NJ alongside their new cousin the Ford Ranger. The Mazda trucks have been freshened up for 1995, with a redesigned interior and instrument panel which now has a driver's-side air bag. The entry-level B2300 engine has a significant increase in power this year.

B-Series truck models are designated B2300, B3000 and B4000 depending upon engine displacement. They are available in base, sporty SE, or luxury-oriented LE trim. We tested the B2300 in SE form and found it to be an honest, competent small pickup.

APPEARANCE: Although it shares components with the Ford Ranger, the Mazda B-series trucks have a personality of their own. The front sheetmetal is more angular than that of the Ranger, giving the Mazda a crisper, more traditional appearance. The grille is new this year, and is a simple design that fits the styling of the truck. Our B2300 was a basic regular-cab, short bed pickup. It had the SE preferred equipment group, which includes alloy wheels, all- season P225/70R 14 tires, a sliding rear window, and bold graphics. All outside trim, including the grille, bumpers, and dual outside mirrors, is black.

COMFORT: The B2300 SE is a very contemporary pickup truck on the inside. Except for the lack of a back seat, it could be a compact sedan. The front contoured bench seat has a 60/40 split for separate driver and passenger position adjustment. Three persons can fit into the front seat if necessary, or the center area can fold down for added storage and comfort. The new instrument panel features large easy-to-read gauges, and the heater/air conditioner and radio controls are compact but easy to set and use. An available sliding rear window is handy for extra ventilation on not-too-hot days. Storage behind the seat is limited by the height of the driver and passenger. Power windows, locks, and mirrors are available.

SAFETY: A driver-side air bag, standard rear wheel anti-lock drum brakes and optional four- wheel ABS, three-point outboard seat belts with adjustable shoulder height, and power steering are among Mazda's safety gear.

ROADABILITY: The short-bed B2300 has pretty nimble handling for a pickup, and a good ride. Recent improvements to its suspension system, plus its rigid steel ladder frame and power steering have made it more responsive and less choppy, even when empty. It can carry up to 1250 pounds of cargo and tow about 1600 pounds. The truck bed is almost six feet long and slightly over four feet wide. Mazda puts rear wheel ABS on all 4x2 B-series, and four-wheel ABS is available. The cab is practically all glass so visibility is excellent. Soundproofing plus tight weatherstripping provide a fairly quiet ride.

PERFORMANCE: The B2300 is powered by a 2.3 liter four-cylinder American-built engine that features a single overhead cam, eight valves and distributorless ignition. It now delivers 112 horsepower to the rear wheels via a manual 5-speed transmission. This is an increase of 14 percent from last year. If more power is desired, two V6 engines are available in the Mazda B- series. A 3 liter, 145 horsepower model is featured in the B3000, and a 4 liter 160 horsepower unit is found in the B4000. Even with the four cylinder engine, power is adequate for most light truck uses, and the four gives good fuel economy.

CONCLUSIONS: Mazda's B-series pickup trucks provide a wide range of utility in the compact pickup field. The B2300 is a very civilized entry-level compact truck.


       Base Price             $ 11,995
       Price As Tested        $ 13,640
       Engine Type            I-4, 8-v, sohc, mpfi
        Engine Size           2.3 liter/140 cid 
       Horsepower             112 @ 4800                         
       Torque (ft/lbs)        135 @ 2400 
       Wheelbase/Length       108"/185"
       Transmission           five-speed manual w/overdrive
       Curb Weight            2930 lbs.
       Pounds per Horsepower  26.2
       Fuel Capacity          17 gal.
       Fuel Requirement       Unleaded regular (87 oct)              
       Tires                  P225/70R16 all-season
       Brakes                 vented disc/drum ABS std rear only 
       Drive Train            Front engine/rear drive
       EPA Economy - miles per gallon
         city/highway/observed       23/28/26.4
       0 to 60 mph                   10.2 sec
       1/4 mi (E.T.)                 17.8 sec
       Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)     .40