SNOQUALMIE, Wash. — Traveling at a high rate of speed through a northern-woods evergreen forest on a twisty and bumpy off-road track, I approach a tight corner, apply brakes while driving in a straight line and throw the truck sideways. It responds beautifully, with crisp steering, potent power, and tires that grip the soft dirt below.
Back on throttle, I encounter a series of undulating bumps and notice that the suspension travel and ground clearance of this pickup allow me to carry far greater speeds than I would have imagined possible and, despite the fact that I have no weight in the bed of this pickup, its handling is predictable. Yee Haw!! I dream momentarily that I’m participating in an off-road race and running at the front of the pack. Truth is, I’m simply putting the freshened Mazda B-Series truck through its paces and am delighted by what I experience with this newest 2001 version.
Believe it or not, Mazda has been selling pickup trucks to the American market for three full decades. And, over that time, this Japanese automaker and Ford subsidiary has developed a loyal customer base that appreciates these compact, affordable trucks as an alternative to more pricey American models.
For its latest revision, the 2001 B-Series sports an eye-catching new front-end design, increased engine performance for all three engine choices and a slightly raised suspension system on the 4x2 Dual Sport models. It’s clear that Mazda’s focus is to provide as many as possible alternatives for truck buyers within the compact pickup category.
The B-Series—which now includes the newly named B2300 (replacing the entry-level B2500), the intermediate class B3000, and the top-of-the-line B4000—ranges in price from $12,225 (remarkably affordable for a truck) up to $22,220. Within this nearly $10,000 price difference are options like two- or four-wheel-drive, Cab Plus Extended Cab, and engine sizes ranging from 2.3 to 4.0 liters.
Exterior styling includes three trim levels offered for the 2001 series, including the SX, the SE and the all-new Dual Sport, which takes its name from a category of motorcycle that is equally suited for on-road and off-road use. B-Series buyers can also choose from three different cab options: regular cab, two-door extended Cab Plus or the four-door Cab Plus 4, which Mazda claims is the first compact truck with four full-sized doors.
Engine capacities differ greatly, so when considering a purchase, make sure you test drive more than one version. The base B2300 sports a new 140-horsepower, 2.3-liter DOHC in-line four engine, which replaces the 119-hp, 2.5-liter engine of the previous-generation B2500.
The B3000 features a 3.0-liter, 150 horsepower OHV engine with a V-6, and the 4.0-liter B4000 engine cranks out 207 horsepower and an impressive 238 lb-ft of torque.
|2001 Mazda B-SeriesBase price range: $12,225 - $19.920
Engines: 2.3-liter in-line four, 140 hp (B2300); 3.0-liter V-6, 160 hp (B3000); 4.0-liter V-6, 207 hp (B4000)
Transmission: five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, with rear-wheel orfour-wheel drive
Length: 187.5 in (reg. cab, 4x2) 187.7 in (reg. 4x4); 202.9 in (Cab Plus 4x2) 201.7 in (4x4)
Width: 69.4 in (70.3 in on 4x4 models)
Height: 64.9 in (reg., 4x2) 67.6 in (reg., 4x4); 64.8 in (Cab Plus 4x2) 67.5 in (4x4)
Wheelbase: 111.6 in (reg.); 125.7 in (cab plus)
Curb weight: (Reg. Cab 4x2, 2960 lb; 4x4 3380 lb)/(Cab Plus 4x2, 3164 lb; 4x4 3571 lb)
EPA (cty/hwy): 16/20 (B4000 4x4); 17/22 (B3000 4x2).
Safety equipment: Dual de-powered airbags, Pulse Vacuum Hublock, three-year roadside assistance program, four-wheel anti-lock brakes
Major standard features: four-wheel anti-lock brakes, tachometer, anti-theft immobilizer, spare tire lock, dual de-powered airbags.
Warranty: Three years/50,000 miles; five-year unlimited/corrosion
The newly designed, independent double-wishbone suspension system gives 4x4-comparable clearance to even the two-wheel-drive versions, along with extra support derived from this truck’s stabilizer bar and live-axle suspension with leaf springs. Fifteen-inch alloy wheels come standard with 4x2 models; 4x4s feature 16-inch wheels with an easy-to-use Pulse Vacuum Hublock four-wheel-drive system.
The front nose of the new generation has been freshened with a rounder look, and the addition of Mazda’s five-point grille. The Dual Sport model features body-colored front and rear bumpers, fender flares, front grille surround and a lower front fascia. Interior features have been revised with new seat designs, door panel trim, gauges and steering wheel. SE and Dual Sport owners will enjoy that the AM/FM audio system comes standard with an in-dash CD player. Cab Plus and Cab Plus 4 models have jump seats that quickly fold up if extra cabin storage space is needed.
The B-Series, like all Mazdas, comes with the company’s smart three-year/50,000-mile roadside assistance program, which delivers roadside help 24/7/365 in even the remotest parts of the U.S. and Canada. Add to that a comprehensive three-year/50,000-mile warranty that covers every part on the vehicle except those subject to normal wear, plus a five-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, and you can feel secure driving the B-Series the way a truck was meant to be.
While the 2001 B-Series trucks are really a facelift of a generation that began with the 1999 model year, it certainly helps to have more power and more options. Mazda aficionados will be pleasantly surprised.