What's New for 1998
Fresh styling, a revised front suspension, a larger regular cab, a more powerful 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, a stiffer frame and a new 4WD system ensure that Mazda's compact truck will remain competitive through the end of the century.
Kinship of Mazda's B-Series with Ford's Ranger is evident both on the surface and beneath, but for 1998 the similarities are blurred more than ever. Both compact pickups are built at the same New Jersey factory, from the same design, and employ virtually identical powertrains and four-wheel drive setups. Competent and attractive, the B-Series differs from the Ranger primarily in styling and pricing structure.
Mazda has substantially updated the B-Series for 1998. The most obvious change is easy to spot: the styling has been modified from front to rear, though the new look is still distinctively Mazda. Research indicated to stylists that import truck buyers prefer a lower, more horizontal look. To achieve such a stance, designers have blended the front grille and headlights into a single band across the front of the truck, serving as the starting point for a fender line that runs rearward. Blistered fenders accentuate the look and provide some muscularity to the design.
Regular cab models have been stretched three inches, resulting in some much-needed cab space. Otherwise, the interior is carried over from last year, but features standard de-powered front airbags. The passenger airbag can be switched off for those times when children must ride in front. Underneath, the forward section of the frame rails has been fully boxed, resulting in a 350 percent increase in frame stiffness. This has allowed for a re-tuning of the suspension for better ride and handling characteristics.
The front suspension is a new short-long arm independent design, and new rack-and-pinion steering provides more control and better feel. Order a B4000 model and you can opt for a rare five-speed automatic transmission. The new shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive system features pulse vacuum hub-lock technology, allowing the driver to engage 4WD at speeds up to 70 mph. No stopping or backing up is required when shifting into or out of 4-Lo. This less expensive and complex system improves fuel economy and reduces maintenance requirements.
Available in SX or SE trim with a choice of three engines and several option packages, one interesting interior feature is the optional Radio Broadcast Data System (RBDS) stereo system. Normally available only on higher-end luxury cars like Audi, BMW or Cadillac, RBDS allows the listener to search radio stations by program type and format, and displays the call letters of the station as well as the frequency. It can also be programmed to interrupt a cassette or CD with traffic alerts.
Select any Mazda truck, and you get rugged construction and good looks; and with the B4000, a spirited powertrain. Best of all, Mazda offers one of the best comprehensive truck warranties in the business. It's hard to go wrong with a Mazda B-Series pickup.