What's New for 2006
The Mazda B-Series is unchanged for 2006.
Mazda's history with small pickups goes back several decades. Back in the 1970s, the Japanese automaker produced the Ford Courier, which was nothing more than a rebadged version of Mazda's own design. It was successful mostly due to the strong Ford brand name. In the early 1980s, Mazda decided to redesign its small pickup. The company christened its newest creation the B-Series.
This time around, Ford decided to engineer its own small truck, banking on its brand name to draw in the customers and thus the Ranger was born. Ford was right, and the Ranger became far more popular, as the B-Series market share withered. In a reversal of previous fortunes, Mazda was forced to rely on Ford to provide a basis for the B-Series, and it was recast as a modified Ford Ranger for the 1994 model year. Under the skin and inside the cab, the Ranger and the B-Series were identical; minor styling changes were the only differences that made the Mazda truck unique.
A 1998 freshening resulted in a more dynamic design for the Mazda B-Series, with flared fenders and unique trim inside and out. While some of its styling cues distinguish it from its stronger-selling Ford cousin, the Mazda truck lacks the configurations and feature content available to the Ranger. However, it should be noted that Mazda offers a better warranty and often offers deep discounts to clear the B-Series from dealer lots. Unfortunately, the 2006 Mazda B-Series has remained basically unchanged for over a decade, and it has been significantly outpaced by the competition in recent years.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Available as either a two-door regular cab or a four-door extended cab, the Mazda B-Series is further broken down into three basic trim levels, base, Dual Sport and SE. Base models are available as either a 2WD regular cab or an extended cab with either two- or four-wheel drive. Standard equipment includes a tachometer, sliding rear window, AM/FM stereo and 15-inch steel wheels (16-inch on 4WD models). Dual Sport models can be had in either body style but are 2WD only. A standard raised suspension gives all Dual Sports the look of a 4WD truck without the added expense. The top-line SE trim level is offered on the 4WD extended cab only and features alloy wheels, air conditioning, a CD player, cruise control and power windows, mirrors and locks. Many of these features are available as options on the less expensive models.
Powertrains and Performance
Three engines are available on the Mazda B-Series. Two-wheel-drive models can be had with a 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine rated for 143 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque, or a 3.0-liter V6 with 150 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. Four-wheel-drive models come standard with a 4.0-liter V6 with 207 hp and 238 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual is standard on all models, except the SE extended cabin which comes with a five-speed automatic. The automatic is optional on all trim levels. Tow ratings are under 3,000 pounds with the four-cylinder and the 3.0-liter V6, while the 4.0-liter V6 has a decent 5,580-pound trailer rating.
Antilock brakes are standard on all models. In government crash tests, the Mazda B-Series earned four stars out of five for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal- and side-impact crashes. The IIHS gave this compact pickup a rating of "Acceptable" (the second highest of four) after conducting its frontal-offset impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The B-Series cabin has a dated feel, and unlike Ford's Ranger, the Mazda truck can't be optioned with leather upholstery or a premium sound system. There isn't much legroom, and the seats are still low and flat, so don't expect long-range comfort. Extended-cab models have twin jump seats in the rear; the side-facing rear seats on this model are by no means comfortable for adults, but they can be used by extra passengers in a pinch.
Despite its low horsepower rating, the 4.0-liter V6 offers respectable acceleration for this class, and the five-speed automatic does a fine job of managing the power. The B-Series feels underpowered with either the four-cylinder or the 3.0L V6. All models are easy to maneuver thanks to the truck's small size, but the basic platform and underpinnings are outdated, resulting in a rough, harsh ride. The 2006 Mazda B-Series is a good performer off-road, but the lack of an optional off-road package means you'll have to go to the aftermarket to outfit it properly for trail duty.