Mazda discontinued its B-Series pickup truck at the end of 2009, but up until then, when powered by a four cylinder engine, it was the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class for several years running, according to Natural Resources Canada.
Essentially a Ford Ranger with different badging and styling cues, the B-series was a well-built, tough little hauler with a range of engine choices and drivetrains.
In 2008, it came with either a 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine or 3.0- and 4.0-litre V6 powerplants. The smaller V-6 went away in '09, but otherwise, there are no major differences between the two years. Regular cab and extended cab versions were available, and you could get it in 2WD or 4WD configurations.
The V-6 engines delivered 148 and 207 horsepower respectively, while the four-banger was good for 143 hp. Transmission choices were either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, and with the 4WD models, all-wheel traction was accessed via a dash-mounted rotary switch. The V-6-powered 4WD version also featured the highest towing capacity in its class: 2,540 kilograms. There was no other engine choice with this version; if you wanted 4WD, in other words, you got the 4.0-litre V6.
Unlike many other pickup trucks of this vintage, the B-Series had its shift lever on the steering column, and it had a centre armrest/console – again, rare in this segment of the truck market.
If you chose the SE model with the extended cab configuration (what Mazda called Cab-Plus), the rear doors couldn't be opened until the front ones were opened first. This was par for the course for lots of compact pickups, and the back-seat area was probably more suitable for storage than carrying adult passengers. The Cab Plus also came with a slightly larger gas tank than its regular cab stable-mates: 73.8 litres versus 62.4 litres. A pair of flip-down jump seats were attached to the back of the cab, and elbow room was at a bit of a premium back there. This was not a luxo-truck, by any stretch of the imagination.
Still, if you did opt for the SE version, you got cruise control, air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering, keyless entry, block heater and front airbags. The SE-Plus package, meanwhile, also had power outside mirrors, Sirius satellite radio and sport bucket seats. You could not get four-wheel-disc brakes with the B-Series, but the front disc/rear drum set-up did have ABS and electronic brake distribution.
No safety recalls to report for the 2008 B-series, either from Transport Canada or the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The latter organization, however, does have two technical service bulletins on file here. One for possible "grabbing" from the rear drum brakes and another for a crankshaft bolt warning in the front end. This latter issue affects a wide range of Mazda products, going right back to 2001, but still, two technical service bulletins and zero safety recalls – that's remarkably low.
Maybe that's why Consumer Reports likes the B-series – to a point. There are apparently some issues with the 4WD versions and subsequent "squeaks and rattles," but this is to be expected from this type of vehicle. It is a working truck, after all.
Some comments from owners: "Can haul a decent load if it needs to" and "I can get about 600 km on a 60-litre tank in the city." The magazine gives the '08 B-Series a "better than average" used-car prediction rating.
Market research company J.D. Power, meanwhile, doesn't have a lot to say about this truck, but does give it an "about average" used-car predictability rating and points out that it rates five stars from NHTSA for driver-side crash protection in a front-end collision, with the passenger side receiving a four-star rating. The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives it an "acceptable" rating in a front-ender, but "poor" for a rear-ender.
From a starting price of just less than $15,000 in '08, the B-series now goes for anywhere from $7,000 to the low teens. Base four-cylinder models are considerably cheaper than the V-6s, and the 4WD models may be worth almost twice as much if they have a full range of options. The Cab Plus models are fetching around $2,000 more than the regular cab versions.
2008 Mazda B-Series pickup
Original Base Price: $14,995; Black Book: $10,650-$16,300; Red Book: $7,250-$11,475
Engine: 2.3-litre, four-cylinder/3.0- and 4.0-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 143 hp/154 lb-ft for four; 148 hp/180 lb-ft for 3.0 V-6; 207 hp/238 lb-ft for 4.0 V-6
Transmission: Five-speed manual/five-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 9.9 city/7.5 highway (four-cylinder with manuals); regular gas
Alternatives: Dodge Dakota, Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier, Chevrolet Colorado, Toyota Tacoma