If you’re thinking about attending the Australian International Motor Show, which kicked off last Friday, then you might want to take a look at the Mazda stand for a glimpse of what its next generation cars might look like. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Mazda’s all-new design language is called ‘Kodo – Soul of Motion’, which will drive the marque’s design direction for the next five years, or more.
On the stand, you will see two extremely rare concept cars, The SHINARI and the MINAGI. Both concepts were created under the direction of Mazda Design Chief, Ikuo Maeda, a second-generation Mazda designer after his father Matasaburo Maeda, who gained legendary status as the man credited with leading the design of the original and iconic RX-7 rotary sports car.
It’s interesting to note Matasaburo’s approach to that car’s design, years later when he reflects on what was a vital ‘halo’ car for Mazda:
“I had three design priorities for the RX-7 which dictated its completely natural form. First, I was seeking the best way to express the character of its rotary engine. Second, I was seeking to reduce the car’s drag coefficient, and third, I envisaged the RX-7 having a classic sports car front-mid-ship layout.”
Ikuo Maeda has established his own reputation at Mazda with success with the uniquely styled RX-8 in 2003. This rotary engine sports car with a pillar-less four-door body broke new ground in automotive design.
More recently, Maeda was chief designer for the popular Mazda2, which won the 2008 World Car of The Year ward and has consistently been ranked in the top-level contenders in the light car segment for it’s beyond contemporary styling since.
Ikuo Maeda differs from his father when it comes to design, but one thing he inherited is his fundamental design principles when it comes to
“form processing meaning and the pursuit of forms that maximise the mechanical potential of the car.”
CarAdvice was privileged to attend a Mazda Design Forum in Melbourne recently, where Ikuo Maeda and one of his talented CAD operators discussed the Kodo design language and the creation of the SHINARI and MINAGI concept cars. They also drew what may have been the next generation MX-5, but more on that project later.
The SHINARI is a pure design concept that embodies the ‘Kodo - Soul of Motion’ theme in a four-door, four-seat sports coupe body, which is the essence of what is to come from Mazda’s design studios over the next generation of Mazda cars.
It’s a stunning creation by Maeda with beautiful flowing lines, yet powerful in it’s stance. The various character lines are supposed to represent perpetual motion and nothing static. It works exceedingly well in the metal and we can only hope that the perhaps the next generation RX-7 and RX-8 (even Mazda 6) adopt as much of the SHINARI as feasibly possible.
Inside, it’s the same Kodo design theme with smooth flowing lines and a high level of craftsmanship with premium grade materials used in the car. It’s very much a driver-focused cockpit that’s decidedly sporty in style with plenty of metallic accents throughout. Mazda calls it 'dedicated driving ergonomics'. It’s all part of the Human Machine Interface, which in the SHINARI is a floating three-dimensional display and what we are likely to see in the next generation of Mazda cars.
The Mazda MINAGI, while a genuine concept car, is very much at an advanced stage and close to what Mazda will unveil as the CX-5 crossover vehicle at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show in September.
Maeda tells us that the CX-5 will be very close to that of the MINAGI. If that ends up being the case then can I suggest that you get your name in the order book now, or risk waiting up to a year. That’s how well this thing will sell.
Moreover, CX-5 will most likely incorporate Mazda’s revolutionary SKYACTIV technologies, which dramatically reduce the weight in cars, and as a result, performance, handling and fuel economy are vastly enhanced. CarAdvice has driven a Mazda 6 Diesel auto with SKYACTIV technology on board, and can testify to its remarkable effect on all-round performance.
Mazda’s MX-5 had already achieved global iconic status prior to the end of production on the first-generation in 1997, with production continuing on the third-generation car as you read this article.
It is a magnificent piece of engineering with an almost perfectly balanced chassis. In essence, a pure roadster with impeccable road manners.
Top Gear’s UK host Jeremy Clarkson, said of the MX-5 in 2009,
“The fact is that if you want a sports car, the MX-5 is perfect. Nothing on the road will give you better value. Nothing will give you so much fun. The only reason I’m giving it five stars is because I can’t give it 14.”
It was finally time for Ikuo Maeda to sketch over a picture of the current and third-generation MX-5 using the ‘Kodo’ design theme and within twenty minutes he had sketched what could have easily been an interpretation the next-generation car. It was quite remarkable not just how quick this drawing had been completed, but the fact that he hadn’t used any paper or pencils; just a computer screen and a stylus.
Now it was the CAD operator’s turn to miraculously change various proportions and lines from a sketch into a three-dimensional model compete with metal skin. That took all of another 10 minutes. Of course, this kind of job would normally take weeks, but it just shows you how fast automotive designers can work these days with CAD (Computer Aided Design) systems.
If what we saw tonight, with the various Kodo design interpretations is an indication of what is to come from the Mazda brand, then bring it on I say. I only hope the dealers order enough stock to service what should be a terrific customer demand for next generation Mazda - but please Mazda, don't forget the new RX-7.