Mazda has never been shy about looking into the future. Over the years, it has signaled its design direction with a series of striking concept vehicles – and this year is no exception, though the small Japanese automaker is actually presenting two crystal-balls-on-wheels at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show.
One of these show cars offers a relatively near-term view of things to come, the Kai Concept believed to be hewing closely to what we’ll see with the next-generation Mazda3 hatchback. It picks up on what the automaker calls “a more mature expression” of the design language first introduced with the Kodo concept in 2010.
Pushing the proverbial envelope a step further is the Mazda Vision Coupe, a striking, long-nosed prototype that would be impressive even if unveiled by such European luxury brands as BMW or Audi. Says Mazda, it “embodies a minimalist Japanese aesthetic, achieving a simple ‘one-motion’ form that conveys a sense of speed.”
Let’s start with the Kai Concept. Like the Vision Coupe, it features an unusually long, low snout for a front-drive hatchback, especially considering that, it is shorter and lower – though slightly wider – than the current production model. Indeed, there’s very little that’s visually in common with the current Mazda3. The windshield is steeply raked, smoothly flowing into a coupe-like roofline that, itself, plunges into the rear liftgate.
Unlike a number of recent Mazda models, the Kai largely eschews hard creases and folds, though it is anything but slab-sided. There is a gracefully arch that rises from both front and rear wheel wells, flowing through the all-but hidden door handles.
The interior is as clean as the outside, with an almost minimalist, horizontal instrument panel that rises up in front of the driver. Surprisingly for today, there are three conventional gauges, but a separate infotainment system stretches from the gauge cluster’s binnacle all the way to the passenger door.
How much of this design will carry over into production? Mazda isn’t saying, but they all but assure we’ll be seeing the Kai Concept’s latest-generation SkyActiv-X powertrain. It’s a homogeneous charge compression ignition, or HCCI, engine, a long-held goal of many major manufacturers for decades. It essentially combines the best aspects of gas and diesel engines to deliver, among other things, extremely good mileage with low emissions.
(For more on the SkyActiv-X engine, Click Here.)
“We think it is an imperative and fundamental job for us to pursue the ideal internal combustion engine,” Mazda R&D head Kiyoshi Fujiwara told reporters in Japan in August. “Electrification is necessary but,” he added, “the internal combustion engine should come first.”
What car will get it first? Well, we’ll keep you posted as soon as we find out.
Moving onto the Mazda Vision Coupe Concept, it’s already receiving raves from the crowds at the Tokyo Motor Show. No surprise. It takes many of the visual cues on the Kai show car to a new, more luxurious level.
The Vision is a four-door coupe, and Mazda designers used gentle, albeit deep, scalloping on its sides to give the car a sensually sinister appearance. From nose-on, it’s almost all hood, with slits carved out like a shaved billet for the headlights. The grille is the familiar Mazda trapezoid, albeit a bit larger, with a thin lower intake running from corner to corner and giving the car a sense of menacing width.
(Toyota’s Tokyo concept can read your emotions. Click Here for the story.)
Inside, the Vision relies on “the traditional Japanese architectural concept of ma, the meticulous use of space to create atmosphere.” As with the Kai, it’s surprisingly minimalist, albeit with a more elegant use of woods and metals to imply a sense of motion.
The Vision Coupe is a follow-up to the Mazda RX-Vision concept we saw in Tokyo two years ago. The subtle name change clearly seems to suggest Mazda is foregoing the use of a rotary engine, though it is, for now, offering no details on what we might find under the hood of the prototype.
(Nissan’s IMx Tokyo concept is more powerful than the GT-R – and it’s electric. Click Here for more.)