(from Mazda Press
Release) 50 years of passion
When Mazda released its first passenger car, the R360 Coupe in 1960,
it quickly gained recognition for its minimalist form and great
practicality. For Mazda it opened a new chapter in the company's
history as a builder of passenger cars. For Japanese consumers, the
R360 Coupe realized their dreams by making such a desirable car
Since then Mazda Design has consistently aimed to distinguish itself
with its unique personality. At Mazda, design goals go beyond the
usual practical focus of industrial design and instead set out to
evoke a sense of excitement and expectation in all who see or drive
a Mazda. Underlying this approach is the simple fact that every
Mazda designer is fundamentally passionate about cars. As such,
their aim is to breathe life into their designs and endow them with
true emotional character. The goal is to create designs that
communicate Mazda’s design vision with people around the world. It
is this design philosophy that has challenged Mazda designers to
continue chasing perfection for half a century.
Now 50 years on Mazda Design is entering a new phase. By exploring
the meaning of 'the passionate drive' Mazda Design seeks to discover
which vehicle form represents the ultimate Mazda persona. This
exploration underpins the vision for the coming new generation of
Design Heritage - A passion for
The movement that began
with the R360 Coupe and continued through the 1970s represents Mazda
Design's formative years, during which time Mazda began to establish
a unique design language. Representative works from this era include
the futuristic styling of the Cosmo Sports 110S and the clean,
simple lines of the original RX-7; lines that were designed to
highlight the dynamic performance of the rotary engine that powered
it . As these efforts took shape a uniquely sporty character evolved
that became synonymous with the Mazda brand.
Approaching the second half of the 1980s, Mazda gained an even
stronger desire to create cars with an almost living emotion. This
desire developed into a fusion of functionality and beauty which
resulted in the kind of delicately controlled surfaces and emotional
form that gave birth to cars like the Mazda MX-5 (Mazda Roadster in
Japan). The MX-5 was to redefine the meaning of the lightweight
sports car and was to become the embodiment of pure driving pleasure
around the world. This message continued with the 3rd generation
Mazda RX-7 (Enfini RX-7 in Japan), which further enhanced the appeal
of a rotary engine sports car.
‘Motion’ in design turned heads
around the world
As the year 2000
arrived, Mazda design focused on athletic and sporty ‘motion’ as a
design theme for the new millenium. This design theme reflected the
evolving design language while supporting the newly introduced
“Zoom-Zoom” brand message. Mazda's designers aimed to excite Mazda
owners and observers. It was a design language intended to encourage
people to literally fall in love with Mazda cars and the notion of
driving pleasure. The first design of this period was the Mazda6
(Mazda Atenza in Japan), followed by the Mazda RX-8 and other
models. The strategy was well received and these cars won a variety
of prestigious automotive awards, as well as earning high acclaim.
This design theme of athletic and sporty ‘motion’ continued with the
development of the “Nagare” (“Flow” in Japanese) design philosophy.
The Nagare design language reflected the beauty of nature as
expressed by natural movement. By cleverly incorporating character
lines inspired by nature into vehicle forms – such as wind, water,
sand dunes, lava flows and other naturally moving elements – Mazda
design pushed its exploration of the beauty of natural ‘motion’ to
exciting new levels. Under the “Nagare” design theme, Mazda
introduced seven concept cars and ultimately saw the new Mazda5 put
this theme into production reality.
Mazda SHINARI – Fast and strong
motion that strikes the heart
The Mazda SHINARI is a
pure design concept model of a four-door, four-seater sports coupe
which perfectly expresses the ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’ design theme
in a graceful and carefree form.
The Japanese word shinari describes the powerful yet supple
appearance of great resilient force when objects of high tensile
strength, such as steel or bamboo, are twisted or bent. It also
refers to the appearance of a person or animal as it flexibly
transforms its body to generate a fast movement. Within this
movement, Mazda designers discovered the potential to realize ‘KODO
– Soul of Motion’.
One glance at SHINARI stirs the emotions. Its form expresses the
powerful movement of a lean body with highly developed muscles,
supple but at the same time filled with tension. Mazda’s desire is
to reach car lovers’ hearts and go beyond the notion of rational
logic. This form purely embodies that desire.
Yasushi Nakamuta, the
chief designer who led the design of the third generation Mazda
MX-5, was the first to begin the ideation of the SHINARI concept:
“The challenge for us was to create an innovative new expression for
energetic and powerful movement; something that we had never
attempted before. We began by developing the design around the image
of a predator, as it strikes at its prey, or the stabbing movement
in kendo, Japanese fencing, to express the instant where accumulated
force is released.
Translating this initial moment of ‘instantaneous movement’ being
pursued by Mazda design into the SHINARI concept car presented
various challenges to both the designers and the modelers working on
the project. The process involved a series of activities that saw
the team draw inspiration from a variety of places. This included
each team member creating sketches and freely sculpting models from
clay to represent their own perceptions of ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’.
It then continued with the exploration of the functional beauty seen
in traditional Japanese crafts and the motion witnessed in Japan’s
ancient martial arts.
As the team continued this exploratory process, Nakamuta focused on
a force so powerful that it can bend a strong section of steel
plate. The Mazda SHINARI design adds subtle twists and tension to
create forms that express agile and powerful movement, resulting in
the expression of ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’.
Exterior – unbridled expression of
With an image of
strength emanating across every panel and component, the Mazda
SHINARI looks ready to leap at any second. The strong backbone
running through the body, the sudden release of pent-up energy, and
the interplay of beautiful, supple movements – this form is the
expression of all of these elements.
The appearance of the A-pillar, which tapers towards the rear of the
body, the shape of the cabin, the front fender; these and SHINARI's
other elements combine to create proportions that suggest the
instantaneous release of energy to propel the car forward.
The distinctive front fenders represent the further evolution of the
prominent fenders introduced in the RX-8. They emphasize the front
wheels and accentuate the dynamic movement expressed in the side of
the body, in a style that is both sporty and elegant. Character
lines flow rearward from the front fenders and meet those traveling
forward from the rear fenders in a multi-layered effect. This fusion
creates an appearance that suggests a forceful sense of tension with
a graceful beauty.
All of SHINARI's body surfaces appear as if constantly undergoing
transformation. There is no static shape to be found, as if the car
is in perpetual motion. For instance the subtle control of the angle
of the upper surface of the side sill, from the front to the rear,
results in a form that suggests a flash of speed along the body of
The three-dimensional sculpting of the front grille proudly
emphasizes the Mazda lineage. A powerful line of movement originates
at the grille and continues through the bonnet, fender, front lamp
modules and bumper. In particular the floating bar – which links the
grille with the headlights – is a three-dimensional expression of
speed, an accent that represents a new signature element for Mazda.
For the headlights, Mazda's designers have created a headlamp
structure with no outer lens, exposing the deep-set lights and
suggesting the eyes of a wild animal about to pounce on its prey.
was a major priority for SHINARI, and the centre of the lower
sections – on both the front and rear bumpers – are designed to
optimize the flow of air along the underbody of the car. The flared
line that connects the front bumper with the side sills and rear
bumper, fulfils a similar role and streamlines the flow of air along
the body, while further contributing to the aerodynamic performance
of the car.
The outer mirror, wheels
and tailpipes accentuate the sense of agility and lightness and
convey a hand-made feel with a human touch which contributes to the
impression of superior, premium quality.
For the body colour a luminous metallic blue has been chosen to
convey an image of hard metal. The strong yet elaborate brilliance
of the highlights combines with the clearly defined contrast of the
shadows to create a balance between the sharp, three-dimensional
form and the appearance of surfaces bending and transforming; a
balance which was a design objective. The fierce, bright flash of
the forged steel of a Japanese sword is combined with wisdom and
sensuality to express superlative quality.
Interior – Exploring a new
approach of oneness between car and driver
When creating the
SHINARI concept interior Mazda's objective was to design a
distinctive premium cockpit that incorporates its interior DNA.
While the exterior design can be appreciated through motion, the
interior, meanwhile, is experienced in a static, seated position. A
commitment to essential mechanical function and excellent ergonomics
has created a driver focused interior that embodies the ‘ultimate
athletic space’ while expressing a sense of speed inside the
Entering the vehicle your eye is immediately drawn to the driver
focused cockpit which surrounds the driver. Its angle and surface
movement sets the tone for the whole of the interior. The highlight
of interior is a surfacing between the upper and the lower
instrument panel which is contrasted by crisp surface edges and
precision mechanical details. Interior craftsmanship is
characterized by the use of bright trim work integrated along the
cockpit’s perimeter and accentuating the sensation of speed. An
authentic application of materials including machined aluminum, soft
natural leathers and the precision design of instrumentation and
controls, gives the interior an alluring quality that exceeds
Craftsmanship meets total car
Mazda design wanted to
re-define the proximity of the driver to the instrumentation and
controls by establishing intuitive ‘reach zones’; what Mazda calls
‘dedicated driving ergonomics’. All instrumentation and controls
have been designed and positioned to enhance the driving experience.
By separating the instrument panel into two individual zones, the
driver cockpit is isolated from the rest of the interior and allows
the driver to focus on the task of driving. To reinforce the message
of driver orientation, the design of the primary and secondary
instruments echo the main cockpit shape, to provide a clean
uncluttered view from the driver’s seat. Seated behind a
thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel the driver sits within a
uniquely contoured seat, providing maximum comfort and support.
The principle of ‘dedicated driving ergonomics’ is further reflected
in the car’s next generation Human Machine Interface (HMI). The
availability of smaller electronic components has allowed SHINARI’s
designers to create a floating HMI three-dimensional display; a
design element that represents the very latest HMI technology . The
system offers three distinct modes: ‘Business, Pleasure and Sport’.
The Business-mode enables the driver to stay connected to his work
day tasks. In Pleasure-mode, focus is on comfort and entertainment,
allowing the driver to tailor the interior mood creating a relaxed
atmosphere. In Sport-mode the driving set-up is changed; the paddle
shifter is activated, suspension settings are tuned for performance
driving, and controls are simplified allowing the driver to focus
solely on the driving experience.
The main dashboard surfaces are positioned low, and away from the
occupants, creating a unique sensation of openness. The HMI
interface and the dedicated seating controls for the front seat
passenger represent a new level of detail and functionality for a
Mazda premium interior. Even though the interior volumes have been
rearranged in this way there is a high level of sportiness to
enhance the feeling of driving dynamics.
SHINARI represents the
profound connection of driver and machine and the beginning of
Mazda's latest design theme ‘KODO-Soul in Motion’. SHINARI exhibits
a functional aesthetic that will continue to evolve as Mazda
continues to define its next generation of vehicles.
The quest for a Mazda original and
a Japanese original
With SHINARI as the
first step, Ikuo Maeda, general manager of Mazda’s design division,
aims to create original Mazda designs that will be recognized around
the world. He summarizes his resolve in the following words:
“My goal is to create designs that people can point to proudly and
say, ‘This is a Mazda design’. There is no need for Mazda to build
cars for people who are only concerned with ‘style’ and ‘trends’.
Whether working on sports cars or compact cars, I have always worked
to create designs that evoke an emotional response in people and I
hope to keep doing the same as I remain fully committed to develop
designs for people who love and admire cars. It is my personal
belief that the only way to create designs that fundamentally
connect with people and to create designs they love, is if the
people creating them are absolutely passionate about cars and are
willing to make that passion a firm policy for design expression.
“Further, I consider it vitally important to have an awareness of
Japanese originality in designing cars for Mazda. This is not merely
about incorporating traditional Japanese elements into car design. I
believe in reflecting the Japanese spirit in car designs as part of
a subconscious practice. So, while I consider where this may lead in
the future, my plan is to create cars that will be instantly
recognizable as a Mazda, even when viewed at a distance. My ultimate
goal is to create a brand presence that car lovers around the world
recognize as representing both Mazda originality and Japanese
originality. Future Mazda’s will move people physically and
emotionally – this is ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’”
HISTORY: 50 years of Mazda car
R360 Coupe (1960)
The R360 Coupe was Mazda’s first passenger vehicle. Its 2+2 cabin
was enclosed in a stylishly functional coupe form that represented
the cutting-edge of Japanese car design. The car combined appealing
design with an affordable price in an era when owning one’s own car
was still a dream for many; upon its release became a huge hit.
The R360 Coupe model represented a new page in history, not only for
Mazda but also for passenger cars in Japan.
Luce 1500 (1966)
Based on an original Bertone design from Italy, the 'A-line' style
of the Luce 1500 – due to the shape formed by the three pillars in
the front, centre and rear – was adopted by Mazda's designers who
enhanced its form with a unique Mazda flavour.
This modern, elegant design conveyed a dazzling individuality that
exceeded the general level of styling of Japanese cars at the time
and was in keeping with the name LUCE, the Italian word meaning
‘light’ or ‘shine’.
Cosmo Sport 110S (1967)
The Cosmo Sport, the – the world’s first mass produced model with a
dual-rotor rotary engine – was unveiled to the world at the Tokyo
Motor Show in October 1963 and went into production in 1967 after
years of intensive tests. Mazda’s president at the time, Tsuneji
Matsuda, amazed onlookers when he drove into the motor show venue in
a prototype of the car. The Cosmo Sport combined gorgeous,
futuristic proportions with superior drive performance and truly
embodied the words ‘it feels more like flying that driving’.
Luce Rotary Coupe (1969)
The Luce Rotary Coupe equipped a hardtop coupe body with the new and
exclusive 655cc x 2 rotary engine. With maximum output of 126hp and
a top speed of 190km/hour, this was the first time that the
front-wheel drive layout was adopted to utilize the rotary engine’s
compact size to maximum benefit.
With its low, sharp front form characteristic of the front mid-ship
engine positioning, daringly low wedge-shaped body optimized for
aerodynamics and glass hatch back, the launch of the Savanna RX-7
was met with global acclaim. This model was extremely successful in
motorsport leading to 100 wins in IMSA competition in the United
States. Up against rivals including Porsche's 911 and Nissan's
Fairlady 240Z, the car's achievements were unprecendented
Cosmo (929) Coupe (1981)
The second-generation Cosmo was launched in 1981 and was equipped
with the world’s first turbo-charged rotary engine. To optimize its
aerodynamic design, the car was equipped with four-lamp retractable
headlights, a low bonnet and a thin radiator grill. The drag
coefficient of this two-door hardtop was just CD = 0.32, giving the
car the best aerodynamic performance in the world at the time.
Commercial sales of the MX-5 began in America in the spring of 1989.
From launch, the MX-5 sold at rates that far exceeded all
expectations. The popularity of the Roadster was not simply a
success for Mazda – it also became the trigger for other car
manufacturers around the world to launch sports car convertibles.
Lightweight sports cars had disappeared for a period during the
1970s, and the MX-5 model was the main player in the segment's
revival at the end of the 20th century.
The Carol's minimalist micro-car format was combined with the same
adorable and appealing design of the original Carol from
1962.Together with a range of different variations including the
turbo and canvas-top versions, the car gained a broad popularity
The 3rd generation RX-7 (FD) saw a dramatic leap in dynamic
performance, and also embodied a ‘gram strategy’ of comprehensive
weight reduction. At the same time, this model adopted an alluring
and enticing style, based on the concept of ‘Beauty in the Beast’.
The previous two generations of the RX-7 had built a strong presence
for the model as a high-performing yet affordable sports car.
The car was developed on the theme of ‘Lasting Value’ – value that
will never fade – with the focus placed on superior quality and
sophistication. In a poll of readers by the German industry magazine
Auto Motor und Sport in 1993, Xedos6 ranked first for ‘Best Cars in
the world in 1993’ in the mid-size import car category.
The 323F, with its crouching form which could be likened to a
sprinter just about to run a race, appeared on the market with, what
was at the time, the world’s smallest V6 engine (2.0) for a
mass-produced vehicle. This was a sporty compact car with superior
motion performance, distinctive form and outstanding safety
features, and promoted by Mazda as a ‘four-door coupe’.
The Mazda6 was the start of the success story for Mazda's new
Zoom-Zoom generation. Modern, sporty and dynamic, the car marked a
watershed moment for Mazda and embodied a new image for its
vehicles. In all its three body styles, the aggressive head and tail
lamps, the taut lines and the sporty cockpit seduced new customers
around the world.
At launch in 2003, the Mazda RX-8 coupe represented an impressive
evolution of the rotary-engine sports car from the only company in
the world to make them. Its dynamic and sporty design, unique
centre-opening doors and room for four – along with a
cleaner-running, more compact naturally-aspirated RENESIS rotary
engine – made it a big hit with sports car customers around the
The second model of the Zoom-Zoom line-up, the Mazda3 was the heir
to the very successful 323 generations, bringing a fresh look to the
compact segment with a very dynamic and athletic design in both body
types; hatchback and sedan. The cockpit look was perfect for the
sporty driving feel of the car. A few years later it would be topped
by the high-performance MPS version, the fastest Mazda ever, with
250 km/h top speed.
The Mazda CX-7 is a crossover vehicle that combines high-performance
power with 260 PS, a sporty design, SUV functionality and comfort.
Developed using the MX-Crossport concept car (2005 Detroit Motor
Show) as a starting point, the CX-7’s silhouette is dominated by an
aggressively-raked windscreen angle of 66° which is even more
extreme than on many sports cars. This is combined with a sweeping
roofline, kick-up belt line and large, powerful fenders over 18-inch
alloy wheels, giving the car an aggressive road stance.
The 2007 Mazda2 car ended the trend towards larger and heavier
automobiles, weighing 100 kilos less than its predecessor. It’s a
revolution that led to lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions,
better performance and handling and nimbleness. The car’s dynamic
design reflects these qualities and along with its other numerous
assets resulted in the sub-compact Mazda winning the 'World Car of
the Year' award in 2008.
The all-new Mazda5 refines the winning recipe of its predecessor.
Its exterior styling stands out of the crowd in a generally ‘boxy’
C-MAV segment, integrating Nagare design elements for the first time
in a production vehicle, while its functionality still benefits from
two sliding rear doors with a very large opening, generous leg room
for seven passengers and high levels of seat flexibility called
Karakuri. It features new powertrains including the 2.0 DISI with
Mazda unique stop and start system called istop.
The RX-500 was the first concept car from Mazda which featured a
rotary engine. Named in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of
Mazda’s establishment, the RX-500 was displayed at the Tokyo Motor
Show in 1970. With a top speed of more than 200 km/hour,
butterfly-wing doors that rotated upward to allow entry and exit,
and tail lamps in three colours of green, yellow and red, the
innovative concept attracted widespread attention.
The RX-01 was shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1995 and was also
equipped with a rotary engine. This model’s unique form, including
its short and wide proportions, was characteristic of the MSP-RE
(multi-side port rotary engine) layout. The car had a dry sump
lubrication system an extremely slanted nose and aerodynamic wing
and was well-received.
This was the RX-8 concept car announced at the Tokyo Motor Show in
1999. It was equipped with the newly-developed rotary engine,
RENESIS, and was a completely new four-seater sports car. At the
time the model already sported an advanced package and design, but
for the production version Ikuo Maeda, chief designer of the RX-8,
led the way in further refinement work to give the design a feeling
of even greater dynamic sensation.
MX-Sport Tourer (2001)
Displayed at the 2001 Geneva Motor Show, the MX-Sport Tourer
featured double doors and a vario-lamella roof that slid open
accordion-style. This concept car struck a balance between the
convenience of a wagon and the dynamic design of a sports car. The
interior featured rear seats that could be stored away with a single
push of an electromagnetic switch and an extensive fully-flat load
area. The concept ultimately led to the Karakuri seat arrangement
adopted in the Mazda6 and Mazda5.
The Nagare concept gave its name to a series of concept cars
inspired by nature. At the time Mazda’s designers were simply
exploring potential surface language and vehicle proportions that
would begin the evolution of Flow. Most impressive of all were the
two long butterfly doors that moved forward and up to enable access
to the four-seat interior. With a centrally-located driving seat and
wraparound lounge-effect rear seating, Nagare managed to combine
driving dynamics and interior function all in the one innovative
The most futuristic of all the Nagare concepts, the Taiki is a
sports cars designed for a sustainable society, exploring
weight-reduction and aerodynamic technologies in a bid to improve
fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. Taking its inspiration
from the Earth’s atmosphere, the groundbreaking stretched-coupe form
with its front-engine rear-wheel-drive layout, short overhangs and
all-glass canopy, was designed to visually express air flow which
can be seen in everything from its surface treatment to its complex
but beautiful wheel arches and wing-like tail.
The Mazda Furai concept (Japanese for ‘sound of the wind’) debuted
at 2008 North American International Auto Show. It was created at
Mazda’s studio in Irvine, California to blur the boundaries between
road car and weekend racer to create an actual functional race car.
On Furai, Nagare’s ‘flow lines’ actually enhance the vehicle’s
aerodynamic performance, by channeling and directing the airflow
over Furai’s body surface. Its ethanol-fuelled, three-rotor rotary
engine produces 450 HP at 9,000 rpm.