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Mazda3 espouses sleeker style

Three year 3: It took two years to develop the new Mazda3 look but the 'Kodo' design principle goes even further back to the 2010 Shinari concept.

Athletic ‘Kodo’ design is set to broaden latest Mazda3’s appeal

Mazda logo28 Jun 2013

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

STRIKING the right balance between proportion and ‘cheetah-like’ sleekness proved to be one of the biggest hurdles for the designers of the latest Mazda3.

Speaking at the global unveiling of the third-generation Japanese small car in Melbourne this week, Mazda Motor Corporation design head Yasushi Nakamuta revealed that it was necessary to stretch the wheelbase, pull the cabin back, and widen the stance substantially compared to the outgoing model.

Created within a two-year timeframe in Japan, with consultation from a number of major international markets including Australia, work on the BM-series Mazda3 commenced a little after the CX-5 and Mazda6 that pioneered the company’s much-touted ‘Kodo’ design language.

However the basic parameters of “athletic motion” that is the essence of Kodo was established at the same time for all three vehicles, as introduced by the Shinari concept car at the 2010 Paris motor show.

While that embodied design elements found in all three of the most recent production Mazda vehicles including the Mazda3, the subsequent Minagi and Takeri show concepts had more specific tasks, since they previewed the CX-5 and Mazda6 respectively.

The exterior design boss, Yasutake Tsuchida, revealed that the hatch came first because formulating the Kodo principles within the confines of a compact C-segment two-box shape was a bigger challenge than it would have been for the sedan – which is to be unveiled shortly.

He said the solution necessitated a more “cab-backward” silhouette, a60mm stretch of the wheelbase (to 2700mm), 40mm width increase (to 1795mm), and a more steeply angled rear window. It also called for shorter front overhang, achieved through moving the front wheel 55mm further forward.

Overall, the hatch remains the same length at 4460mm the upcoming sedan is 10mm shorter than before at 4580mm, while height drops 15mm to 1455mm.

Another obstacle the stylists faced included incorporating the ‘Signature Wing’ (the line that runs from one headlight base through to the hexagonal-like grille and up again) on the new Mazda3 without making the nose look too similar to the other Kodo cars – resolved by making the grille deeper and lights “like a Cheetah focussing”.

Mr Tsuchida mentioned the radii forming the broad shoulder line above the rear wheelarches (and repeated around the front arches as well) are his favourite design detail, since they help give the Mazda3 a muscular and squat stance.

“It is a diffusion of motion, like it is always accelerating,” he said.

Other noteworthy styling elements include the horizontal tail-lights and rear diffuser that are designed to make the Mazda3 look lower and wider the scalloped valance area surrounding the numberplate between the tail-lights that are meant to infuse solidity and structure and the black plastic wedges below the tailgate roof spoiler which act as air foils.

Even the textured twisting of each spoke in the 18-inch alloy wheels on the high-series Axela-spec pre-production Mazda3 as seen in the accompanying photos were specially designed to communicate Kodo, Mr Tsuchida added.

The next Kodo-influenced vehicle is due to be the redesigned Mazda2, expected in the latter half of next year, followed by the ND-series MX-5 (to be shared with Alfa Romeo) and the CX-9 replacement by the end of 2015.

Various offshoots of these – namely the third-generation Mazda3-based Mazda5/Premacy Mk4 seven-seater MPV and long-rumoured ‘CX-3’ baby crossover derived from the next Mazda2 – are also thought to be in the pipeline.

Among a host of other vehicles, Mr Tsuchida was the lead exterior design on the now-defunct CX-7 SUV in 2003 and 2004, and also worked on the first-generation BK-series Mazda3 during 2000 to 2002.

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