Mike Stevens | Aug 31, 2010

MAZDA SHINARI

This is Shinari, the new face of Mazda.

Gone is the company's 'Nagare' design language crafted by former design boss Laurens van den Acker, replaced by a new styling philosophy dubbed Kodo - Japanese for "soul of motion" (rather than the "thrusting motion" tag given by Mazda's European design boss, Peter Birtwhistle).

As for Shinari, that's a term for which its meaning "resistance to being bent" is clearly evident in its chiseled lines, seemingly hewn from stone rather than folded from steel and alloy.

Led by Ikuo Maeda, the man behind the RX-8 and the Mazda2, the Shinari concept is Maeda's first outing as the Japanese carmaker's global design chief. Maeda describes the Kodo design language featured in the Shinari as being built around three key concepts: speed, tension and allure.

Speaking at the unveiling of the Shinari in Milan, Maeda said the ultimate aim of the concept, and of the Kodo language, was to convey energetic motion, evoking "emotion and affection" from the viewer - a theme Maeda aims to transfer to Mazda's future production models.

"This design will lead to the next generation of Mazda design and will lead to other elements," Maeda said of the Shinari's Kodo-driven styling, although he did not offer a timeline on when Mazda production models would start appearing with the new look.

Within the Mazda brand, the RX-8 is the clear connection to the Shinari, but there are also hints of the Aston Martin Rapide, the Tesla Model S and the Fisker Karma - all stylish and futuristic takes on the four-door sports philosophy.

The Shinari is very much a 'Mazda-looking' design however, with the softer side of the outgoing Nagare language still quietly present in its lines, along with the sloping bonnet that harks back to not only the now seven year-old RX-8, but also the legendary and iconic RX-7.

Pleasingly for some, the birth of the Kodo design language may also mean the end - or at least an overhaul - of the short-lived 'smiling' face of the current Mazda line-up, replaced by a sharper and more assertive version of the brand's trapezoidal grille.

Mazda design boss Ikuo Maeda is pushing the Japanese carmaker toward a future as "Japan's Alfa Romeo," producing cars "which are great to drive, but crucially that also have the right premium feel, particularly inside."

It might be Maeda's vision, but it's one that is clearly shared across the brand's international family. Derek Jenkins, Mazda's design boss for North America - responsible for the Shinari's equally-futuristic interior - described the new concept as a sign of Mazda's aspirations.

"Even though we are a mainstream brand we have a customer that wants a little bit more," Jenkins told press in Milan.

"We monitor premium segments, we monitor premium trends, and the question is ultimately how can we get some of that feeling into a more affordable vehicle. We think our customer wants a little bit more sophistication."

What the future holds for the Shinari concept remains to be seen and, for now, Mazda is giving nothing away. But we've heard talk of an RX-9...

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