Mazda has given an early glimpse of what to expect from its next-generation Mazda3 hatch, unveiling the Kai concept at the Tokyo Motor Show as a preview of what’s to come.
As well as hinting at the updated Kodo styling language to be worn by the all-new small hatch, the Kai also utilises the Mazda3’s pioneering SkyActiv-X petrol compression ignition engine technology.
According to Mazda, Kai, which translates as ‘the pioneer’, sets the scene for the next generation of vehicles for the company with all future models likely to adopt similar technology and styling.
Skyactiv-X is Mazda’s branding for its spark-assisted compression ignition petrol engine technology, which TMR sampled in Germany earlier in 2017.
The SkyActiv-X system uses ultra-high engine compression to ignite the fuel mixture instead of relying on a spark plug, much like a diesel engine does though in limited circumstances the engine can also use a traditional spark plug for more reliable running.
The process (traditionally known as homogeneous charge compression ignition) allows the engine to burn much less fuel than a traditional spark ignition cycle, which Mazda believes can significantly reduce fuel consumption of internal combustion engines reducing the reliance on alternative powertrain technologies like electric or hydrogen vehicles.
The next evolution of Mazda’s Kodo design language is also applied to the Kai concept, with the brand creating a simpler, cleaner surfacing treatment for its passenger and SUV range.
Proportionally, the Kai creates further visual presence thanks to an overall length that’s 40mm shorter than the current Mazda3 but a stance that’s 60mm wider and 75mm lower.
Traditional Kodo-style elements remain, including a long bonnet, upright nose, and a sharply tapered rear body as part of the Kai’s cab-rearward style. At the back there are new round tail lights inspired by past RX-7, RX-8 and MX-5 generations.
Inside, Mazda has overhauled its cabin styling in a bid to create a stronger bond between the driver and car under its Jinba-ittai philosophy of ‘horse and rider as one’.
The new look features an evolution of the current three-dial instrument cluster but integrates the infotainment screen across the width of the centre fascia. The concept appears to do away with most of the interior switches with most controls handled through the rotary dial on the centre console running between the front seats.
The next-generation Mazda3 is due to launch in 2019 and should become the first commercially available application of compression ignition on a petrol engine.
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