Mazda reveals its new hatchback concept, the Kai
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When Mazda unveiled the Kai hatchback concept car at last month’s Tokyo motor show, it was easy to predict that the vehicle is the new Mazda3. However, getting someone to confirm that wasn’t so easy.
Mazda used the motor show to reveal the new direction for its design ethos by showcasing the Vision Coupe at an event on the eve of the show, and then the Kai was unveiled by Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai the next day.
The concept hatchback is 50mm shorter, 60mm wider and 80mm lower than the current Mazda3, giving it the sportier and sexier look that was the aim of Kai’s chief designer, Yasutake Tsuchida.
A few days later, after a tour of Mazda’s plant in Hiroshima, someone did accidentally reveal the connection between the Kai and Mazda3.
Top US Mazda dealers had also attended the motor show and were in Hiroshima for the factory tour. The night before the American dealers flew home, I said to one of them that the Kai is going to make a great Mazda3, and he agreed. And then he realised his mistake.
“Who told you?” he asked. “You just did,” I replied.
He looked around his group, and then appealed to his contemporaries “but that’s what they said at the factory”
Okay, you don’t have to be an investigative journalist to realise that the Kai hatchback will be the design and technology direction for the Mazda3, and that will be a smart move for the brand.
Mazda’s global head of design, Ikuo Maeda, said the “Kai concept is actually closer to being a production model”.
Kai means “pioneer” in Japanese, another clue to its mission for the company.
The Kai hatchback has minimalistic looks and the concave side panels that are found in the Vision Coupe.
The Kai concept and the Vision Coupe join Mazda’s RX-Vision coupe as the lead for “Kodo 2.0” focus. The models are the focus of the new design strategy of “less is more” for Mazda.
The design team of the Vision Coupe and Tsuchida-san worked with light and shadow to create subtle details and achieve the desired result.
The teams also focused on Japanese culture of minimalist aesthetics and stripping away excessive aspects of vehicle design while wanting to make “cars as art”.
But the Kai isn’t just a piece of art, it’s an important part of the Mazda line-up.
Maeda-san said “people worldwide love hatchbacks for the great value they offer, including features such as highly practical packaging”.
“Mazda set its sights on bringing the brand’s unique value to the universal presence and tradition of the hatchback [with the Kai concept].
“Specifically, Mazda decided to take on a new hatchback challenge through the application of evolved Kodo design,” he said.
“The goal was to create an alluring hatchback that differs from all that have come before ... and represents the ideal hatchback form in its simplicity and beauty.”
Inside, the Kai has the horizontal elements and the minimalist feel to create space.
The system “maximises the zone in which compression ignition is possible, and yields “a seamless transition between compression ignition and [traditional] spark ignition”.
That SkyActiv-X powertrain was used in a camouflaged Mazda3 at a technology workshop Driven attended near Frankfurt in August. The new powertrain is a crossover between the gasoline engine and the diesel engine. It would also have the fuel efficiency of a diesel engine combined with low carbon dioxide emissions.
With Mazda moving towards the new-generation minimalist Kodo design with its hatch and coupe, will be it introducing this look on SUVs?
“I cannot tell you now, we have these two cars at the show and we utilise the design language in any vehicle,” said Maeda-san.
What about the BT-50 ute?
“What we will be able to do is make an elegant body form and then more rugged,” he admitted.
So will Mazda create such a ute?
“It’s a secret,” he said, laughing.
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