One cannot set aside the role of design in creating and selling cars. Together with solid engineering, reliability and safety, automotive design is one of the key decision pillars for customers who are looking for the right car to purchase.
That is why car companies spend a big chunk of their budgets on design. By employing teams of car designers, they ensure that next generation models will not only offer novelty and continue to attract would-be buyers, but also retain the essence of the brand that makes it distinct from a sea of choices in the market.
Lately, one car brand has put design to the forefront with its latest offerings. Mazda, a Japanese company that continuously links its design direction with its Japanese roots, has become one of the market’s most desirable brands.
In 2019, we had the chance to meet the Chief Designer of the Kai Concept displayed at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2017. Yasutake Tsuchida, (shown in photo with Mazda Philippines president Steven Tan) is also the Chief Designer of the current generation Mazda 3. At that time, Mazda was introducing Evolved Kodo, a refined, simplified and more mature version of its original Kodo: Soul of Motion design language introduced early in the decade.
Mazda 3’s new “less is more” approach in design. He even considers the ever-changing streaks of light on the Mazda3’s seamless door panels part of its dynamic aesthetic. This is in contrast with many of the brand’s rivals opting for more character lines, sharper angles, even faux vents and busier extras to mark their design directions.
As a small company in the global automotive market, Mazda is trying something different. And its latest designs show this direction. Fortunately,
Mazda designers like Tsuchida-san have a bevy of cars in Mazda’s storied past to derive inspiration from. He himself admires the RX-7’s design the most while also leading the design direction for the Mazda 3 and CX-7 in the early 2000s.
Indeed, Mazda design over the years has always had a visceral appeal. Some notable models have actually become distinct examples of Mazda’s evolving design language. Tsuchida-san’s Mazda CX-7 design is an example. Jerald Acosta, a visual creative and ad agency owner, continues to rave about its design to this day, 12 years after it was launched in the Philippines.
“The CX-7 really appealed to me as its design really set it apart,” shares Acosta. He adds, “It had curves in all the right places but still managed to look aggressive. It had the right balance of sportiness and elegance, which for guys like me who were just starting to transition from singlehood to family man was a good enough compromise.”
The Mazda RX-8, the design of which was led by Tsuchida-san’s boss, Ikuo Maeda, now Mazda’s Head of Global design, continues to turn heads to this day with its timeless appeal. Andy Adan, an Industrial Designer and Contractor, as well as a true Mazda loyalist, currently owns two RX-8s along with a slew of other Mazda models in his garage.
“Well, the most unique thing that appealed to me with the RX-8 is it’s 2+2 design,” shares Adan. “The first Mazda that I loved was the first generation RX-7, reveals Adan. Coincidentally, the RX-7 was penned by Ikuo-san’s father, Matasaburo-san. “The RX-8 was a good balance of having a sports car that I could share with the family. I’m an industrial designer and creature comfort inside a vehicle means a lot to me, especially when spending hours behind the wheel in Manila’s horrendous traffic,” adds the Mazdatech Philippines car club pioneer.
Two of Mazda’s more recent offerings have also inspired their owners. A model that highlights the Kodo design language is the CX-3. Its subcompact crossover proportions appeal to the modern day urbanite. “What initially caught my attention to the CX-3 was its smooth, subtle curves that are only accentuated when light hits its sculpted silhouette at different angles, creating an interplay of shadows,” shares Environmental Planner, Shirley Mazon.
“There’s a certain restraint in the CX-3’s sleek body design unlike many creases in the cars I see today,” she adds. “The slim headlights are contrasted by the “angry” wide grille. What adds to the flashy appeal is the bright red color. It’s simply eye-catching and one of the best looking cars out there.”
And for Mazda, color is indeed an integral part of a car’s design. Something not lost on Adel de Jesus, Digital Head for Emperador, when a Soul Red Mazda 6 also caught his fancy a few years ago. “There’s no better red than Soul Red,” proclaims de Jesus. “For me, the Mazda 6 is generally the best looking in its class. It has the perfect mix of sportiness and class. It has that timeless beauty that just never ages. I’m still madly in love with it today as I did the first time I laid eyes on it 8 years ago.”
And speaking of the timelessness of Mazda design, the first generation MX-5 must surely be among the most iconic and significant cars to have been produced by Mazda. The design of the Miata, as it is fondly called, was led by the legendary, Tom Matano. Gino Reyes, a past president of the Miata Club Philippines, has owned 10 first generation MX-5s over the years. “The MX-5 looks happy, approachable and not snobbish, like a girl you can easily pick up at a bar,” shares Reyes. “It also helps that it’s a looker from any angle.”
In essence, it is Adan’s long standing experience with the Mazda brand that lets him sum its design ethos succinctly, “Mazda tends to come out with designs that are timeless, and uniquely appealing but that’s skin deep compared to the fun factor one gets from owning and driving Mazda.” And while Mazda’s definition of beauty has evolved through the years, moving more towards the premium elegance end of the spectrum, the brand continues to evoke dynamism, energy and grace in its designs.
The way a car looks from afar is perhaps its greatest draw. It beckons one to come closer and see what else is there for the car to offer. But as Mazda owners themselves attest, driving a looker gives a sense of satisfaction like no other.
Motoring and motorsports are two of Mikko’s greatest passions. Combining more than twenty years of professional automotive photography and videography experience with years of touring car racing competition, and a deep understanding of the car industry, from both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ points of view, have given him a unique and insightful perspective in the motoring beat.