By on October 25, 2017

Mazda Kai Concept

Mazda is no stranger to creating knockout concepts – witness the Kabura in 2006 and the Shinari a few years later. At this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, though, the Hiroshima designers have outdone themselves with the stunningly beautiful Vision Coupe and Kai concept cars.

Mazda Vision Coupe Concept

Following up on the RX-Vision concept of a couple years ago, the Vision is – despite its coupe moniker – a rakish four-door. Mazda’s KODO design language is in full effect, with deep side scallops and a windshield-to-grille measurement seemingly longer than the entire island of Japan. Despite having four doors, classic coupe proportions are obvious.

Mazda Vision Coupe Concept

Mazda calls the design of the Vision Coupe a mature expression of the KODO language, one which may signal a shift upmarket for some of its products with elegant and premium styling. It is common industry knowledge that Mazda longs to increase its bottom end through a higher average transaction price of its vehicles, rather than more volume. A car like the Vision Coupe would be a big step in that direction.

Mazda Vision Coupe Concept

The interior of the Vision Concept is equally striking and not entirely made of vaporware and moonbeams. A trio of gauges sit ahead of the driver, with an elegant-looking tachometer flanked by two smaller dials, possibly reconfigurable screens. Mazda says this model features a “see-through” screen for driver information, functioning as a display only at those times when it is required, and creating an interior space with great visibility. Okay, then.

Mazda Kai Concept

A bit more grounded in reality is the Kai concept, which stands an excellent chance of pointing the direction towards the next Mazda 3. Featuring all of Mazda’s next-gen Skyactiv technology, the Kai Concept is Hiroshima’s littlest hatch cranked up to eleven.

This author truly believes the current Mazda 3 is one of the best looking small cars on the market. If the next 3 looks anything like the Kai, the compact end of Mazda’s portfolio will become even more attractive.

Mazda Kai Concept

As with the Vision Coupe, the Kai evolves Mazda’s KODO design language, smoothing out some of the current 3’s creases in favor of sweeping body panels, an aggressively forward-canted grille, and very narrow headlights. The Kai’s interior looks largely production-ready as well, featuring Mazda hallmarks like a tachometer placed dead-ahead of the driver and a natty three-spoke steering wheel.

Mazda Kai Concept

Some details will surely be toned down for production once the pencil-necked accounting department gets ahold of the it, but the compact five-door Kai is an excellent starting point for the next 3. As part of Mazda’s “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030” mandate (yes, that’s its real name), we could see a new 3 on North American roads in the latter half of next year as a 2019 model.

The Tokyo Motor Show runs until November 5th.

[Images: Mazda]

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55 Comments on “Mazda Drops Duo of Sexy Concepts; One Hints At the Next 3...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Dat non-existent rearward visibility. Mmmmmm.

    And if Mazda wants to move upmarket, they are going to need more engines. 2.5T is just a start in a world where you can get a Ford Fusion with a V6TT.

    Also, where is my MS3?

    • 0 avatar
      Jerome10

      I love Mazda threads where the first comment is either about moar power or rust.

      Not picking on the poster here but I find it hilarious how often this happens.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        It’s a grievance worth repeating. My 3i rental has left me with lingering and persistent disappointment.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “Moar power” is a legit want for this brand, I’d say.

        • 0 avatar
          silentsod

          Indeed, Mazda’s cars are adequately powered but they are not at fun levels of motive force.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            It’s not that Mazdas don’t have enough power – it’s how they make their power that turns off buyers.

            The 3 and 6 have NA engines tuned for high-rpm power versus torque. If you keep it above 4000 rpm, these cars will move quite smartly, and the engines are well-sorted for that kind of driving. But that creates a lot of noise, and most buyers won’t want that. They want their power delivered at lower rpms. Turbos are ideal for this kind of situation.

          • 0 avatar
            silentsod

            I’m thinking more – a 300HP car at 3100lb is fun and if the chassis can take it 400HP is much more amusing to play with. 180HP in a 3100lb car is merely adequate but ain’t going to light anyone’s fire.

            This is subjective per driver but I personally find the above to be true. More than 400HP in a street car of that weight gets you in trouble fast/not applicable in most situations.

            The way Mazda has tuned their 2.5L and 2.5L Turbo don’t seem to demand revving the balls off them in comparison to, say, a NA Porsche flat six which is more or less the motor(s) I think of when I hear a car needs to really be wound out.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “This author truly believes the current Mazda 3 is one of the best looking small cars on the market.”

    As a different beholder, I think it’s homely.

    The Mazda 3 doesn’t have a straight-6 under the hood, so I’ll never understand why it appears that way.

    • 0 avatar
      Groovypippin

      To accommodate the length of the 4-2-1 exhaust header off the back of the engine, which is required to cool a SKYACTIV engine running at a 13:1 compression ratio on regular gasoline. You’re welcome.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        Here’s my thing; the 2litre Honda K20 and the 2litre Mazda have roughly the same output, the Civic and Mazda3 2litres accelerate at roughly the same pace, so what’s the point of the Mazda layout? All that his space and not much discernable real world difference.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Oooh, yes – the KODO design language. How is it that M-B, Ferrari and Audi consistently produce knockout cars without any reference to a design language?

    Anyone remember the swoop-swooshy-sided Mazda 5 minivan? How about the smiley 2010 Mazda 3? Yeah, they were gorgeous.

    • 0 avatar
      silentsod

      You must not know what design language means; M-B, Ferrari and Audi all have a design language that they adhere to in their current production line (and with Audi, apparently nearly the same since the mid 90s!). Perhaps you need to familiarize yourself with what constitutes a design language or at least realize that you can immediately identify each of the above makes even if you don’t know the model.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        Perhaps you can realize that there is no need to ostentatiously refer to your design language by name every time you come out with a new model or new concept.

        Branding taken to a ridiculous extreme…it’s pushy and amateurish.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Yes, the last thing struggling brands should do is “branding”. So armature.

        • 0 avatar
          scott25

          Maybe some people like how Mazda is the only Japanese brand that actually still acknowledges its Japanese heritage on a regular basis.

          Toyota seems to be heading that way lately as well. Japanese cars should be proudly Japanese the way American and German cars are proud of their origins.

    • 0 avatar
      True_Blue

      Those were not using Kodo, that was Nagare.

      MB,and Audi absolutely have design languages as well. Mercedes is going to Aesthetics A, Audi is Vorsprung durch Technik.

      Since Audi customers state that the design of the car is the *number one reason they buy an Audi*, you’d better believe they take design languages seriously.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        Again, it’s not bold and underscore in every M-B and Audi press release…come on.

        And yes, those lookers were Nagare. Whatever…they took themselves so seriously and then dropped those turds.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          “they took themselves so seriously”

          Yes, with a tagline like “Zoom-Zoom”, clearly they’re just SO serious. And, nothing like bringing up cars that have been put out of production to make a point about current cars.

          Sure the Focus RS is cool, but they once made the Pinto! Hello?! The Pinto! Every compact car they’ll ever make will be crap because they once made the Pinto. Amirite?

          C’mon.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Shhhhh! He has a point! So what if its based on absolutely nothing. They have a named design language! That’s a terrible thing, because, um, because its, well, it just is! Don’t argue with valid counter points! How dare you.

        • 0 avatar
          True_Blue

          Heh, agreed.
          What I get from comments like “branding taken to a ridiculous extreme…it’s pushy and amateurish” is that the speaker doesn’t understand design or how it works in an industrial / automotive setting. What does “branding” have to do with design language?

          Just because Mercedes or Audi doesn’t name-drop their current philosophy with the frequency of Mazda doesn’t mean they aren’t every bit as committed to it, as Mazda is.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      J Taurus FTW. Two go in, only one comes out alive!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Speaking of which, I wish I could post pictures here. My boss at work has a current Subie Legacy. Our department just got a current Ford Escape. parked next to each other, the similarities of the front end styling are ridiculous. They are damn near twins right down to the blue oval corporate badges on their grilles.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Wow, if Mazda wanted premium, they got it. That sedan looks gorgeous inside and out, especially how subtly the metal is formed behind the front wheel arch.

    If they, or anyone else, could build a production interior like that, Rolls Royce doesn’t even do elegance that well.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “…longer than the entire island of Japan”

    hah? which one?

  • avatar
    slavuta

    so, Vision is Mazda9 and this Kai has something from 1st gen Mazda3. Looks good

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Mazda9… Exactly what I came here to say. Make it RWD and with a buttery smooth Inline 6, and premium here we come. Of course, Mazda doesn’t have the resources to build a one-off engine for this car, they can’t even come up with a V-6 for their 6 sedan and larger CUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        They don’t need a V6 since only the Camry has one now.
        I fully expect the next 6 gets the 2.5 turbo and I would hope the refreshed 2020 CX5 gets a signature level, the 2.5 turbo and the Skyactiv X.
        Interestingly the current 6 is a 2017.5 starting this month. I wouldn’t be surprised if a new 6 is out next year – based on the rotation (CX5, 6, 3) and the fact the CX5 had a 2016.5 then the new model. It extends the model year to about 18 months.

      • 0 avatar
        Caboose

        Agreed that a one-off I-6 might be too costly to develop, but what about a 4.0L V8 from the existing 2.0 I-4? All they would need to engineer is the bottom end.

        If they really wanted to go crazy, they could build us a 3.0 V8 from two of the 1.5L I-4s in the JDM ND Miata and slap a couple of turbos on it. What a screamer that could be!

  • avatar
    vvk

    Windows getting smaller. Wheels getting bigger.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I have to say, in my eye, Mazda is spot on with their current design language.

    The new cx5 and cx9 look fantastic. Strong but svelte. Miata is great in my eye.

    I look forward to the new 3 and 6. And am intrigued by the HCCI engine.

  • avatar
    probert

    That KAI is very pretty. Make it a two seater with a hatch. Then make it a 2 seater with a hatch and 4wd and 7″ clearance. Then….

  • avatar
    brettc

    Buy a Mazda – Because why would you want to see the cars coming toward you?

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    as earlier stories here about the next generation of rear view mirrors discussed, this modern car is getting worse. Hopefully so one we can get this new tech because the demands of the designer to day are forcing the form away from function.
    Door wedges without rear vision…that’s what we are getting.

    we find a way of cheap fuel and stronger bodies to allow for the visibility, or we get used to completely enclosed cars with virtual vision tech.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    That hatch with a 2.5T would be a serious contender for my next vehicle…

  • avatar
    TMA1

    That hatch opening is tiny and useless. Good luck on any Ikea runs with that thing. I brought home a couch in my ’09 3 a few months ago, and that is simply not happening with this concept unless they fix the rear opening.

  • avatar
    silentsod

    I can’t say I’m a fan of the Vision Coupe’s front end treatment. Takes the current CX-5 and 9 a little too far and brings to mind slit eyes and a goofy overbite.

    Then again, I already thought the 9’s front end was weird viewed from the side.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    In my humble opinion these cars are as close as NSFW as you can get.

    That said they will tone a lot of the radical edges down. The hood’s leading edge on the Vision Coupe wouldn’t fly very far in the EU nowadays; that’s an amputator waiting to happen. (but by golly is it striking… look how long that uninterrupted sweep of the hood is).
    I just hope they can keep the proportions mostly intact.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Dear Mazda designers:

    You may not know this, but some people are actually a bit tall and would appreciate just a bit of head room. We don’t all want factory chop tops.

    PS: Thanks for reviving the AMC Gremlin. Your Maserati tributes nice too.

  • avatar
    scott25

    I don’t care what the new 3 looks like, as long as they keep the Kai’s rear styling, it’s by far the best part.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Aside from the “isle of Japan” comment, the 3 isn’t Mazda’s littlest hatch, that would be the 2, or whatever Kei car they’re selling nowadays, and the clear centred tachometer isn’t much of a Mazda hallmark considering the tach is relegated to a tiny digital display on the left of the cluster in the current 3.

  • avatar
    stuki

    That is one beautiful car! Perhaps the first genuine improvement on the state of the art in coupe styling since the original DB9.

    Now all they need to do, is stuff a V12 version of their “HCCI” engine under that long hood, and wait for infrastructure developments across Eurasia to render Grand Touring all the way from Hiroshima to Dublin a realistic undertaking…..

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I’m not the greatest fan of Mazda’s cars, though I don’t deny they’re pretty good. However, by hiding the back doors to make these at least look like 2-door coupes they begin to grab my interest. Now if they can only bring these out to the general public.

  • avatar

    I like ’em, but I hope they make the windows big enough to see out of.

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