Mazda's new design direction is embodied in the new Shinari concept car. Modeled to announce to the world the new styling language of future Mazda road cars, the Shinari ushers in a new look to replace the somewhat tortured Nagare mantra that has fizzled into a damp squib on the sides of the latest Mazda 5 midi-MPV.
The Shinari won't be shown at the 2010 Paris motor show (apparently it's being held back for a 2011 Geneva debut), yet this is a landmark concept for Mazda design, under the new leadership of chief design Ikuo Maeda.
He replaced Dutchman Laurens van den Acker 10 months ago as head of Mazda design; Brit Moray Callum held the post before that. Maeda, a life-long Mazda employee, told CAR that he'd been appointed for the long term, 'at least 10 years'. We'd argue that's welcome, as it's hard to shift a company's design look in just the three or four years of his predecessors' appointments.
So what's all this Mazda Shinari about?
It's a new four-door coupé, not dissimilar to a Merc CLS or Audi A7 Sportback, and it looks pretty imposing stretching to 4890mm long. It's a low-slung 1348mm high and 1970mm wide.
It embraces the Kodo design language, which translates as 'soul of motion'. Maeda's new design philosophy is all about dynamic emotion and he promises this look will start to influence production cars 'within two to three years'.
Will they build the Mazda Shinari?
Sadly this is very unlikely. It could however inform future versions of the Mazda 6 and the designers flashed up images of a future 2 supermini with Kodo styling flourishes.
Details to look out for include the newly tweaked grille, with inbuilt light tubes to emphasise the five-pointed radiator. This is plausible for production, Maeda told CAR.
And the twisted, tensioned surfaces are also destined for production cars. 'If there's one thing I want to emphasise, it's the new emotion you'll find on future Mazdas,' said Maeda.
So what's the Mazda Shinari like in the metal?
Rather like an Infiniti Essence, with shades of Maserati Granturismo and even Jag XJ. They've aimed for taut, muscular surfaces and have largely achieved that with tension in the sheetmetal, rippled by plunging and diverging character lines. The Shinari looks way bigger than its 4.8m length suggests.
Maeda-san says the shark nose is achievable and expect the shape and character of the lights front and rear to make it to production cars too (they're one of the design highlights). Problem is, we've seen so many conceptual ideas from Mazda of late - and so little action - that we're a wee bit sceptical. Nothing short of delivering on the promise of this new, more emotional Kodo design language will be enough to appease the memories of endless Nagare concepts and little showroom change.
But having spent the day with Maeda and believing his long-term mandate for change, we're confident reform is coming. He admits today's range is too stilted, too unemotional. This new Kodo mantra might just inject some spark back into Mazda.