Mazda Kai previews next 3

Published: 25 October 2017

► Mazda Kai five-door hatchback
► Advanced SkyActiv-X tech
► Revealed at Tokyo 2017

If you want to know what the next Mazda 3 will be like – due on  sale in 2019 – look no further than the company’s second Tokyo concept reveal in as many days.

 The tell-tale compact hatchback proportions of the Kai concept have been clad in a svelte, minimalist body bereft of extraneous creases and lines with a really distinctive and curvaceous C-pillar/tailgate section.

Poking our nose inside the cabin on the stand, the interior looks extremely close to production as well. If the basic shape follows through to production relatively unscathed – and it looks like it could – the design will ensure the 3 stands out in a crowded and very mature segment.

There’s plenty going on underneath, too

Mazda Kai concept at the Tokyo motor show 2017

The technology underneath the bonnet is potentially stand-out too, featuring Mazda’s next-generation Skyactiv-X petrol engine which promises ‘the free-revving characteristics of a gasoline engine with the fuel efficiency, torque and fast initial response of a diesel unit’.

Unofficially a Mazda spokesperson reckons it could equate to a 30% improvement over the firm’s current 2.0 petrol engine through proprietary technology un-snappily called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI) and sends a signal out that Mazda sees considerable life left in internal combustion engines, if suitably optimised.

As a Mazda spokesman told CAR: ‘We don’t believe electric is the only answer. If you measure ‘well to wheel’ whole-life emissions this engine can match EVs in certain countries [where most electricity is created by coal-fired power stations]. We will launch an EV in 2019 and a plug-in hybrid by 2021, but it’s about having a range of options. 

What else is new?

The Kai also showcases the next generation of Mazda’s Skyactiv Vehicle Architecture which promises a stiffer chassis set-up for a more agile driving experience. At the same time Mazda said the car’s ride will be improved, partly through new tyres with less stiff side walls – which can then act as shock-absorbers to the benefit of comfort.

The production version of the Kai is expected to be shown in late 2018 for a 2019 on sale date, and will be the first Mazda to feature the new Skyactiv-X engine – and the world’s first commercial petrol engine to use compression ignition – before rolling out across the range after that.

Check out our Tokyo motor show news 

Mazda Kai concept at the Tokyo motor show 2017

By Guy Bird

Contributor, cultural curator, design commentator