'09 Mazda3 will signal Mazda's styling future
The overhaul will create a stronger "front face," a more unified design language and more eye-catching proportions across the lineup, said Laurens van den Acker, Mazda's design chief.
Van den Acker has been working on the new look since he took the helm of styling at Mazda in May 2006. The Mazda3 is the first revamp he has supervised fully.
"Within the next three years, you will start to see my cars on the road," van den Acker said in an interview here at Mazda Motor Corp. headquarters. "One of the advantages of being a small company is that we can afford to be a little more provocative."
The provocative new look will emphasize:
Van den Acker said the changes will help strengthen the brand.
"We need to stay consistent with the message," he said. "Mazda is good at getting new customers to our brand but not so good at retaining them."
Not that Mazda design has been in shambles. The Ford affiliate has some of the most pleasing designs on the road right now — thanks to Moray Callum, van den Acker's predecessor. Last year Callum moved to Ford Motor Co. as head of Ford's passenger-car design division.
Van den Acker has some big shoes to fill.
- A 5-point, shield-shaped grille
- Flowing styling
- Longer wheelbases, shorter overhangs
Van den Acker declined to give details about the Mazda3's upcoming face-lift, which will offer the first clues about Mazda's styling direction.
Van den Acker said it will take big cues from Mazda's Nagare concept-car series. The latest Nagare entry was the slung-back Taiki, presented at October's Tokyo motor show.
It has a broad, streamlined, smilelike grille and wavelike ripples in the side paneling meant to emulate wind or the flow of water. The front wheels are pushed to the tip of the hood.
The new grille is envisioned as differentiating Mazda from its rivals, even at a quick glance, van den Acker said. Meanwhile, the new hood and wheel proportions aim to give Mazda's upcoming vehicles the ground-hugging, sporty feel of rear-wheel-drive models.
The changes in body proportion will have to be enacted when new platforms are introduced. Van den Acker said that will start to happen as early as 2011.
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