TOKYO — At first glance, Mazda's first mass- market electric vehicle, the MX-30, looks like neither an EV nor any of Mazda's other models.
The compact crossover unveiled at last month's Tokyo Motor Show gets a long hood and slung-back cabin befitting something with cylinders up front rather than a petite electric motor. And in place of Mazda's usual elegantly sculpted Kodo design language are uninspiring slab-like sides. But that's exactly what global design chief Ikuo Maeda wanted.
The vehicle's sporty posture and long hood are a repudiation of the industry's conventional wisdom that EVs must break new ground with oversized cabins and stubby proportions. Instead, Mazda's future EVs will adhere to the sporty zoom-zoom DNA of its internal-combustion design language — at least in terms of proportions.
"We are going against the trend," Maeda told Automotive News. "It is a kind of antithesis to the usual trend. We didn't want to make a totally different type of design just because it's an EV. We wanted to keep proportions close to the existing lineup."
But that's where similarities with Mazda's current design language end.
Gone are the voluptuous curves of current Mazda models that reflect light across the sheet metal, visible on the Mazda3 sedan and Mazda CX-30 crossover. The MX-30 instead gets a barrel-like body with smooth, featureless door panels and rounded edges. Its grille is narrowed to just a slit, offering its only outward acknowledgment that there is an EV drivetrain inside instead of a gasoline engine.
It is a departure from the design language that has been winning Mazda accolades. But Maeda says it is more of an experiment than a new direction. With the MX-30, designers dabbled with what Maeda calls the "beauty of subtraction.
"It's about stripping away unnecessary elements," Maeda said. "As a trial with the MX-30, we also subtracted the movement of light. It's like zen. We wanted to strip away everything and see what the minimum is."