Unlike most automakers competing in Europe, Mazda is not downsizing its engines to help meet tougher emissions standards. It's driving efficiency by changing its engine geometry. One of the side benefits of this approach is that Mazda's front-wheel-drive models have the long, flowing looks of popular premium rear-drive models. Mazda Europe design chief Peter Birthwhistle, who has spent a quarter century with the automaker following stints at Vauxhall, Audi and Porsche, explained how and why this happened in an interview with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Olive Keogh.
Mazda claims it takes a 'convention-defying' approach to car design. What does that mean?
For all our latest cars, that's connected to our Sky Active technology, based on the layout of the vehicle and our approach to engine construction. We do things slightly differently. We don't have an engine downsizing philosophy, for example. We have larger, normally aspirated engines – the gasoline engines anyway – and that means we have to look at the style of their exhaust systems. With SkyActive engines the lay out of the exhaust systems is designed to produce very free flowing exhaust gases.
How does this affect the car's design?
From a design perspective this means pushing back the passenger cell to allow for a sloped angle where the exhaust comes out of the engine. This results in quite a long hood with proportions more like those of rear-wheel-drive vehicles.