TOKYO -- Mazda said two sleek concept vehicles at the Tokyo auto show embody a "less is more" minimalist Japan aesthetic.
The cars, one a rounded hatchback the other a swept-back coupe-styled sedan, ditch the sharply creased intersecting character lines that have enlivened the Mazda look since 2010.
Instead, the new Mazdas adopt a more supple, simplified feel aiming for something more elegant, the automaker said Tuesday. Ikuo Maeda, Mazda's global design chief, isn't shy about channeling the home country's culture for inspiration.
"We have set out a design philosophy which encapsulates a distinctively Japanese kind of beauty," Maeda said in prepared remarks before the concept unveilings on Wednesday. "Much of Japanese traditional culture is based on the minimalist concept of 'less is more,' where the emphasis is on removing or minimizing elements to create an abundance of empty space."
The new look will hit the market in 2019 and aims to build on the success of the Kodo design language Maeda introduced seven years ago. Kodo won accolades for helping the pint-sized brand stand out from its Japanese competition. It was a key element in the brand's revival, imbuing the new Skyactiv line of engines, transmissions and chassis with a sporty, sexy aura.
The goal, Mazda says, is vehicles "that look truly alive" as the viewing angle changes.
The first car, the Kai Concept, is a product concept that might foreshadow the redesigned Mazda3. It previews the company's plans for a next-generation powertrain and platform.
The Kai Concept gets the Skyactiv-X engine and rides on the company's next-generation vehicle architecture, which will simplify manufacturing by underpinning nearly every vehicle in Mazda's lineup, from the CX-9 large crossover to smaller entries.
The architecture will weigh less, cost less and deliver a quieter ride with crisper handling and better rigidity. Its floor pan was designed to accommodate batteries for electrified cars.
But the Skyactiv-X engine will be the real star of the new technology blitz.
Billed as the world's first commercial gasoline engine to use compression ignition, the Skyactiv-X powertrain promises the new engine will boost torque by up to 30 percent and improve fuel efficiency as much as 30 percent over its current line of engines.
The new architecture and Skyactiv-X engine go on sale in 2019, wrapped in the new design.
On the outside, the Kai Concept has nary a straight line or crease.
The rear is sensually smoothed with wide haunches over the rear wheels, rounded C-pillars and subtly sculpted hollows along the side of the front doors. The front keeps the traditional Mazda shield grille, but the headlights are shaved down to mere slits.
The other car on show, the Vision Coupe, is a styling pointer that plays with a rear-slung coupe-like sedan that gets a long hood and short rear deck.
Like the Kai, it bears the rounded hallmarks of the new design language.
"Our next challenge is to explore the essence of Japanese aesthetics and use finely honed reflections and highlights to create an elegance that is unique to Japan," Maeda said.