When your current car represents a quarter of your global sales, playing it safe with the next-generation model would be understandable. If it ain’t broke, etc. However, while Mazda’s second-generation CX-5 (on sale in Japan from early 2017) has dimensions almost identical to the outgoing model's, there’s a refreshing refinement that made its unveiling more special then expected.
At a preview event away from the LA show itself, Mazda's global head of design Ikuo Maeda declared this new CX-5 to be representative of the first phase of a new design period at Mazda - with the lofty aim of eventually elevating the status of all the brand’s products to artworks, or as he put it, “where their form reaches a level of art”.
Such words spouted from a more egotistical design leader could well have come across as arrogant and highfalutin', but from Maeda seemed genuine, and more a statement of intent than a pronouncement of fact. Standing in front of his RX-Vision concept (first seen at the 2015 Tokyo motor show) and then unveiling the CX-5, Maeda then name-checked as inspirations various Japanese aesthetic traditions which major on simple hand-craftsmanship, from sharp Japanese knives to zen gardens and chopsticks.
To back up this stance, Mazda’s North America design director Julien Montousse followed up with more detail on how such an approach manifests itself on the new CX-5, stressing the use of clay on the full-size model, and also non-car sculptural forms created even before the car was developed to act as inspiration. He enthused: “We’re obsessed by shapes that can only be formed by human hands”.
The proof was a more three-dimensional front face, exterior body sides with demonstrably finessed surfacing that connect one plane to another smoothly, and carefully-considered and implemented interior detailing which included very full seat pads covered by premium leather upholstery, accentuated by exacting stitching. Overall, of course it’s an evolution, but as Car Design News has already reported, it’s progress towards a very convincing near-premium position and mature and sophisticated design.