• Jun 23, 2010
Mazda Furai Concept – Click above for high-res image gallery

According to Auto Express, Mazda Europe's British design boss Peter Birtwhistle has confirmed that the Japanese automaker will take on a new styling direction. Perhaps the news shouldn't come as a shocker, considering that former Mazda design head Franz von Holhausen, the man responsible for the previous styling direction of concepts like the Nagare and Furai, left Mazda for Tesla Motors back in 2008.

Further, Laurens van den Acker, who styled the latest Mazda5, left the Japanese automaker for Renault. As such, Birtwhistle told AE, "Nagare is done. After the 5, it's highly unlikely that there will be another Nagare car. Mazda has moved on." Apparently, Mazda found it rather difficult to apply the swoopy and flowing conceptual styling direction to production cars, specifically boxier shapes like that of the Mazda5.

We tend to agree with Mazda that the Nagare look is awesome on concepts but tough to translate to production. So, what's next? Apparently, Mazda will attempt to turn itself into a "Japanese Alfa Romeo," with an initial concept based on its new "Thrusting Motion" styling direction. We should see the fruits of this early effort at the upcoming Paris Motor Show.



[Source: Auto Express]


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  • 57 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      For all the "carping" about the stying of the new Mazda3, as a salesperson I can tell you that response to the car has been enthusiastic. The Mazda3 currently sits as the best selling car in Canada for this calendar year and we move 40-50 a month.

      At this point maybe 1 out of every 25 people I talk to on a Mazda3 complains about the "smile". I'd say that that's quite a low percentage of potential buyers with styling concerns.

      And even with those folks, when I ask "what other compact car out there looks better?", they usually concede that even WITH the smile they don't like, the 3 is still the best looking car in its class. Seriously, what else are you to choose in terms of DIRECT competitors - the Civic, the Corolla, the Sentra, the current Focus, the Calibre?

      The 3 is a pretty darn appealing package.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Agreed - when placed against it's class competitors, the 3 looks really slick. Doesn't hurt that it drives awesome as well. I wish I could get the hatch with the 2.0 though.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I used to sell Mazda's in Michigan and you are spot on with your post. Very few people ever mentioned the smiley face and a few that did still bought the car, just in black. I used to ask what else they were looking at and the usual suspects came up (Focus, Cobalt, Corolla) and I would say the same thing or mention how much this car stands out.

        The 3 also comes in some great colors like the Liquid silver, Graphite, Black Mica and the Gunmetal Blue which also make the car really stand out against silver and black Corollas.

        In fact, a lot of people flat out liked it. Need proof? Sales of the current 3 are up over the previous generation in a flat market.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thank you for injecting some common sense into this conversation. The Mazda 3's smile may be a stand out feature but it's outselling the Civic right now. So while it does look undoubtedly like a smile, it's well styled with good lines. And what car even looks half decent parked next to one? Certain nothing else in the segment it's competing in.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hopefully, this will also indicate some actual PRODUCTION.

      If Nagare was so difficult that all the concepts were weird, wacky, and un-tenable... why did they make so many of them, for so many years, while not actually building any new models of new cars?

      No new coupes, for instance... for a company that used to say "the soul of a sports-car in everything we make." yet no two-door hard-roof affordable sportscar coupes, no 2+2 2-door grand touring coupe. (RX8 isn't 2 doors, and the character of a rotary isn't fantastic for mileage-eating grand-touring.)

      Mazda 6 has gotten stale. Mazda 3 is a decent little front-driver, but the smiley-face hampers it.

      Miata could use some of it's old drama back, instead of smiling bar-of-soap looks.

      If they want to go to be a new, Japanese alternative Alfa... I hope they step up.

      Mazda 3, 5, and 6 should be their FWD mainstream models, as they are, but with cleaner styling, like Alfa 159.

      CX7 and CX9... whatever. I don't really care about CUVs, but they seem to be well liked as they are.

      Their enthusiast line is where they need to re-focus.
      Affordable Duettotanta -> new Miata
      Affordable 8C 3-door, 2-seat coupe -> new RX7/MX7.

      --- expand it to a 2+2 3-door as the RX9/MX9, like the current RX8 with better styling, and only 2 side doors. Maybe a single free-style or sliding half door on the passenger side, and 3+1 seating, like the Kabura concept. The Z32 300ZX and other cars have been previously offered with a choice between 2+0 and 2+2 bodies... Mazda could do it.

      Affordable 159 Sport sedan -> replace RX8 with a 5-door sport sedan like a smaller, affordable Aston Rapide, RX8 ver.2, or MX8, combining the performance of the RWD mazda platform, with the touring, entry-lux of the old Millenia, and 4 side doors with frameless glass. Like a VW CC, but properly RWD.

      Offer them with the choice of a rotary power-plant-frame, or a different power-plant-frame for the 3.7 305hp V6 and 6MT/6AT driveline choice from the V6 Mustang, with Mazda's SLA front and rear suspensions, and front-mid engine layout. Optional with Bilsteins and Brembos, and lighter-weight wheels.

      Four variants should cover the market from affordable, to entry-lux, from 2-seat roadster, to 4-seat 5-door sport sedan with a coupe-like sleek profile, and a 2-seat sportscar and 2+2 seat GT sport coupe between them.

      The enthusiast lineup would appeal to those who want true affordable RWD handling performance. and the mainstream FWD lineup would be free to chase the volume sales figures, with the Mazdaspeed 3 being the FWD performer that tries to bridge the difference.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You are making a case for Miata to have a rotary, and ditch the I4, or for RX8 to become piston-only. An I4 is much taller and longer of length than a rotary, yet Miata still is i4 powered, and not built with a Rotary.

        Or they could do what I wish they would... put a Subaru boxer in there. Low cg, short length, and short height, and intrinsic balance. And more torque, power, and longevity than a Rotary!

        I like the technical aspects of a rotary engine. The theory is great. Small package, no valves, much less inertia loss, sky-high rpms... but it burns oil by design, and burns itself up if it isn't driven hard, which most people don't realize... and not everyone wants to drive hard everywhere. While it puts out a lot of power for it's volume and physical size, it is not torquey, and without the context caveat, it isn't the most powerful engine around, while piston engines do get more powerful, while retaining torque, and better fuel efficiency and no oil consumption.

        I am glad Mazda has kept the Rotary around, I really am. I like alternative engine configurations... but results are results. Power output is power output, and reliability is reliability.

        That is why I wish Mazda would figure out a system of offering both piston and rotary power, and why I hesitate to just call for the rotary to be kyboshed for the sake of easier, more powerful piston engines, exclusively.

        Mazda can't get by on tradition alone. They need to step the rotary up, or step up to higher power piston engines, or both. Sentimentality won't sell that many cars. RX8 is kind of proving that, even with RX8 being quite a handling car. Its looks aren't great, and it's drivetrain characteristics, care, and feeding aren't the best in class. It is a bit in limbo between 2 and 4 doors, also.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Actually there is an insurmountable problem here. Just because someone sticks a V8 into an RX-7 doesn't mean it doesn't totally mess up the car's centre of gravity. People say the LS1 swap is only 50 someodd pounds heavier but they ignore the fact that the engine is further forward and much higher. Handling gets seriously hampered, it's just people dumping LS1s into RX-7s don't care because they want torque. The location of the firewall, locations for chassis bracing and the F/R weight distribution in the car change completely depending on which type of motor is in the car. Mazda would never produce such an unwieldy afterthought of a car, let alone with their flagship model/engine.
        • 4 Years Ago
        We've been over this. Chassis design won't allow for a piston engine (aside from MAYBE a boxer) in a rotary car or visa versa. It's not happening, ever. Blame physics but this pipe dream of just switching out two totally different types of engines isn't happening. Honestly, research the rotary engine a bit and you'll realize just how crafty Mazda is with the development of these cars. If it could have been done, it would have been done in the 70s.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Nate...

        I am sure there are differences... but I can't see how they are so insurmountable while Miata and RX8 currently share the same general under-pinnings, yet the Miata has an inline 4, and RX8 has a 13b-Renesis.

        It isn't like trying to fit a boxer engine transversely, or something that truly changes the geometry radically.

        People put V8 engines in RX7s almost as often as re-building blown rotaries, for re-installation. Just because Mazda hasn't done it more widely, doesn't mean it can't be done.

        A different power-plant-frame to adjust for the different crank-shaft center height, and a different cross-member under the engine, as well as possibly different transmissions for gearing/height vs. torque load bearing and lower redline of a piston engine like the 3.7 V6, and it would probably work.

        what I suggest doesn't need to happen on the current Miata/RX8 chassis family, it could be incorporated into an upcoming, and hopefully soon, chassis design revision, to accommodate piston and rotary power, from the factory.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't mind the Nagare styling as much as I loathe the stupid smiley-face front-ends. That style element alone took Mazda from producing the best-looking Asian cars to the most embarrassing cars in the industry.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "...the most embarrassing cars in the industry" yeah, Mazda and Acura with their "optimus Prime's codpiece on every model!" styling direction have really blown it recently.

        that Furai is down right incredible though :O
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Alex: Yeah, a Furai-inspired RX8 would've been amazing. Sigh.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Nagare and Furai concepts were absolute show stoppers. Their organic lines and aggressive postures combined to create sex on wheels.

        Problem is, it doesn't look right on a production two box B or C class car and is equally lost in visual appeal on a D segment sedan. They never applied it in full force to the MX-5 and that's a good thing. They toned it down and refined it for the Mazda 5, which frankly looks pretty good.

        The one car that would have best personified the Furai concept in production form was the one car that Mazda never applied it to; the RX8.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Thank GOD.

      Ditch the SMILE too.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So Mazda won't extend or update the design language?

        That's a pity, as at least, the Mazda family started looking cohesive, huge grin and all.

        • 4 Years Ago
        There is hope for a course correction. The new 5 looks like liquid ass.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It was too literal of a design concept: swoopy = real swoops. Made one want to paint flames on those swoops.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Benfolio:

        My exact sentiments as well!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Not too sure about that one since they say they want to be Japanese Alfa Romeo...

        Haven't you seen the MiTo?
        • 4 Years Ago
        No. Make it bigger and smiley-er.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Deep-six the "wax lips" look while you're at it, Mazda.
      • 4 Years Ago
      While they're at it, they should probably quietly remove that BP logo from the side of their car...
      • 4 Years Ago
      THRUSTING MOTION.

      Oh you.
      • 4 Years Ago
      On second thought... well, what I'm trying to say is, they can go whatever styling direction they want as long as I can have that Furai. I mean, why would they want it anymore, right? Just deliver it to my house, that'll be fine.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The nagare style was beautiful on the 3, I don't see why they can't keep that going on their compacts and sportier offerings. Still, very curious to see what else they come up with, they've been doing some beautiful design work.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Part of it is just how hard it is to surface something using this style. I'm a designer, and it's pretty easy to draw things with flowing lines, even to understand the surfaces, but when you go into CAD, things get a lot trickier. It's easier in a surface modeling program, but it's still kind of a bear.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sucks for the '5'.....guess it'll be stuck with 'Nagare' until the next re-design. Hopefully they can tone down the gaping maws on their other current designs in the meantime.
      • 4 Years Ago
      No more grinning carp? Let's hope. As for "Thrusting Motion"? I'll leave the room.

        • 4 Years Ago
        I believe the Ambiguously Gay Duo's car was styled with the "Thrusting Motion" design language.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I guess I am in the minority of Nagare fandom. I think the current 3 and 6 are some great examples of the concept as applied to production, but agree that the 5 suffers a bit. I do not like Mazda's other styling, the one on the RX-8 and MX-5; the details are great, but the form is harsh and disproportional. Either way, I look forward to where they're going next; bring us the Kabura!
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