First Look: Mazda Minagi

Newest Mazda fantasy in chrome coming to Geneva.

by on Jan.19, 2011

Mazda introduces its new "Kodo" design language with the Minagi concept CUV.

Mazda has a tradition of revealing some undulating automotive designs at major auto shows.  And the wave-like designs of show cars like the popular Nagare have clearly influenced what we now see in production from the Hiroshima-based maker.

Past prototypes have tended to focus on sports car or sporty coupe body styles, so perhaps it’s a telling hint that the next big Mazda fantasy in chrome will come in the form of a slick crossover.

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The sleek Mazda Minagi – shown here in an official rendering — will take its formal bow at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.  The concept CUV evolves to reflect what Mazda calls its new “Kodo” design theme, Japanese for “soul of motion,” it suggests.

It may have a new name, but the images suggest an evolution, rather than revolution, with Minagi revealing some of the flowing, wind-in-the-sand shapes of Nagare and its past brethren.  But the overall look is a little simpler and less strained.

With the Minagi, Mazda will also introduce the production version of its new Skyactiv drivetrain technology.

Significantly, the Mazda Minagi concept will be more than just a design exercise.  It’s also meant to showcase the long-promised new Mazda Skyactiv drivetrain technology – which the maker’s global CEO Takashi Yamanouchi last year suggested means, “The sky’s the limit.”

Mazda has promised to boost fuel economy by 30% by mid-decade, and while downsizing and the use of lighter materials and more aerodynamic design will help, the Skyactiv drivetrains will be critical to meeting that target.  The diesel engine, in particular, is expected to deliver 20% better fuel economy, Mazda has said.

Mazda introduced the Kazamai concept vehicle at the 2008 Moscow Motor Show.

For the moment, Mazda is playing coy with the details of the driveline, which apparently have evolved in name from Sky-D and Sky-G to Skyactiv.  A terse release suggests that under its hood, Minagi “is equipped with a SKYACTIV engine and SKYACTIV transmission fitted to a SKYACTIV-Body and chassis that merge comprehensive weight reduction with the assurance of ample safety features.”

The launch of Skyactiv – which is expected to go into production later this year – will be critical. Mazda has been lagging behind competitors in development of hybrids and other battery-based drivetrains, betting it can meet tough new emissions and mileage standards with advanced internal combustion technologies.

We’ll find out more at the annual Geneva Motor Show press days, which begin March 1.

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