Mazda6: design story

Production Cars 21 Jul 2008
Mazda6: design story

The official sketches and design story of the 2009 Mazda6 model, the sedan developed for the US market, with a sporty and bold design inspired by Japanese spirit.

Mazda6 - Atenza Design SketchThe version designed for the Japanese market and named Atenza is available in three body styles: sedan, sport (hatchback) and station wagon.

The Mazda6 that debuts in the US market is a sedan with larger dimensions (4920mm in length, +185mm compared with the Atenza).

The range of available engines includes a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder (170hp, 225 Nm) and a 3.7 liter 6-cylinder with VVT (272hp, 365 Nm).

The all-new 2009 Mazda6 is the first Mazda vehicle designed, engineered, developed, and manufactured on US soil with the North American market in mind.

From the official Press Release:


Mazda6 - Atenza Design SketchProgram Engineer Hiroshi Kajiyama has treated the MAZDA6 as a work of art rather than an inanimate machine, with the aim of "instilling the soul of a sports car"

Youichi Sato, was assigned the role of chief designer for the 2009 MAZDA6. The most notable Mazdas in his portfolio are the second- and third-generation RX-7s and the second-generation MX-5 Miatas.

Creating a long and successful series of concept cars gave Sato the confidence to instill recent production Mazdas with Japanese culture and values.

Mazda6 Chief Designer Youichi Sato Mazda6 Chief Designer Youichi Sato
Mazda6 Chief Designer Youichi Sato

When the MAZDA6 design effort commenced in the spring of 2004, Sato summed up the opportunity represented by a new sport sedan with world-wide reach as “Time to be Japanese.”

Rather than simply “blowing up” the attractive MAZDA6 Sato’s team had developed for European customers, he challenged all of his designers working on the new MAZDA6 in four studios under his leadership (Hiroshima, Yokohama, Frankfurt, Irvine) to create a wholly fresh, upscale, premium – yet still sporty – appearance for the North American MAZDA6.

Before the sketching began, the fundamental mission was defined by three guidelines:

  • Mazda6 - Atenza Design SketchEvolve the Zoom-Zoom spirit to the next level.
  • Infuse the new MAZDA6 with a dignified sports appearance.
  • Ensure that the design reflects Japanese culture, aesthetics, and spirit.

From a technology and development standpoint, automotive products are becoming more and more competitive globally.

Given this fact, design is one area where it is necessary to create an identity to maintain the brand and product presence. Therefore, Sato felt it was crucial to express Mazda’s intrinsic “Japanese” culture value, and the Japanese culture and aesthetics are reflected in the all-new MAZDA6.

Mazda6 - Atenza Design SketchStudying global design trends, Mazda designers concluded that heightening competition was accelerating the movement away from simple, conservative, and predictable exteriors towards more emotional and distinctive car design.

The cab-forward movement had ended and more classic overall proportions with a long hood and short overhangs had returned. Key design elements, such as lamps and grilles, were becoming more integrated with surrounding body forms.

Following analysis of these trends, the very first MAZDA6 thematic sketch contained these attributes: a wedged contour with an aggressively rounded plan view, a wide stance, and a compact greenhouse separated from the lower body with a prominent shoulder. When this initial shape was evaluated at design clinics, its assertive and sporty character earned high praise.

Mazda6 - Atenza Design SketchThe next step was to advance the concept shape according to these aesthetic descriptors:

  • ZOOM-ZOOM SPIRIT Key words such as distinctive, athletic, youthful, sporty and substantial have become core to Mazda’s way of life. Every vehicle, including those sold in high volume segments, must demonstrate a visual commitment to fun-to-drive vitality.
  • AUTHENTIC COOL The words underlying this design descriptor are dignified chic, sophisticated tastes, and adult fun.
  • EXOTIC AVANT-GARDE This is where contemporary Japanese aesthetics enter the design process. The Japanese words that most accurately address this influence category are Yugen, Rin and Seichi.

Yugen means harmony with nature. Examples are misty mountaintops, trees bursting with spring blossoms, and the reflection of natural light on curved surfaces.

Mazda6/Atenza Mazda Atenza
Mazda Atenza

Rin stands for dignity. A powerful will. The static beauty of a finely honed Japanese sword. The self-assured strength of a sumo wrestler.

Seichi is quality craftsmanship. Delicate ivory inlays in a wooden bowl. The attention to detail evident in a modern motorcycle engine. A fine camera’s precise controls.

Exterior Design

The sketching process yielded hundreds of recommendations created by seven design teams working independently. Many advanced to the ¼-scale clay model stage.

Mazda6That, in turn, produced four winning candidates subsequently narrowed to just two theme models which graduated to full-size hard models that could be further evaluated in clinics held in 2005.

One design was deemed to be advanced, youthful, and distinctive while the other was received as a beautiful expression with quiet elegance.

After some consideration, the conclusion was that, while conservative participants admired the beautiful car, the advanced and distinctive design was far more suitable for the risk takers to whom the new MAZDA6 was targeted. The more aggressive design won the final selection process and was chosen for additional refinement.

Mazda6One of the most distinctive features drawn from Mazda’s design portfolio is a front fender reminiscent of the one found on today’s RX-8.

Sculpture that flows from the front fascia, through the headlamp, over the top of the front-wheel opening, and into the side surface ahead of the front door achieves two aims: it accents the importance of wheels to the MAZDA6’s athletic character and it visually trims the length of the front overhang.

The graceful S-curve that flows smoothly from the highest point of the roof to the subtle lip at the very end of the decklid’s top surface and the rear glass that melts into the decklid give the MAZDA6 an exceptionally sleek appearance from almost any angle.

Mazda6 Mazda6

The harmony of sharp edges with richly curved surfaces adds to the MAZDA6’s visual value. Powerful wheel arches, attached like wings to an airplane’s fuselage, create an athletic stance and instill a dynamic character.

Mazda6Large areas of both doors are perfectly smooth and taut to exhibit blank-space beauty. Fine attention to detail is clearly evident in the taillamps’ intricate LED components. All lamps nestle jewel-like within their surrounding surfaces.

Manufacturing and cost-analysis experts took issue with a few aspects of the MAZDA6’s exterior design. The polished chrome side-window trim and the highly detailed dual exhaust tips were quite expensive.

The hood-to-fender parting line and the juncture of the hood to the grille, front fascia, and front fender caused anxiety among manufacturing and quality personnel. Just as with the RX-8, the ambitiously sculpted front fenders could not be made with conventional stamping methods.

Sato-san’s team stuck by its guns and refused compromises that would diminish their design. In the end, ingenuity and team work delivered the necessary miracles and the MAZDA6 proceeded to production as conceived without sacrifices.

Interior Design

Mazda6 InteriorWhile a few distinctive Mazda interior design elements, such as round instruments and a three-spoke steering wheel accompanied by a T-shaped instrument panel, were a given from the start of this design project, new priorities called for an otherwise fresh approach.

"The quality of execution had to be the highest Mazda had ever achieved in any US production. Surface textures, gloss levels, parting lines, and decorative areas all received careful attention."

The interior needed an expansive feeling without losing its focus on fun for the driver combined with comfort and safety for all passengers. To achieve that, a bi-level theme was adopted: a roomy bottom zone with solid and safe upper areas.

A multitude of sketches were soon boiled down to three principal candidates. One featured a floating instrument panel and strict left-right symmetry. The second included a much narrower center console and stack, essentially an evolution of the first-generation MAZDA6. The third execution integrated the center stack with the instrument cluster to strengthen the interior’s dedication to the driver’s needs.

Mazda6 Interior Mazda Atenza Interior Mazda Atenza Interior

The final design embodies the most successful attributes of the first and third design alternatives. The center area of the instrument panel is a large tilted area that provides excellent functionality to both front-seat occupants.

Mazda6 Center consoleBlacked-out instrument faces with brighter metallic markings, needles, and trim gives the MAZDA6 interior an exquisitely detailed look. Seats are highly refined with soft-look volumes combined with comfortable cushions and highly effective side bolsters. Attractively curved surfaces blend the console into the instrument panel.

Sculpted shapes combined with metallic-looking control panel areas achieve the desired contrast between dignity and celestial beauty. Crisp edges abut gently curved soft surfaces.

Unique patterns and textures give the MAZDA6’s interior a fresh, original appearance. Use of black trim provides a rich, sporty look that’s unprecedented in the mid-size segment.

Mazda6 Steering wheelBrightly finished switches in the steering wheel and center stack area mark the interior as a premium execution. High-mounted entertainment system and climate controls enhance functionality.

The entry-level interior benefits from brightly plated metal accents and a choice of black, beige, or gray cloth upholstery with a tasteful weave pattern.

Available Touring-level trim blends tastefully-patterned cloth with leather upholstery and adds a leather steering wheel cover.

The Grand Touring interior uses leather only for upholstery material in a choice of black, beige, or gray tones.

Nine exterior and three interior colors were carefully selected for the MAZDA6.

Mazda Atenza Mazda Atenza Mazda Atenza
Above: the Mazda Atenza

(Source: Mazda)

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