The Mazda CX-5 features an elevated design that turns heads. We asked fans across social media to pose their most fervent questions about the elegantly updated CX-5 so that Chief Designer Takanori Tsubaki could answer them and share the design inspiration behind the sophisticated crossover.

How long is the process from sketch to an actual production car?

For the Mazda CX-5, it was roughly a year from starting the design study to outputting design data. This was, relatively, a much shorter timeframe to complete the process compared to recent Mazda model updates.

Can you explain CX-5’s history of design updates?

The second generation Mazda CX-5 was launched in 2017 with the updated Kodo design on the side panel. This updated Kodo design already used our “Minimalist Aesthetic” as part of the philosophy, which we translated to reduced lines and the expression of light and shadow on the reflection-based surface.

In 2019, Mazda debuted a new expression phase of Kodo with next-generation vehicles.

Now, Mazda CX-5 displays an evolution of “Minimalist Aesthetic” and is further updated to match Mazda’s latest-generation vehicles.

With such an iconic, sculpted and beautiful design, what were the first and the last parts of the CX-5 that you changed?

It’s hard to clearly discern where a design starts and ends because we are always looking for continuous improvement. That’s part of our nature. When there’s a design update in one area, it may make us reconsider a design element elsewhere on the vehicle. We are always working to improve and provide customers with the very best.

How do you balance aerodynamics, customer expectations, innovation and artistic vision? On what will you never compromise?

Mazda does not compromise on providing our customers with the best driving experience. We uphold strong values in beauty, design, driving dynamics and safety.

Conceptually speaking, I strongly believe that design is about balance and that balance is what designers are judged on.

Mazda develops vehicle designs that are appealing to owners while also being purposeful. Mazda design also has intention, not just looks. The balance of all these design elements creates Mazda vehicles with style, great driving dynamics and intuitive experiences.

How does the design team decide what stays and what goes? Are there surveys of customers or deliberation between designers themselves?

Mazda places a lot of value in customers and listens to their feedback. Additionally, keeping our customers top-of-mind — and understanding they expect the best — our design teams hold themselves to an exceptionally high standard.

As one example, the front and rear lights are not the lights we began with. We had a vehicle design that was good, but we felt we could do better. This led to many sketches and discussions over the details. In the end, a sketch with newly designed lights led to the final version you see.

This example, and this experience, shows one of Mazda design’s greatest strengths: being able to express design — not only from logic — but from inspiration and with a challenger spirit.

As another example, we heard from our sales teams that a single CX-5 exterior design may not meet all customers’ preferences. Another comment was that customers may “hesitate to go outdoors or drive on rough roads due to its urban design.” Our answer was to offer a greater variety of trims and “SUV” styling to meet the needs of more customers.

How does Mazda plan to continue the evolution of the Kodo design language?

Kodo design loosely translates to “soul of motion”. It’s also described as the feeling of energy about to move. I believe Kodo is something that’s always fluid, in motion and ready for the next step. In other words, Kodo design will always keep evolving.

Why did you choose to drastically reduce black plastic trim?

These days, crossover SUVs are chosen not only for function but for style. To deliver a more premium feel, a refined black gloss trim and body color is available for those looking for a vehicle with urban sophistication.

Why has Mazda moved from a circular headlight shape?

In the beginning, the design team had no intention of changing the circular headlight design. Our primary goal was to maintain the sense of life (part of Kodo design) while expressing brand new “eyes”. We felt an added horizontal factor in a circle best achieved this and showed stability.

That same sense of life is also expressed in other ways, including:

  • The outer side of the signature light is round (a cut of a perfect circle).
  • The inner end of the lower straight line is lifted to make a “circle”.
  • A larger outside light covers the inner smaller light like a concentric circle, acting not just four individual lights but like a mother and child — conveying Mazda’s design focus of creating a “sense of life.”

Mazda believes that vehicles are designed to evoke an emotional response, moving you like a work of art. Through the deeply-held Kodo design philosophy, the Mazda CX-5 has been elevated — bringing an art form to life in your driveway.

Learn more about Mazda CX-5

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