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Behind the Design: The Sophisticated 2022 Mazda CX-5

The 2022 Mazda CX-5 is here with an elevated design that’s turning heads. In advance of its release, we asked fans across social media to share their most fervent questions about the CX-5’s new design. Now, Takanori Tsubaki — the designer of the 2022 Mazda CX-5 — shares his inspiration and thought process behind one of our most sophisticated crossovers yet.

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

For the 2022 Mazda CX-5, it took roughly a year from starting the design study to outputting its design data. This was, relatively, a much shorter timeframe to complete the process compared to recent Mazda model updates.

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

The 2nd generation Mazda CX-5 was launched in 2017 with updated Kodo design on its side body. This updated Kodo design already used “Minimalist Aesthetic” as part of the philosophy, which we translated to reduced lines and the expression of light and shadow by the reflection-based surface.

In 2019, Mazda debuted a new expression phase of Kodo with next-generation vehicles including the 2019 Mazda3.

This new 2022 Mazda CX-5 displays an evolution of “Minimalist Aesthetic” and is further updated to match Mazda’s latest- generation vehicles.

3. With such an iconic, sculpted, and beautiful design in the CX-5, what was the first part of the design you changed and the last part you changed?

It’s hard to clearly discern where a design starts and ends because we are always looking for continuous improvements. 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. In the end, we are always working to improve and provide customers with the very best.

4. How do you balance aerodynamics, customer expectations, innovation, artistic vision? What do you never compromise on?

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

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

Mazda develops vehicles that have a design that is 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.

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

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 holds themselves to an exceptionally high standard.

As one example, the front and rear lights we ended up with were 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 a challenger spirit.

As another example, we heard from our sales teams that one CX-5 exterior design may be hard to meet all customers’ preferences. Another comment was that customers may “hesitate to go outdoors or drive on rough road due to its urban design.” Our answer is to offer more variety of trims and “SUV” styling to meet the needs of more customers.

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

“Keep evolving” is one of the most important factors in Kodo Design. In other words, Mazda design, in pursuit of Kodo design, will always keep evolving.

Kodo design is loosely translated as “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.

7. Why did you choose to drastically reduce black plastic trim? I assume it’s only on signature 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.

8. Why has Mazda moved from a circular headlight shape to an updated shape?

In the beginning, the design team had no intention of changing the headlight design from a circular. 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:

  • Outer side of signature light is round (a cut of a perfect circle).
  • Inner end of lower straight line is lifted so as to make “circle” felt.
  • Larger outside light covers the inner smaller light like a concentric circle, acting not just four individual lights but like a mother and child to let people understand how much Mazda design is concerned about “sense of life.”


Learn more about the 2022 Mazda CX-5

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