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Concept Car of the Week: Mazda Ibuki (2003)

Fri, 21 Feb 2014

With the Ibuki, Mazda designers synthesized the most successful of the first generation MX-5's iconic elements and evolved their forms to make them even more memorable and simple. To do so, they used a strong geometric theme throughout the car inside and out: LED headlamps; front air intake; tail lamps; rear view mirrors; release handles and interior details down to the pedals – every shape follow the same oval theme.

Zooming out, the silhouette – as well as the top view – is also oval, making the Ibuki look more like a toy than a car, which is a real bonus for a small roadster. The bulging wheelarches and large 18-inch alloys provide a wide, stable stance, communicating its sporty potential.

‘Ibuki' is Japanese for ‘breathing new energy' or ‘adding vigor', an acknowledgement from Mazda that the second generation MX-5 was not quite as strong as the first, while providing a promising teaser of the third.

The proportions were refined thanks to very short overhangs and long wheelbase, which pushed the wheels to the corners. The cabin was also shifted backwards to lengthen the hood and increase the impression of power, delivered by a 1.6-liter hybrid engine coupled to a six-speed transmission.

Compared to the production MX-5, the air conditioning unit was placed behind the seats, allowing the engine to be moved 400mm rearwards and 50mm lower. As a result, most of the powertrain and accessory components were contained within the wheelbase. This reduced yaw inertia by 15 percent, dramatically improving the handling. The innovative, lightweight structure combined with lightweight materials (such as the carbon fiber prop shaft, reinforced plastic outer panels, aluminum inner panels and magnesium alloy wheels) helped keep the total weight below a ton.

The high-mount backbone frame connects the chassis, the interior and the exterior into a coherent unit. It's visible as the axis extends forward beyond the dashboard and rearwards to the cowl aft of the seats, splitting the interior in half. The bucket seats' supportive design and the stripped-out, but functional interior are an invitation to buckle up and hit the road – hard.

Unveiled at the 2003 Tokyo Auto show, the little blue pill previewed many design elements that would feature on the mk3 MX-5. For the first time, the next generation will be co-developed with Alfa Romeo, who will also create a revival of its own classic Spider. While we hope the carrozeria's car will look like Pininfarina's outstanding 2uettotanta concept, the Japanese have the difficult task of not only recreating an icon but also finding a way of keeping the cute roadster part of the current Mazda family.

First seen 2003 Tokyo motor show
Chief designer Truman Pollard
Design director Moray Callum
Length 3,640mm
Width 1,720mm
Height 1,230mm
Wheelbase 2,330mm
Engine MZR 1.6L, in-line 4-cylinder DOHC and hybrid motor.
Power 180bhp

Your author, Flavien Dachet, is a UK-based, French-born car designer. You may know him as the purveyor of KarzNshit, a photo blog that if isn't already in your bookmarks, certainly should be.

By Flavien Dachet