The 2022 Mazda CX-5 Design Story: Meet the Makers

Mazda is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its best-selling model with the launch of the 2022 Mazda CX-5. Originally introduced in 2012, the CX-5 marked the beginning of a new era as the first Mazda to feature Kodo – Soul of Motion design.

Our latest Inside Mazda story gets to know the designers entrusted with the demanding task of updating the look and feel of Mazda’s stylish, spacious and dynamic SUV. 

Takanori Tsubaki: Chief Designer

“I believe that the spirit among designers who look inwardly for authentic inspiration rather than being directed by others is what drives the evolution of Mazda design.”

Takanori Tsubaki: Chief Designer

Takanori Tsubaki is well placed to discuss the design changes of the latest CX-5, having been lead designer of the second-generation model in 2017. Now chief designer, he says he is especially proud that the car’s body design aligned with the latest Kodo principles: It was strong enough to be retained and accomplished the re-design goals such as increasing its SUV-like strength and clarifying the uniqueness of the three new CX-5 trim levels.

Car design was a natural career path for Tsubaki. He loves to draw and has always been attracted to sports cars. He began working for Mazda after seeing the MX-5 and RX-7. For Tsubaki, this was a company that could design the kind of cars he had always admired.

Takanori Tsubaki: Chief Designer

Discussing his design influences and what helped inspire the more powerful yet simpler design of the newest CX-5, Tsubaki talks about working in Europe. He was attracted by Scandinavian designs such as Danish furniture and Swedish and Finnish glassware. And he notes that such crafts have the same qualities of functionality, extreme simplicity and beauty in form found in Japanese crafts. He understands that is a globally common value of beauty.

“Each designer looks inwardly for authentic inspiration rather than relying on direction from others,” he says. But he also talks about their common design goals including embracing a minimalist concept, an important aspect of Kodo. “Manipulating light and shadow is common in Japanese arts, like our ink paintings, which express the contrasting density of shadows without relying on lines. I think you can sense this in CX-5 modelling. This time, we have incorporated our minimalist aesthetic across the car’s entire body, a new expression of Kodo design.”

Aira Matsumoto: Colour/Material Designer

“The ability to find the precise balance among materials within a space comes from the essential spirit of craftsmanship.”

Aira Matsumoto: Colour/Material Designer

Aira Matsumoto chose to become a designer to solve problems. She joined Mazda after seeing the RX-Vision concept at the Tokyo Motor Show and felt deeply moved by the company’s pursuit of modelling, colour and texture at levels usually unknown in industrial products. “Design has given me a rewarding role where my efforts are valued by customers.”

The CX-5 enjoys wide popularity for its well-honed design. As the colour designer, Matsumoto “wanted to clarify its appeal through the minor changes on this new version and to enhance coordination between the interior and exterior.” For the Newground grade, she worked to achieve an SUV package that felt new while retaining known Mazda qualities. How? By balancing the new lime accent colour with the simplicity and power of the existing interior design.

Zircon Sand Metallic exterior paint

Matsumoto notes that new design ideas often come from seemingly unrelated everyday objects, and she reveals that inspirations for the CX-5 design came from sportswear and sneakers, while the new exterior colour—Zircon Sand Metallic—was inspired by the sand of a casting mould.

“The Japanese spirit of craftsmanship inspires us to both find balance between materials in a given space and to consider such things as the height of the summer sun or the feeling of a cloudy day when crafting materials that cars are made from.”

Takafumi Shimada: Clay Modeller

“To achieve a consistent design expression, we have incorporated into our modelling the subtleties brought about by the changes in light.”

Takafumi Shimada: Clay Modeller

Takafumi Shimada has headed exterior clay modelling since the first Mazda CX-5 was launched a decade ago. For this model update, he strove to eliminate extraneous lines as well as to capture movement of surface texture and changes in light and shadow intensity, creating what he calls a “more advanced and deeper three-dimensional expression, but without compromising details.” The resulting design feels glossy while retaining strength of mass. Mazda’s minimalist philosophy inspires a level of modelling never seen before, refining body surface by even the thickness of one piece of paper.

Shimada became a modeller because of a lifelong interest in cars and styling, and he draws inspiration from biking trips — where he appreciates a Japanese sense of “beauty and hidden energy of light and shadow” — as well as from the expressions of historical statues depicted with subtle changes in light. Shimada says he pours those new insights and discoveries back into car design. 

He believes that only human hands can achieve the true, time-honoured excellence of Japanese precision modelling. Mazda fosters an attitude of learning that encourages modellers to constantly challenge themselves to evolve. “With the development of the CX-5, I’ve increasingly challenged myself with more difficult tasks. I want to continue devoting myself to this, knowing that it will lead to both personal growth and growth for the spirit of Kodo design. I think that advanced modelling embodies a sense of tension, even in a soft surface.”

Akitomo Hara: Interior Designer

“Naturally, I want to make things that are both easy to use and beautiful. I believe it is my job to make people happy.”

Akitomo Hara – Interior Designer

Akitomo Hara remembers how special it felt traveling to different places when he was a child. But he especially liked the freedom of choice and destination you get when you drive a car. “I came to Mazda as it was the best place to make the cars I wanted to ride in,” he says.

Hara oversaw re-design and materials fabrication for cargo space and interior storage in the new CX-5. The first-generation of the car had considerable luggage capacity and the next generation improved on material texture. But in this new model, Hara says, “I aimed to further develop Mazda’s concept of capacity combined with ease of use and beautiful appearance. I am very excited about the results.” Improvements include substantially more under-floor storage space and a flat boot area when the seats are folded, which is ideal for transporting bulky items. “We greatly improved the functionality of the luggage compartment. It is rare to make such extensive improvements in a revision model. Upgrading is actually more difficult than starting a new design from scratch,” he explains.

Growing up in a 100+ year old Japanese house helped Hara appreciate timeless, hand-crafted beauty. He strives to make cars that are both sincere and enduring. As a spatial designer, Hara draws inspiration from observing architectural spaces or in trains, while sketching them allows him to identify important design elements. He believes the CX-5’s popularity stems from its “honesty, simplicity and straightforwardness,” noting that his aim is always to blend beauty and functionality. “It is the ideal that I grew up with.”

Yasuyuki Murata: Digital Modeller

“I am blessed to work with designers and modellers who respond to my ideas with supportive and encouraging tips and feedback.”

Yasuyuki Murata: Digital Modeller

Yasuyuki Murata describes seeking a career as a modeller at Mazda after “being thrilled at the sight of a dashing Mazda MX-5 at a street corner.” Now he is the head of digital modelling for the CX-5 exterior design, from body shaping and viewing sketches to producing the data file. Balancing ideals and requirements with beauty in design, he worked to create a design that would “emphasise the feeling of mass while expressing the strength and toughness of an SUV.”

When asked where he gets his inspiration, Murata credits many sources, saying that he speaks daily with clay modellers and other designers, goes to museums, looks at sketches, models and data, and even finds inspiration in everyday small talk. “I feel the presence of the Japanese crafting spirit when creating a car, down to the smallest detail. There is a cooperative spirit at Mazda of refining things and making them better. In the environment Mazda has cultivated, we are continually trying to refine things and make them even better than before.”

Combining high quality design and comfort with legendary driving performance, the CX-5 is available in three new grades to suit any lifestyle. The Sport Black grade pays tribute to the first-generation Mazda MX-5, with its classic sporty, red accents, while the GT Sport design features a luxurious Nappa leather and wood interior. The Newground grade is the perfect companion for any outdoor adventurer with its dirt-resistant interior and maximised all-wheel-drive performance. With more than three million models sold worldwide since its launch, the next generation CX-5 is joining an exciting legacy.

The 2022 Mazda CX-5 joins Mazda’s SUV line-up alongside the Mazda M Hybrid mild-hybrid system equipped Mazda CX-30, which now features the updated e-Skyactiv X engine and the Mazda MX-30 – Mazda’s first battery-electric vehicle, ensuring Mazda has a SUV range that offers customers a wide choice depending on their motoring needs.

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