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Inside Mazda

Up Close with Mazda Design

Mazda CX-3 Subcompact CUV

The CX-3 may be a triumph of Mazda’s acclaimed KODO design, but there’s also beauty in the smallest details. Four up-and-coming designers behind the company’s latest compact crossover take us on a macro tour of their latest creation.

For Koichi Ohno, exterior designer at Mazda’s Exterior Design Group, the CX-3 is more than just a new model — it’s the first vehicle project he has worked on from start to finish since joining the company in 2012.

“It was important that the CX-3 be recognizable as a Mazda at first glance,” Ohno said. “So the headlights — the eyes of the car — were designed to be an essential part of Mazda’s KODO design ‘signature’.”

Tasked with designing the CX-3’s headlights and rear lights, Ohno faced a complex and challenging assignment. As the CX-3’s outline is sharper than that of Mazda’s other cars, it proved difficult to balance the functionality and signature of the lamps. So, they have a sharp outline with a mild impression to ensure they keep in line with the KODO design philosophy.


“My approach to the headlight design was primarily influenced by the low posture and facial expression of a predatory animal waiting to pounce,” Ohno revealed. “Beautiful, but edgy.”

Masaya Suzuki, interior designer at Mazda’s Interior Design Group, focused much of his energy on the high-quality feel of the stitching and materials used around and at the top of the doors, as well as on the dashboard.

“My main goal while working on the CX-3 was to incorporate the exterior form of the car into the interior,” Suzuki explained.“It was very important that we produced consistency on both the outside and the inside of the vehicle.”

The concept behind the development of the interior was to make it feel both modern as well as handmade and warm. It was also essential that the materials conveyed a high-quality feel.

“I designed an interior that exudes warmth, comfort and calmness, even in its sharp surfaces, and I concentrated on using the smooth, flowing and horizontal look of the trim line to create a great feeling of interior space,” Suzuki added.

A unique and unprecedented combination of white, grey and silver, Ceramic Metallic is the newest addition to Mazda’s color palette.

“We started with dozens of samples for the Mazda CX-3,” said Hiroki Tabuchi, color designer within the Color and Trim Design Group. “We eventually narrowed these down to Ceramic Metallic, which we feel has the nuance and texture to be the most suitable color for the KODO design of the vehicle.”

Ceramic Metallic has various expressions, from solid to metallic to matte — it looks different according to differing weather conditions. Designers spent a lot of time evaluating the color outside, changing the combination of materials before finally settling on what you see here. The development of the color took more than a year, but the final result really suits the futuristic look of the car.

“For the CX-3, we were looking for a truly unconventional color that would set it apart,” Tabuchi said. “Ceramic Metallic is an unusual choice, but it works well with KODO design, from solid to metallic to matte.”


As a Clay Modeller in Mazda’s Design Modelling Studio, Hiroaki Tojo’s mission is to create a convincing form for the product designers. Supporting the design of the back of the CX-3, Tojo worked mainly on the rear-bumper – a task that required, quite literally, a hands-on approach.

“By the time I get to work on the clay model, the basic design of the car has already been fixed in the early design stages,” Tojo explained. “My job with the CX-3 was to form the surface quality of the overall rear design and to create the image for the design of the lower, black-colored section of the bumper, working with the senior modeler and the designer in charge of the project.”

“The big challenge was to meet current safety requirements but still make the design look light,” Tojo adds. “And as with the rest of the design of the car, I think we succeeded.”