Concept to Production: Mazda Vision to 2019 Mazda3

A year and a half ago I went to the LA Auto Show to look at Mazda’s Vision Coupe concept car. It was a design exercise by Mazda to guide their future showroom cars, and more interesting to me, they stated a deliberate intention to explore ideas that do not necessarily photograph well. They believed making these sculpted curves look interesting in motion and in person would be worthwhile even if they don’t look as good in pictures. I thought they did an admirable job, enough that I felt guilty documenting my observations on this blog where I could only post pictures.

So, with the caveat that these pictures don’t look as good as the real thing in person, I examine the first implementation. See how the wild ideas on a concept car survived translation to a production car on the dealership floor: the 2019 Mazda3 Sedan. These started trickling in to dealerships a few months ago, and a search of online inventory indicated a few were in stock at nearby Puente Hills Mazda. I stopped by to find a silver sedan in front for comparison against the concept car.

Front three quarter2019 Mazda3 sedan front-three-quarters

There were a few elements that were never going to make it into production: those gigantic wheels and tiny rearview mirrors being the first to go. However I was a little sad at some of the other changes. A few of Vision’s clean long lines have been broken up in the production car. One significant line traced from leading edge of hood, met base of windshield, and became bottom edge of the windows. On the production car, that hood crease climbed up on pillar, no longer lining up with bottom window edge. A separate line on the concept car started at headlights, curved over front wheels, stayed parallel to bottom edge of windows, and blended into tail lights. On the production car this line started up front but dropped off on driver’s door and faded away into nothing. Another line started from base of rear window and led to top edge of trunk. I would have liked to see those characters survive but the car still looks pretty good in their absence.

As expected, Vision’s dramatic LED headlights and surrounding visuals did not make it to production. Only the vaguest of hints are still present.

The tail lights fared a little better in translation, but only in comparison to the headlights. It did pick up central LED elements and added a few more, and the rocket nozzle kind of survived in the form of embossed grill shape and not a ring of LEDs. Big dramatic horizontal line mostly disappeared but a few segments of horizontal styling are still there.

As expected, Vision’s multi-layered three dimensional nose was sadly flattened to comply with pedestrian protection and crash safety laws.

Mazda is making an effort to move upstream, elevate themselves above the Toyota / Honda / Nissan product line but maybe not quite up to their Lexus / Acura / Infiniti luxury counterparts. Mazda has yet to earn my money in this effort, but their exterior styling team is certainly doing their part and doing it well.

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