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 61st International Motor Show,
2005 Frankfurt,

Mazda Sassou Concept

Taking centre stage at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show is Mazda’s latest design concept, Mazda Sassou.


Conceived and designed at Mazda’s European Design Centre in Frankfurt, Germany, it is a lightweight, urban vehicle for young, first car customers that makes every day city driving fun, highly practical and economical.

A sleek, three-door hatchback, it employs evolved Zoom-Zoom exterior design language with youthful lightness and surprising hidden features.

The use of translucent plastic that disguises the head and rear lamps, advanced interior systems using a USB stick key and an ingenious rear seat morphing system, hint at where Mazda might be heading with a future B-segment vehicle.

Mazda Sassou is the first design concept from a unique approach to show cars for Mazda Motor Corporation this year. At three major motor shows – this year’s IAA, the Tokyo Motor Show in October and the 2006 North American International Automobile Show next January.

“This is the first of a number of concept cars to be designed consecutively at our regional design centres, namely: Frankfurt (Germany), Yokohama (Japan) and Irvine (California),” says Moray Callum, Executive Officer in charge of Design at Mazda Motor Corporation. “However, despite the design environment in which it may be conceived, you will intuitively identify that this is a car from Mazda. Its characteristics being uniquely Mazda; reflecting the essence of Zoom-Zoom, something we have communicated throughout the World”.

“Mazda Sassou was designed to appeal to young, first car-buyers” said Peter Birtwhistle, Chief Designer at Mazda Motor Europe GmbH. “It is a look over the Mazda horizon and what it proposes is new and exciting. It is the result of asking ourselves what stimulates young Europeans today. We feel that they would ideally prefer a vehicle that supports and expresses their lifestyle and at the same time would meet the changing demands of the growing European B-segment. Sassou, then, not only evolves Mazda small car design in a lightweight, fun-looking B-car package, it also represents a new way to express some traditional automotive attributes and provides a first Zoom-Zoom driving experience for young buyers.”

The name “Sassou” is a Japanese term that was chosen because it means having a positive state of mind, of looking to the future with optimism. On the horizon, then, is something positive and exciting. Mazda Sassou is not only an advanced evolution of Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom design language, but is a symbol of the forward-thinking optimism of the entire organization as communicated by its recently announced Mazda Momentum business plan.

Exterior Design – Mazda Alive

“This was a great project to realize,” says Luca Zollino, Mazda Sassou lead designer who also contributed to the Mazda6 MPS concept exterior design. “Mazda’s new-generation cars are exciting to look at with lots of visual appeal. Having to keep our ideas within the brand’s parameters did not hold us back when we started evolving it. On the contrary: having such a base gave us the right hints for putting together existing and new strong design elements to emphasize Mazda’s design language and implement the brand identity.”

The Mazda Sassou design concept is based in part on the “Shoji” principle. Shoji screens are thin Japanese doors made of rice-paper that partially hide what is behind them. Opening them for the first time can reveal something surprising. This is also true of a first encounter with Mazda Sassou. “The Shoji-like attributes of our design hide and then suddenly reveal various things with an illumination system that makes the car seem to spring to life,” said Masanori Minamisawa, Mazda Assistant Chief Designer now based at Mazda’s Design Centre Frankfurt. “We call it Mazda Alive because the lighting cascades and pulses like its being circulated by heartbeats just below the surface of the car.”

Mazda’s latest design concept is an advanced interpretation of Mazda stylishness that visually communicates dynamic potential so typical of the brand, yet mixes this with a youthful lightness and surprising hidden features never seen on a Mazda concept before. The front of the vehicle is an evolution of the Mazda RX-8 with a large five-point grille and fender treatment.

Interior – Mazda Insightful Packaging Redefined

The Shoji principle is carried over into Mazda Sassou’s interior, an experience that begins when opening the door. The concept’s interior systems are conceived to be used with a universal serial bus (USB) stick key that functions in place of a traditional key and includes a remote central locking function. After unlocking, the concept springs to life just beneath the surface of the exterior with light pulsing around the front and rear lamps graphics and illuminating the door handles. Opening the door reveals an illuminated USB port in the centre console glowing in a warm, red light. Inserted here, the USB stick key controls all interior systems and causes a joy-stick control lever to rise up. The system then comes alive, all systems are activated and the vehicle can be started using an ignition button next to the driver metre cluster.

The interior itself has two bucket seats in the front connected by an integrated armrest over the centre console and a bucket-like rear seating area for up to two passengers. Colours are monotone, blue-green and light grey, made of soft high quality materials with textural qualities chosen to reflect the illumination system in a way that enhances the sense of the interior as being alive.

Mazda Sassou can easily be converted to a practical two-seater by folding the rear seats into the floor, which forms a flat load floor that is 1400 mm long, 1200 mm wide with approximately 1360 litres of load volume (floor to ceiling). Combined with the rear hatch opening, the Mazda Sassou is able to transport larger items without having to remove any seats.

Powertrain and Environment – Targeting Low Emissions (Flexible, Fun and Friendly)

The Mazda Sassou design concept has been developed to support either a petrol or diesel powertrain of relatively small displacement. For this concept, knowing that the target customer is likely to choose petrol over diesel and would be most interested in a high-performance engine that is also environmentally friendly, Mazda’s engineers have envisioned an all-new, small displacement, three-cylinder engine. Further, the engineers believe the Sassou concept should benefit from Mazda’s all-new direct-injection, spark-ignition (DISI) technology.

With that in mind, Mazda’s engineers believe a turbocharged, three-cylinder, 1.0-liter DISI MZR powertrain would ideally match the spirited and sporty nature of the Sassou concept. Flexibility, smooth acceleration and plenty of torque are hallmarks Mazda’s DISI turbo engines. And when combined with the Sassou’s advanced aerodynamic shape and small, lightweight body, a three-cylinder, 1.0-liter DISI turbo with idle-stop technology could conceivably contribute to a further reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 as well as achieve class-leading driving dynamics that are characteristic of the Mazda brand and its expression of Zoom-Zoom. The powertrain would be finished off with a dry-type twin-clutch 6-speed powershift transmission that is shifted using paddles on the steering wheel, making it both fun and easy to drive in city traffic.

The Sassou’s suspension features MacPherson struts in the front and a torsion beam rear suspension system, along with Pilot Exalto2 Michelin tyres that achieve both responsive handling and improved fuel consumption.

(August 29, 2005)


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