It had one of the earliest ever interpretations of a virtual cockpit.
The latest generation of Mazdas are some of the prettiest, cleanest car designs around. From the CX-30 crossover to the sleek Mazda 6 sedan, the Japanese automaker's vehicles come across as elegant and distinctive without resorting to garishness. But this wasn't always the case for Japanese car design, which initially lagged behind more stylish offerings from Europe. In a new video, Mazda reveals its long history of design collaboration with Italy that first began in the 1960s. It's a fascinating story that explains the existence of the relatively unknown Mazda MX-81 Aria concept car that was introduced in 1981.
Designed with the help of Italian design studio Bertone, the futuristic hatchback with a wedge shape was the first Mazda to wear the MX badge. Mazda reserves its MX badge for its more forward-thinking, convention-defying models. It's little surprise, then, that the MX name made it onto the groundbreaking MX-5 Miata that continues as an iconic sports car to this day.
After the MX-81 was discovered in a department at Mazda, the company decided to restore it in time for the brand's 100th anniversary. Features like the MX-81's virtual cockpit remain astonishing for the period.
While no other significant Mazda besides the MX-5 has worn the MX badge in recent years, Mazda decided to change this when it introduced the new MX-30 electric crossover. This isn't surprising considering that the MX-30 is the brand's first EV and boasts innovations like rear-hinged rear doors that eliminate the need for a traditional B-pillar. It's a modern representation of a groundbreaking Mazda, much in the way the MX-81 concept was back in its day. And while legendary Italian designers like Giorgetto Giugiaro may have helped Mazda redefine its design direction many decades ago, today Japan's very own designers - notably Ikuo Maeda, Head of Global Design at Mazda - are at the helm of some of the most attractive vehicles on the road.