Part III | Lexus surprised all of us with the unveiling of the LF-SA concept coming from the designers at Toyota ED2 Sofia-Antipolis (based in the south of France) and managed by Lance Scott. This small urban car makes a very bold statement. Based on the Toyota IQ platform, it seems to be coming directly from the latest comic book! It might be small, but it is heavily sculptured and the car looks rather ‘thick’ and ‘heavy’.
Specifications seem to dictate fun and luxury in a segment dominated in Europe by Twingo, VW Up and Smart…. The lines seem to be confused at first, but after a longer look, they are completely mastered. We know Laurent Bouzige, the exterior stylist of the project, very well, so his work is not strange for us; the lines have continuity and the highlights on the surfaces are a signature of his. Strangely, there is not really a body feature line, but more a connection between the front and the backlight. The front is the most blatant. We do not like the grille on Lexus cars in general, but this one seems even more enormous, with excess relief and too much aggression – especially for a city car. The grille really is too much and this feature of the car disturbed most of our designer colleagues. In spite of all this, the concept is a success. Surface changes are extremely controlled. It is like a sculpture, a sculptured body. If we look carefully, the back is taught, like animal is ready to pounce! The wheel detail, with large blades extending over the tire is interesting, even it is only suitable for a concept car.
The interior comes from Jacomir Cech and is similarly imaginative, with tense curves crisscrossing the passenger compartment. The addition of elliptic curves with new combinations of materials on the doors gives a light and spacious effect in this small volume. The interior includes many details: the driver’s seat is different from the rest of the interior – the seat is in blue leather/alcantara with beige stitching; the steering wheel repeats the grille theme and has spokes which have metal inserts with an interesting patina applied by a local artisan. The rear view mirror is an LCD screen. The door panels and central console are made with a 3D printing process and realized in foam imitating a honeycomb stitch structure. They are very soft and comfortable.
The grey exterior and blue/ivory colors for the interior give the concept a luxury feeling not often found in the city car segment. Even though the design is outside normal convention, the graphic treatment works well. This Lexus LF-SA follows an expressive and emotional philosophy that is very unusual in the more rational world of European design thinking. Contrary at our initial impression, this concept is a success, and even if the aggressive grille seems contradictory for a car of this size, its luxury look should please the girls.
Nissan revealed the SWAY Concept. From some years Nissan in-house designers have worked to rebuild a style language for the mark. With patience and accuracy, with small touches, show car after show car, they have arrived at this very successful concept that will be the next generation Micra. Nissan seems to be moving away from the frequently copied Germany style. The SWAY is almost a monospace with strong worked surfaces and a pronounced “A line” down the profile. A small error for us is the exaggerated swelling at the base of the A-pillar that we feel is inelegant. The contrasting anodized look of the cant rails which are connected across the backlight and the black glass roof panel give the impression that the roof is suspended over the greenhouse. Subtlety here is helpful. Overhangs, front and rear, are minimized and the wheelbase is long. There is space for 3 wheels between front and rear wheelarches where typically there would be just 2 and a half. Large wheel arches create an impression of real power. One small drawback: body surfaces seem to be a little too complex, causing reflections that hinder us from the reading the true form of the body side. But all of this should be corrected in the final version.
Mazda, the Japanese manufacturer that is less well known than the likes of Honda, Toyota and Nissan, but nevertheless has a large product range with its own personal style providing a great alternative for customers wishing to buy something different. In Geneva, Mazda revealed 3 new cars:
The CX3 is intended to take its place in the growth market of Crossover compacts. Exterior style follows the Mazda tradition with an expressive grille and a strong character line. Interior is modern with a visual effect similar to the one used by Mercedes.
The second Mazda introduction was the final version of the eagerly awaited new MX5 Coupe; the incontestable n°1 small sports car in the world for over 20 years!!! In order to continue satisfying its regular customers, the new MX5 body is a little more round than its predecessors, but a larger grille and slim headlights result in a more aggressive appearance. Nice work has been done with the light running along the bodyside. Reflections change with the angle you view the car giving life to the form. The “nose” is lower than the previous version and the light climbs in order to reach its peak at the level of the front wheelarch. The light comes down again towards the back, including over the rear wheelarch. This is all accomplished with a fluid movement along the body. Truly, it is a sculpture in motion. An interesting small detail: the rear lights are simple and round, enhancing the sporty look, they will remind you of some Italian sports cars. Most important for us is still the retractable roof. This is a very nice feature at the MX5 price point, especially in comparison with other competitive products. We look forward to the pleasure of driving this new toy.
To be continued…