On paper, most cars seem to be the same with all the ‘technological alphabets’ present in engines, suspension, bodywork and so on. Variable valve timing? Most engines have them today and where previously the timing was variable on the intake side, many engines now have variable timing on the exhaust side as well. ABS? Even the cheapest cars have them. Airbags? They’re now required by law otherwise the vehicle cannot be sold in Malaysia.
Design is therefore a differentiating factor and here, there is a lot of difference from brand to brand and model to model. Different ‘design languages’ are adopted by different companies so even though there was once a fear that when computers get involved in design work, every car will start looking the same!
Mazda knows that design is one of its key selling points and its designers strive to give each model distinctiveness. The understanding of the importance of design is company-wide and when you look at the little details on the bodywork of current Mazda models, you wonder how the manufacturing people could agree to them. Usually, the people who make the cars prefer simplicity on body panels as unique curves and shapes add complexity and cost. At Mazda, however, the manufacturing people regard it as a challenge to accept and overcome to reproduce the unique details and features that the designers incorporate.
Then there’s also the feel of the car and this is often a strong differentiating factor. Here again, Mazda prides itself in engineering every one of its models with not just a dynamic character but one where the car and the driver are one. They call it ‘Jinba-ittai’ and the Japanese term comes from the symbiotic relationship developed over time by a horse and rider. A horse and rider communicate through tactile response and the horse adjusts its movement to allow the rider to fire off his arrow and hit the target precisely.
Putting Jinba-ittai into Mazda models requires special engineering talent and the experience is epitomised in the MX-5. Takeo Kijima, a former program manager for the model, worked hard to implement the Jinba-ittai principle to ensure the best driving experience. “When the car and driver are in perfect harmony,” Kijima said, “driving is fun!”
Here’s an example of how he did it: “The location of the shift lever, whether it’s more in the front, off to the side or farther back, will determine what muscles are used to operate it. We need to balance the amount of strength needed to feel oneness,” he explained.
Just describing Jinba-ittai is not adequate enough and it has to be experienced from the driver’s seat. This weekend (July 7/8), Bermaz Motor gives the public the opportunity to experience it at the MazdaSports Day. The event, organised by the company’s MazdaSports Academy, will be held at the Shah Alam Stadium (opposite the go-kart track) in Selangor from 9 am to 5 pm on both days.
Various Mazda models will be provided by Bermaz Motor and there is no charge for participating in the driving sessions. However, the participants must be at least 18 years old and possess a valid driving licence.