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Mazda Sassou Concept - Behind the Design

An advanced interpretation of the 'Zoom-Zoom' design ethos, The Mazda Sassou is designed to mix the dynamism of the brand with a 'youthful lightness' and surprising hidden features never before seen on a Mazda concept.

Taking a look at the design development of one of the stars of this year's Frankfurt Motor Show

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Once these changes were incorporated, a 3-D scan of this side of the model was made using point-cloud data. Advanced computer software then created an exact mirror image of the scanned side for the other side of the Sassou. This computer image of the concept with all changes was then used to mill a full-sized version from a rough “form block” covered in thick epoxy resin.


The full-sized model was then reviewed in one last approval session with a further developed exterior colour in Dynoc film, which could be removed so the team could fine tune the exterior design by hand. This exterior version of the concept was then frozen as the final version. It was then caste for final fibreglass production, from which body panels were made, painted and fitted to the chassis.

Mazda Sassou’s unique Mazda Alive illumination system is based on the “Shoji” principle. Shoji screens are thin Japanese doors made of rice-paper that partially hide what is behind them. Realizing Mazda Alive had ramifications for the entire process of developing exterior and
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design elements, as well as the concept’s unique use of materials.


A good example of this are Mazda Sassou’s exterior lights, which are one of the concept’s most interesting features, and one of the most difficult to realize. The team first built a full-sized functional front end based on design sketches and material selections, and tested it indoors, in showroom lighting conditions, and outdoors in sunlight. Changes were made until just the right type of exterior colour, surface treatment with translucency and the lighting technology behind this surface was found. Once finalised, they were milled using the same process as the body panels and then mounted to the front and rear of the final show car version.

“Sassou’s front and rear lights are unique in the way they combine materials, design graphics and lighting technology. It took a lot of testing with materials and paint and light technologies to get what we were looking for,” said Birtwhistle. “This process not only resulted in a unique lighting system, but the knowledge we gained will be helpful in future projects as well.”

The Mazda Alive illumination system also played a decisive role in the
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design of the Mazda Sassou. The
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design team, lead by Mickael Loyer, had already conceived an
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with a distinct look and feel, and that included convenience features – like a USB stick activated hard disc drive system – that might someday be employed in a Mazda B-car.

Final stages of the concept: installing lighting details

The dashboard assembly went through the same design stages as the exterior, from concept to sketch to epoxy resin modelling. Extensive material testing was done by the entire design team to achieve the desired affect of hidden lighting, revealed when an interior system is activated.


Mazda Sassou’s high-tech centre stack, instrument graphics door panels and seats were realized using the same design process as the exterior.

“You can see by the dashboard sketches just how complicated an idea like this can be,” said Birtwhistle. “Mazda design teams, whether in Europe, North America or Japan, are not only artists and automotive designers; they are also highly skilled at applying their creativity in a way that can be transformed into real world solutions.”



Sketches of the seating (above) are realised in wood and clay (left).

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