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2006 Mazda Kabura Concept
By James Riswick

Click for detail photo. Kabura means the first arrow fired in a battle.

A couple of questions come to mind. First, how come this word is still known in ultra-modern Japan? I certainly don’t know the English word for the first arrow fired in a battle, or for that matter first gunshot, cannon blast, torpedo launch, phaser fire or any initial warfare discharge of weaponry.

Second, does Mazda intend on starting a fierce war over the sparse sub-20-grand sport coupe market?

Maybe I should just put these aside for a moment and jot down what I do know about the Kabura concept. To start, it is a sprite little sport coupe based on the new MX-5 (née Miata) underpinnings that looks just a little like a baby RX-8. It has even more exaggerated front fenders than the RX-8 and along with a pronounced “fuselage” passenger and engine area, it is a look that “Mazda owns,” says designer Franz von Holzhausen.

As a concept car, it has plenty of the whimsical-yet-unrealistic features expected of such dreamy auto show fare, like the partial glass hood that gives a quick peak at the 190-horsepower 2.0-liter four cylinder engine. There are also 19-inch wheels, thin transparent mesh-covered seats and Mazda 6-like piano black dash trim that round out the concept wackiness.

Much like the RX-8, the Kabura’s biggest headlines involve its packaging and design. Mazda calls the Kabura a 3+1 (rather than a 2+2), highlighting the fact that the space traditionally reserved for the glove box has been removed. This allows the front passenger to comfortably move his or her seat forward to leave enough room for the dude riding in the back. He’ll be seated in a reasonably comfortable situation while the space behind the driver features a seat reserved only for packages, pets or children you just don’t like. Access to the livable back seat is gained by an RX-8-style rear door that, instead of swinging out on rear-mounted hinges, slides back into the rear fender under its own power – pretty cool. The back seat dude is further aided by a pop-up glass panel in the rear hatch that provides him with a little more head room.

The biggest question is really will they build it? Designer von Holzhausen says that if something like it does go to production it will be below $20,000 and aimed at the Scion tC. That car, while excellent and brilliantly designed, isn’t quite a performance champion. But like a comparison between a Mazda 3 and a Toyota Corolla, any Mazda will usually be the more sporting set of affordable wheels. And with the MX-5 stemming its design, sporting doesn’t begin to describe the potential fun this car could provide.

As for the 3+1 design, though, I wouldn’t count on it. Despite von Holzhausen’s claims that most people in this demographic use four seats extremely infrequently and only employ three on short jaunts to the airport, the idea just doesn’t seem realistic. Add a few inches of wheelbase and two RX-8 suicide doors and we could have a winner.

Inevitably, only time will tell whether this concept really is the kabura of a new battle of $20,000 sport coupes or if it is an errant kabura destined to become another auto show memory. Either way, at least I learned a new word today.

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Pictures of the Mazda Kabura Concept
Click pictures to enlarge

Click for detail photo. Click for detail photo. Click for detail photo. Click for detail photo. Click for detail photo.
Click for detail photo. Click for detail photo. Click for detail photo. Click for detail photo. Click for detail photo.

Posted March 22, 2006
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