It might not be the biggest, brashest or most assuming car on show at Detroit's Cobo Centre this week, but there was general agreement that this little Mazda was among the best-looking; the concept of the show, some said. It's the Ryuga, a compact, four-seat coupe that, say its designers, wears the grille we'll see on the Mazda's next range of production models.
The Ryuga's certainly striking. It's low and short yet powerfully and elegantly proportioned, features unusual ribbed surfaces and full length gullwing doors, and like Mazda's Kabura before it, is surprisingly spacious and comfortable inside.
Ryuga started life at Mazda's design studios in Irvine, California, where US design chief Franz von Holzhausen was responsible for it. "Midway through its design, the project moved to Hiroshima, where most of the detailing and interior work was done," said von Holzhausen, "so it's definitely a conglomerate of American and Japanese design."
The Ryuga's also the second in a series of four important concept cars that Mazda is working on. The series began with the pretty but far-fetched Nagare concept at the Los Angeles show last November, will continue in Geneva in March with a third entrant, and concludes in Tokyo in September with a fourth.
"You can expect these cars to be very similar in size and proportion, but to become more and more grounded, and more likely to be transferable into production, as the series plays out," von Holzhausen told us.
So by Frankfurt, will we be looking at Mazda's long-awaited replacement for the MX-3? It's a possibility, but an unlikely one, and von Holzhausen wouldn't commit to that directly. What he did say was that we'd definitely see the Ryuga's front end styling, or something very similar, on more than one forthcoming Mazda model.