From £27,080
Multi-million Euro concept points the way for future crossover. We couldn't get past about 10mph, but the styling's great.

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What’s new?

All of it – this is a concept car, but there’s more to it than an exercise in using unusual materials and improbable switchgear. The Hakaze is the third of four concepts from Mazda that define a new look for the company, and this one is the most relevant so far.

Designed in Europe (the other two were products of the USA and the fourth will be from Japan), it’s a four-wheel drive crossover coupe. It uses the CX-7’s chassis and drivetrain – the 2.3-litre four-pot turbo and a six-speed auto.

Aside from the fact it’s based on a production Mazda, it’s relevant because Mazda’s working on a production version of a crossover, although it hasn’t been signed off yet. Take away the show car frills such as the sail doors (which hinge out and up) and you have the essentials of a new small crossover.

It’s been designed to appeal to people who have a “lifestyle”, or rather a lifestyle that involves lots of adventurous sports – kitesurfing in particular. Kitesurfing is a crossover sport. This is a crossover car. See what they’ve done there?

What’s it like?

The thing about concept cars is that they’re very expensive one-offs, so driving it entails gingerly creeping around a very flat piece of Tarmac at a very low speed. Mazda supplied a minder for the car (actually the project engineer) who sat next to me and “did the gears”. I had to take my shoes off before getting in to stop the leather floor from getting scratched – it’s that level of fragility.

But the Hakaze’s size and proportions that are more important than the way it corners or the details of the instrument panel. It’s a good looking vehicle, and there’s plenty of room inside for four adults. The front-end treatment, with its wide grille, is likely to find its way onto a real Mazda very soon.

Clever concept car stuff includes rear seats that slide forward and under the front seats, and switches that you pass your finger over to activate rather than pressing. And Mazda’s European design chief Peter Birtwhistle’s favourite, a rear window milled from a solid piece of Perspex embedded with LEDs.

Should I buy one?

The Hakaze will be at the Geneva motor show in March 2007, but you won’t be seeing anything like a production car for at least 18 months. A small Mazda crossover has the potential to be very good, as long as the concept’s coupe-like styling doesn’t get toned down too much.

Dan Stevens

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