The phrase ‘design language’ is a funny old one. Usually met with a roll of the eyes from a cynical reporter, it’s a catch-all phrase a manufacturer uses to summarise why all those lines over their latest creation go the way the do, and why the next car will look the same but just in an SUV body.

I can remember Mazda’s current design language, the snappily-titled ‘Kodo – Soul of Motion’, being announced with the Takeri concept car of 2011. As guffy descriptions of a design language go, this one real did whiff.

“Kodo captures the very instant energy becomes motion," it proclaimed. "It’s the muscular beauty you see when an animal pounces, or when a human leaps into action. Everywhere you look, this dynamic poise is enhanced by elegant detail. The five-point grille, defining body lines and powerful stance all show our design philosophy in action.”

Right. But whatever the speel, the Takeri concept car looked great, and it’s been followed by great-looking cars ever since. I think that pound for pound the Mazda range is the best-looking one out there, the culmination of which is the new MX-5, and the future of which is in the stunning RX-Vision concept shown in Tokyo last week.

The MX-5 is like a baby Ferrari, beautifully proportioned, and has simple, curvaceous lines to draw your eye to and make it look more expensive than its £18,495 starting price rather than major on any fussy details. Has there been a better-looking Japanese car in the past 20 years or so? Can’t think of one myself.

Well, that’s what I thought until I saw the two MX-5 concepts at the SEMA show in Las Vegas yesterday. The Spyder and Speedster concepts manage to look thoroughly modern and retro at the same time, with beautiful detailing and gorgeous proportions. Again, they look far more expensive than they actually are, which is not something to complain about.

They also brought a degree of calm and a large dollop of taste to the SEMA show, those two things not entering the lexicon of the show elsewhere (for better or worse).

The concepts won’t be going into production, sadly, so we’re left to doff a cap instead to the continued excellence of Kodo – Soul of Motion. I still don’t know what it means but boy, I like what I see.

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