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For Takao Kijima and his engineering team, the first step was acknowledging that Jinba Ittai is what made the original Mazda MX-5 so attractive for sports car enthusiasts and one of Mazda's greatest success stories. The second step was using modern engineering methods developed by Mazda to evolve the iconic Mazda MX-5 into an all-new, third-generation edition for introduction this year. To convert the subtle imagery of Jinba Ittai into nuts-and-bolts reality with a body shell, a drivetrain, and chassis components, Takao Kijima wielded a tool called Kansei Engineering.

Like Jinba Ittai, Kansei is difficult to translate into Western terms. Thoughtful awareness and heightened sensitivity are the expressions that come closest to defining Kansei. It's the realization that the fitness of every constituent part underlies the goodness of the whole, that the aforementioned synergy between driver and car can be honed so that it can be felt by anyone who experiences the vehicle in motion. Another Kansei canon is that every aspect of design, mechanical function, and dynamic response ultimately contribute to driving satisfaction.

So, with Jinba Ittai as the point of origin and Kansei Engineering as the navigation tool, Takao Kijima and his dedicated designers and engineers created an all-new Mazda MX-5 that's markedly better than, but not conceptually different from, the original.

At first, the team thoroughly discussed what should be retained from the first- and second-generation Mazda MX-5 models, and what to evolve for the all-new Mazda MX-5. The six key categories, seen below in what has become known at Mazda as the "fishbone chart", guided the effort towards the desired "oneness". They are styling (inside and outside), touching (every aspect concerned with the tactile sense), listening (dominated by the engine's voice but also encompassing wind effects), cornering (handling dynamics), driving (everything from ride quality to acceleration response), and braking. The starting point of the new Mazda MX-5 was this 'Fishbone chart'.

Jinba Ittai Fishbone chart
Jinba Ittai

Five basic requirements were defined by Mazda engineers to realize the Jinba Ittai concept.
  1. That the car would be as compact and as light as possible while meeting global safety requirements.
  2. That the cockpit would comfortably accommodate two full-stature occupants with no wasted space.
  3. That the basic layout would continue with the original's front-midship rear-drive configuration with the engine positioned ahead of the driver but behind the front axle for 50:50 weight distribution.
  4. That all four wheels would be attached by wishbone or multi-link suspension systems to maximize tyre performance, road grip and dynamic stability.
  5. And that a power-plant frame would again provide a solid connection between the engine and rear-mounted differential to sharpen throttle response.