Category: ‘Concept Cars’

Japanese Auto Art: Toyota’s Wooden Roadster

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Of the world’s top 10 largest automobile manufacturing names, Japan currently has six on the list, but only one of those companies has built a fully functional wooden car. Yes, you read that correctly. In an age when chopping down innocent woodland has fallen somewhat out of favor, some bright spark has decided it would be a great time to make a car out of dead trees. Not exactly what springs to mind when you think of “green motoring”.

Toyota Setsuna wooden concept car

Anyway, this particular wooden roadster showcases the beauty of okuri ari — a Japanese housed dovetail technique that requires no nails or screws. Toyota is unveiling this stunning car at Milan Design Week in Italy (April 12 – April 17, 2016). Filled with events, presentations, and exhibitions, the prestigious extravaganza is renowned for revealing forthcoming trends in the world of design. Except, perhaps, the likelihood of wood being the next carbon fiber still seems rather low to this writer.

A modest two-seat roadster, the Setsuna is a concept car that Toyota is tagging as a ‘Time Machine,’ though not for its ability to leap backward or forwards across the space-time continuum. In fact, the underlying focus of the entire campaign Toyota is touting centers around moving away from technology and being more cognizant of how significant and fleeting time is in the real world. Toyota engineer Kenji Tsuji, together with Kota Nezu of znug design, wanted the primary structural element of their design to illustrate aging and the passing of time. Wood, while unconventional, was precisely the material needed to embody their message.

Presumably, the point being that wood ages and decays. Of course, the same sense of the passage of time can also be seen on Japanese family cars from the eighties, as they rust and corrode. But that was a design flaw. This, however, is art.

Setsuna: Time and Timeless

The name Setsuna means “moment” or “instance” in Japanese. With this design, Toyota is appealing to the kind of old-school attachment car owners had with their vehicles over half a century ago.

They are seeking the kind of bond fanatical auto enthusiasts, and club members have for their hot rods. The minds inside Toyota want to tap into that feeling of owning an heirloom, and passing it down through multiple generations. The following are a few examples of just how passionate everyone involved in the project is about how and why the Setsuna is destined to be timeless.

The 100-Year Meter and the Setsuna Emblem

Setting a tone that denotes the “accumulation of moments” in a gradual and consistent manner, these two elements are beautiful examples of form over function. Their purpose is served by the sense they strive to evoke — the feeling of family roots.

The vintage-style meter of brushed aluminum is set in the stunning wood grain dashboard just to the right of the wipe-lacquered wood steering wheel. Two red hands tick off the time of day and the passing of days while a counter at the bottom logs the years as they go by. Perfect for anyone stuck in a Tokyo traffic jam, then.

The car’s emblem, which at first glance looks like a rotary saw blade, is actually a combination of much milder metaphors. The circular pattern is modeled after the rings inside a tree, which represent strength; they also signify a moment unfolding like a flower.

Although, if your eyes are not, in fact, deceiving you and it really is supposed to look like a saw blade, well how appropriate for a car made of wood. The fleeting nature of life as embodied in a wooden car meets its inescapable rendezvous with the circular saw of time, perhaps?

Which wood to choose?

To ensure that the Setsuna lasts as long as its lavish meter, the type of wood used was carefully selected based on where it would be in the car.

Exterior panels: Japanese cedar, known for its flexibility and vivid color along with a wood grain of refined character was a natural choice. Straight-grain panels achieve a sharp and even pattern because the cut is made toward the log’s center. Cross-grain panels have a softer appearance with a more irregular pattern which Toyota lauds as fostering a “quaint and friendly impression.”

Car frame: Supporting the weight of the vehicle and its occupants required an extremely rigid and sturdy variety of wood. The perfect selection was Japanese birch, which is similar to paper birch trees with the signature chalky white bark.

Floorboard: A species of flowering plant commonly used in the art of bonsai or as an ornamental tree, the Japanese Zelkova was chosen for its strength and durability.

Seats: Part of the ginseng family, the Castor Aralia is valued for its timber quality. Growing to nearly 100 feet tall with a 40-inch trunk diameter, this particular species was picked for the smooth texture of the wood. Designers sought to offer a feeling akin to sitting on a wooden park bench — in this case, a leather-covered bench.

Of course, as any environmentalist knows, if you want a material that lasts for centuries without decaying, you need look no further than the almost immortal plastic used to make grocery bags.

Put Together Like a Puzzle

The body of the Setsuna is built using 86 wood panels that have been fitted together in a way that enables single panels to be removed and replaced as necessary. Traditional Japanese techniques that use the interlocking methods of housed dovetail joints add to the overall strength and durability of their auto’s wooden body.

With this being a one-off, I assume that crash safety was not uppermost in the designers’ minds. While Japanese wood-framed houses rarely have to endure impacts, it’s not clear what protection the Setsuna would afford its occupants. Having dropped a few jigsaw puzzles on the floor in my time, I suspect it would be very little. And at speeds above walking pace, getting a splinter would be the least of your problems.

Toyota is sure to receive myriad accolades in Milan because their concept car — conceived by clever minds daring to push the boundaries of design — makes a beautiful statement both visually and conceptually. With a single electric motor as its only power source, the prototype can achieve a top speed of 28 mph and travel approximately 16 miles before needing to recharge.

To state the obvious, Toyota has no production plans for the wooden Setsuna. But this is not a bad thing. It’s a hugely flawed design boondoggle that sneers in the face of environmentalism – cutting down trees instead of hugging them.


Subaru XV Design Concept Debuted at 2016 Geneva Show

Posted by Stephen On Friday, March 4th, 2016

Whether it’s speed or performance boundaries that you’re looking to see redefined or it’s innovative technology and luxury that you’re looking to get your fill on, the Geneva Motor Show is where you’ll find all of the above in one exciting place. This is where leaders of the car industry come to show off their latest and greatest concepts in automobiles and every big car company highlights this week on the calendar as the time to present the most advanced vehicles to the world. Among the featured cars for this year’s March Madness, Subaru had a little something to earn bragging rights.

Subaru XV Concept Geneva 2016

For those who don’t remember, Subaru debuted a couple of Impreza concepts at the Tokyo, and Los Angeles car shows last year. The first car was one was a five-door hatch, and the second car was a sedan. However, the Impreza collection also includes the elevated Crosstrek, known as the XV in most other markets. So now at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, Subaru presents the first certified preview at the high-riding, next-generation Impreza, by way of this XV Concept.

While the specifics were few, what you see is what you get here. The XV certainly has a more powerful take on the sedan and hatchback models that came before it, in keeping with the Crosstrek’s character. The new concept rides on 19-inch wheels which definitely won’t make it to production, and you can anticipate some sort of boxer four-cylinder engine to drive power to all four wheels.

All in all, the XV Concept does look pretty decent. However, Subaru has a very long history of making eye-catching concept cars that don’t exactly carry their attractiveness over to production. Nonetheless, the existing Crosstrek has a bit of a rugged handsomeness to it, so let’s hope something parallel occurs when this concept ultimately transforms into a production model in the upcoming year.


Production Toyota C-HR At The Geneva Show

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

After being on a grand tour for the past two years and then being debuted as a design study at the Paris auto show in the fall of 2014 the Toyota’s C-HR concept has remained prominent on the continent and even managed to make its grand entrance at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show showing off its impressive body to the viewers. Just a month later, this innovative and expectantly trendy C-HR model popped up at the 2015 Los Angeles auto show wearing a Scion badge and a vivid coat of red paint. It was at the Los Angeles show that it was revealed that this brilliant C-HR was a go. Unlike Scion itself, which is now dead. Now the production version has been debuted 2016 Geneva auto show, and it looks impressive.

Toyota C-HR

Personally, I dislike the styling of this car’s direct competitor, the Nissan Juke, but this Toyota C-HR blows it away. I know which one I would pick from looks alone.

It is quite evident that Toyota chose not to stray too far away from their original concept, and will probably impress the masses when they see how they added the low-profile/floating roof to the transition of this production vehicle. Certainly, the entire C-HR is only somewhat different from its original concept form, with very minor variations to the headlamps and the lower front end connecting the smaller wheels as the most noticeable changes.

According to Toyota’, their Toyota new global architecture (TNGA) which is also found under the newest Prius, it appears that the C-HR, which will have a full hybrid powertrain along with one or more gas-only alternatives.

The Toyota C-HR was scheduled to be sold in the United States as Scion, but those plans were crushed in early February 2016 when Toyota broadcasted that it would be closing its youth-oriented division. Despite the fact that the announcement wasn’t very surprising, ironically the C-HR’s crossover standing and hybrid powertrain might have certainly helped Scion in crucial market areas where it lacked any product. Now that it is coined a Toyota, the C-HR will be competing with well-known models like the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, and Nissan Juke vehicles that made their mark on the subcompact crossover division while the new C-HR was still on tour around the globe in concept form.

It is anticipated that the C-HR will go on sale later this year, shortly after which I expect we will be seeing them pop up in the car auctions over here in Japan.


Honda Active Life Concept at UK Triathalon Show

Posted by Stephen On Friday, January 22nd, 2016

The UK Triathlon Auto Show will take place at ExCel in London this year. It is a three-day event that will be held Feb. 11 through Feb. 14. This is where Honda plans on using this event to debut their Active Life Concept.

Honda Civic Active Life Tourer Concept Car

What appears to be a hatchback Honda Civic Sport Type R plans on having enough room to accommodate two bicycles in its trunk. It had to sacrifice a second seat to do it, but it’s also intended for a targeted audience – which I’m guessing is not families – but is those “active life” triathletes.

The really sweet thing about this car is that it has a retractable arm that will allow you to perform bike repair from the trunk. The toolbox, bottle holder, front wheel holder and the water take all integrated into the side lining.

It comes with a box in the roof – aerodynamically designed and sized perfectly for helmets and shoes – vital accessories for the avid mountain biker.

In photos, the concept car is blue and fades into a silver lining. Although suede and leather are found on the front seats, the Japanese automaker has continued the blue theme on the interior by adding blue stitching to the gearshift and the steering wheel – and then they touched it up with blue piping running through the center and upper outer areas of the two seats and directly into the suede door lining. The black roof interior is typical of a Honda Civic.

They may not be debuting this concept at the auto show, but is not the first time that this design has been presented. It made its first appearance at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. The entire vehicle receives its inspiration from the Honda Civic Tourer estate – the same vehicle that is able to swallow up to 1668 liters of trunk space when the rear seats are folded down.

And not one to miss a chance to push their brand on the younger audience, Honda plans on affording children ages 5 to 11 the opportunity to try their hand at a motorcycle for the first time. The bike will be a standard 50cc bike and will be supervised by experienced trainers. After all, even youngsters need to learn the basics in a controlled and safe environment.


Nissan Officially Kills Our IDx Dream

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

Nissan IDx Concepts

It’s a sad day.

Remember the Nissan IDx concepts we originally saw a couple years ago at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show?

At the time, Nissan told us that they were definitely going to make the cars as long as enough fans got behind the design. They didn’t specify a production date or anything like that, but they did make two different iterations of the concept – the Nissan IDx Freeflow Concept and the IDx NISMO Concept.

Nissan IDx Freeflow Concept

After the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, the automotive blogosphere went wild. Everyone loved these two retro sports car concepts. Just as Nissan intended, they “exemplified Nissan’s fresh approach to contemplating car design and kindled a fire in the hearts of people fond of the good old days of high-performance cars.” Nissan didn’t even try to build hype for the cars; there was no pre-show teasers or press campaigns or anything like that. The two concepts literally showed up in Tokyo out of nowhere and charmed the world.

Then, two months after the cars were shown in Tokyo, Nissan officials came out saying that they’d heard the loud praises of their fan base… They virtually promised that there would be a production model coming from the two concept cars. In our coverage, we optimistically hoped to see some sort of prototype in the first half of 2014.

And yet, here we are.

Nissan IDx NISMO Concept

At the beginning of this year, Nissan told us they still had the IDx cars on the table, but that they were “shifting priorities” to volume cars. Now, we’re almost halfway through 2015, and Nissan has finally come out and admitted that they will NOT be developing production models from the IDx Concepts.

The news comes from an interview between The Truth About Cars and Nissan NA’s VP of Product Planning, Pierre Loing. In the interview, he lamented, “The IDx is an interesting project; a show car that received good reception. But, to go from concept to production, the reality always kicks in.”

Indeed it does, Nissan. Indeed it does.

Apparently, the problem is that both IDx Concepts were designed and developed for a compact rear-wheel drive platform… Something that neither Nissan nor their sister company, Renault, currently have available in any of their production models. Or at least, not in a size small enough for a low-displacement coupe. They have several front-wheel drive platforms available, and the much larger platform they use for the 370Z, but that would require a total redevelopment of the IDx models.

That means that the only way the IDx can happen is if Nissan devotes substantial resources to developing and manufacturing an all-new platform for a car that, sure, the public loves, but ultimately wouldn’t sell in any real volume. Just look at the likes of the Scion FR-S… It’s a great little sports car that had great reception, but three years after its launch, sales are already starting to wane.

Be sure to pour one out for the officially axed IDx sports car this weekend.

Japanese Car Auction Find – 2009 Nissan Fairlady Z NISMO

2009 Nissan Fairlady Z

If we can’t have a new IDx retro car, we can at the very least celebrate the sports cars that Nissan does have available. Although the GT-R is probably the first Nissan sports car that pops into most folks’ minds, the Fairlady Z has been a long-time favorite as well.

2009 Nissan Fairlady Z rear

As you can see, the Fairlady Z (aka. the 370Z) certainly isn’t a retro-styled car, but it still looks great and drives great too.

2009 Nissan Fairlady Z interior

This particular find is for a 2009 MY and has been tuned up by NISMO. It’s also in pretty good shape with an overall rating of 4. You can get more details from the auction sheet translation below.

2009 Nissan Fairlady Z auction sheet

Interior B, exterior B, Nismo Version, first registered October 2009, six-speed manual gearbox, AAC, one owner, Carwings compatible navigation system and digital TV, half-leather seats, original 19 inch alloy wheels, power steering, power windows, ABS, airbag, intelligent key, pushbutton starter, original CD, reversing rearview camera, seats scratched, wheels scratched, door mirrors scratched, front windshield scratched, interior grime and scratches, minor scratches and minor dents, marks as per map


The Toyota GT86 Is Getting a Little Brother

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

2014 Toyota GT86

Last week, we got our first look at the facelifted 2016 Toyota GT86 sports coupe. This weekend, we learned that this isn’t the only piece of GT86/FR-S related news Toyota’s been hiding… Apparently, Toyota is currently developing a compact sports car that would slot below their joint venture coupe.

The news comes from Australian automotive blog Motoring, who apparently first heard the news from “a source close to Toyota”. They say that the new compact sports car will be a two-door rear-wheel-drive coupe that will have a starting price of about $20,000. It will run on a 132 horsepower 1.5L petrol engine and come in under 1,000 kg.

Toyota Sports 800

Motoring also says that the car will compete with the new Mazda MX-5, but let’s be real… Given Toyota and Mazda’s recently expanded partnership, we all know that this is going to be a Miata-based vehicle. In fact, we’d say there’s a decent chance it will be built on the same platform and use a SkyActiv-inspired engine too. The rumor right now is that the engine will be a modified direct-injection version of the 1.5L four-cylinder Toyota uses in some international Corolla models (2NR-FKE), but we’re not convinced.

Even if the new sub-GT86 coupe is largely built on Mazda components, the car will still be inspired by an old Toyota model. Toyota’s source said, “The new coupe’s exterior look was inspired by the Toyota Sports 800 (pictured above) of 1965, but reinterpreted for the 21st Century.” The source also said that the new coupe is codenamed 69DZ, if that tells you anything. Aesthetically, it’ll be based on the Toyota 86 Cb Concept from the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show (below).

2013 Toyota 86 Cb Concept

The new baby coupe will serve as an entry-level offer to Toyota sports car lineup. Other rumors say that Toyota plans to develop another larger coupe that will slot above the GT86/FR-S, which would give them three solid sports car offers. As the cheapest of the bunch, the 69DZ will have a heavy emphasis on fun, agile driving, and not as much on interior quality. We hope that Toyota opts for a simple two-seat coupe for the superior cabin space, but empirical evidence points to a cramped 2+2 seating arrangement.

That being said, Toyota is taking extreme measures to make sure the mini-86 kicks butt on the road… Apparently they’ve enlisted the help of World Rally Championship racer Tommi Makinen to test and develop the new sports coupe. With that kind of real on-track experience behind the project, we sincerely hope that this new sports car will go from prototype to production before the end of the year. It’s certainly possible; Motoring’s source said, “Designers have a final prototype that could very well go into production as is.”

Here’s to hoping!


Suzuki iM-4 Concept Confirmed for Production

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, May 16th, 2015

2015 Suzuki iM-4 Concept news

Remember the Suzuki iM-4 Concept we saw earlier this year at the 2015 Geneva motor show? It was shown alongside the iK-2 Concept. Well, according to a recent report from Automotive Express, Suzuki executives have finally given the official go-ahead for production. That means the 4×4 crossover concept will hit the market in production form either at the end of 2017 or at the beginning of 2018, offered as a 2018 MY in both cases.

As a quick refresher course, the iM-4 Concept we saw in Geneva had a number of cool features that we hope to see in the eventual production model. For one, the retro-styled design is actually very eye-catching, and we hope to see the concept’s quirky aesthetic carried over to production. The concept was shown in Geneva with a new 1.2L DUALJET engine and an all-new platform unique to any other Suzuki models. It also used a SHVS hybrid system, but AE said that a hybrid production model isn’t guaranteed.

2015 Suzuki iK-2 Concept news

In the meantime, Suzuki plans to roll out a new Suzuki Swift and Suzuki Swift Sport for the 2017MY, although a definite launch date hasn’t been set. All we know is that they’ll be much like today’s Swift models, but lighter and with a bit more oomph in the Sport model. These cars will NOT be based on the iK-2 Concept though… The iK-2 will come to market as a slightly longer hatch to appease the consistent customer complaints of the Swift not having enough rear legroom.

Japanese Car Auction Find – 2015 Suzuki Jimny

2015 Suzuki Jimny

Interestingly, we’d suspected that the iM-4 may come to market as a replacement for the near-twenty year-old Suzuki Jimny. Turns out, Suzuki is planning to launch a new generation of the Jimny sometime in the next few years, but it the iM-4 won’t be that car. Instead, the new Jimny will maintain the same customer intent as the current one – a back-to-basics off-road-ready crossover built on a ladder chassis and AWD.

To give you an idea of what that might look like, what we see here is a 2015 Suzuki Jimny in literally perfect condition. The seats are even wrapped, with only 3 km on the odometer.

2015 Suzuki Jimny rear

It’s easy to see what makes the Jimny so appealing… It’s rugged, clean and extremely capable. This particular Jimny is one of the kei car variants, which means it runs on a small, highly efficient 660cc engine.

2015 Suzuki Jimny interior

With well-rounded interior amenities, a surprising amount of cabin space, a ruggedly retro look and some stylish custom wheels, this auction find is one worth bookmarking. Get more details via the auction sheet translation below:

2015 Suzuki Jimny auction sheet

Grade S, interior A, first registered January 2015, Jimny Land Venture model, 5-speed manual, AC, ABA emissions code, dual airbags, ABS, 4WD, electrical retraction mechanism on mirrors, heated mirrors, indicator door mirrors, keyless entry, smoked glass windows, special chrome grill, original alloy wheels, power steering, power windows, ABS, airbag, no stereo fitted, part-time 4WD, special water repellant seats with heaters, special seat covers, leather steering wheel (with stereo switches), special dark silver alloy wheels, front under decorative part, LED ring fog lights, marks as per map


New Honda S2000 or CR-Z to Sit Between S660 & NSX

Posted by Stephen On Friday, May 1st, 2015

Pikes Peak Honda CR-Z

Honda has been perhaps the most exciting Japanese automaker to follow in 2015. First it was the news of the S1000, a ‘hot’ version of the turbocharged S660 roadster kei car that’s currently available in Japan. Then it was the new Civic Type-R. Then it was the Acura NSX Concept which previewed a new hybrid supercar that’s likely to make its production debut at the beginning of next year.

Now, according to Motoring, we’ve learned that Honda plans to introduce not one, but possibly TWO more sports cars in the near future. The first will be a successor to the S2000 that got axed back in ’09. The second will be a performance-tuned CR-Z. Both cars could sit between the S660 / S1000 and the NSX as mid-level sports cars. They’ll be bigger and faster than the kei car roadster, but much more attainable than the six-figure supercar.

Let’s start with the S2000. According to the report, the new S2000 would feature a mid-engine hybrid layout that’s similar to the one showcased in the NSX. Motoring’s Honda informant says that their engineers “are currently evaluating a detuned version of the Civic Type-R’s 2.0L turbo.” He went on to say that a more efficient 1.5L turbo is on the table, and that he believes that such a car could output a minimum of 300hp with a price tag somewhere in the mid $60k. This would put the car in prime position to take on the likes of the Audi TT, Mercedes-Benz SLK, BMW Z4 and even Nissan’s Fairlady Z.

As for the CR-Z, details are even sparser. Motoring’s insider offered barely two sentences about the possibility of the compact coupe’s return: “We still need to evaluate exactly where a new CR-Z would fit into our sports car hierarchy … We are looking at the potential of electric 4WD [like] the Pikes Peak CR-Z.” However, he went on to say that, “The powers that be in our R&D section are leaning strongly towards channeling development funds away from the CR-Z and into an S2000 successor.”

Either way, the good news is that another sports car is definitely on the table for Honda. We just don’t know exactly which one it’ll be. And, we should make it clear that neither car is anywhere close to production. Honda’s first priority is boosting sales of their high-volume models in two primary markets – the US and China. They believe that a focus on those markets is the key to higher profits, which would then allow them to devote research and development into lower-volume models like a new CR-Z coupe or S2000 roadster.


Mitsubishi Lancer Evo to Return as a Hot Hybrid Crossover

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Touring

Most of us already know that the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo is on the way out the door. Mitsubishi has already released a final limited edition of the vehicle to commemorate its exit from their lineup. However, as expected, they do in fact have plans to bring the Evo back to their lineup in the future. What we didn’t expect is the type of car they’re going to do it with.

According to a recent interview with Autocar, Mitsubishi boss Testsuro Aikawa says that the revived Evo would most likely be a performance-oriented hybrid crossover.

Pretty big jump, right?

Aikawa’s justification is simple. He envisions the Evo tagline coming to mean something entirely new for the automaker. He explained it like this: “In Japanese, when you pronounce ‘Oh’ [in Evo], it means ‘king’. So we would like to launch this type of [performance] car, featuring EV and PHEV technology, which is the ultimate of its kind. ‘EV’ for electric vehicle, ‘O’ for king – Evo.”

See how that works? It’s a clever bit of wordplay, and a good way to market the next Evo as the king of electric vehicles.

But what car would receive the Evo treatment?

Mitsubishi XR-PHEV II Concept

When you consider that Mitsubishi’s been building up the release of their next-gen Outlander Sport / ASX PHEV for almost a year now with their XR-PHEV II Concept, it seems reasonable to expect that this would be the next Evo vehicle. In other words, instead of the Lancer Evo, it will be the ASX Evo (or the Outlander Sport Evo, depending on your market).

Keep in mind, the next Evo will definitely not come anytime soon. It won’t be in 2016, and there’s actually no guarantee that it’ll come before 2020. Aikawa was very careful to not give a hard and fast ETA. Instead he simply said, “to develop these kind of vehicles, we have to sell a lot of the base models so we can cover the research and development costs.” In other words, they’re not going to force the next Evo into their lineup; they want it to be a natural evolution of a well-established model.

That being said, Autocar claims that Aikawa isn’t the only Mitsubishi rep. envisioning the ASX as the next Evo. Kaneroi Okamato – the guy who’s in charge of product development – is also on record saying the Evo will eventually be “replaced in spirit by an SUV with high performance.”

Together, they make a pretty compelling case, right? Regardless of how you feel about the EV king wordplay, it’s good to hear that Mitsubishi (A) has a plan for future performance models and (B) that they’re being prudent enough to make sure it pays off.


Rumor: Mazda to Revive MPS Brand Later This Year

Posted by Stephen On Friday, April 24th, 2015

2010 Mazdaspeed3

2010 Mazdaspeed3

For the past six or seven months, we’ve been hearing quiet rumors about the return of Mazda’s MPS performance sub-brand.  The last one came in February of this year when the Mazda2’s chief engineer, Ayumu Doi, clearly informed us that to the Mazda Performance Series is “not dead”. He went on to insinuate that a performance Mazda2 is a likely candidate for the brand’s returning debut.

Today, Australian news source Motoring has an updated story for us. Apparently, a hatch WILL be the first car to get the MAZDASPEED treatment, but it won’t be the Mazda2… It’ll be the Mazda3. For those who don’t know, the old Mazda3 MPS hot hatch was arguably the most beloved MPS in the brand’s past life. Pictured below you’ll find what the new MPS model might look like, rendered by Design RM.

But, wait… It gets better!

Mazda 3 MPS Rendering

Not only does this mean that Mazda is definitely bringing back the MPS brand, Motoring also says that it will be later this year at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Apparently, Mazda plans to tease us with a Mazda3 MPS prototype or concept at the motor show in September. But, they’ll still get us a production car by the end of the year so that the brand can restart its life with a 2016 model year.

Nothing is for sure, but early indications are that the hot Mazda3 will run on a 2.5L four-cylinder turbo petrol with upwards of 300 horsepower. The hatch will also run on AWD just like the new Ford Focus RS.

Mazda 3 MPS Rendering back

We still haven’t forgotten about the Mazda2 MPS, and neither has Mazda. We have no idea when they’ll do it, but they apparently do intend to offer MPS variants of other models, the Mazda2 being one of the chief contenders. Another option – the one we’re most excited about – is a possible Mazda MX-5 MPS, which could become the flagship model for the brand.

Either way, we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop on any other updates, official or otherwise. In the meantime, enjoy this old MPS auction find:

Japanese Car Auction Find – 2007 Mazda3 MPS

2007 Mazdaspeed3

Known as the Mazda3 MPS, Mazdaspeed3 or the Mazdaspeed Axela depending on your market, this was one of the defining cars for Mazda’s performance sub-brand. Although these aren’t the best quality images, we hope you can still appreciate the significance of the car beneath.

2007 Mazdaspeed3 rear

As a 2007 model year, this would have been the beginning of the second-generation Mazdaspeed3’s production. It was powered by a 2.3L inline-four that outputs 263 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, with front-wheel drive and paired with a 6-speed manual transmission.

For more details about this 2007 Mazda3 MPS, keep reading for the auction sheet translation below:

2007 Mazdaspeed3 auction sheet

“Interior B, exterior condition C, first registered March 2007, Mazda Speed model, DBA emissions code, 6-speed manual, AAC, power steering, power windows, original AWs, airbag, ABS, minor scratches, dimples, steering wheel worn, interior grime, wheels scratched, door mirrors scratched, front windscreen has minor cracks, marks as per map”