A car built around the driver, in the most literal sense of the term. The Sassou research model presented by Mazda at the last Frankfurt Show is based on an approach in which form and function are developed around the human factor. The actual user of the car is no longer considered merely as an element to be somehow fitted into a beautiful shell conceived by creativeness alone but rather as the source of inspiration for the entire design process. Luca Zollino, head of design for the Sassou, explains: “We started off with the package and worked around the dummies, the main idea being to give all the passsengers the same dominating position with respect to the road”.

Begun in January 2005, the project was developed in the Mazda design centre in Frankfurt where the first 1:2.5 scale mock-up was ready by as early as March. In April, the Sassou team began to shuttle between Frankfurt and Turin, where the full-scale model was being constructed. Because everything absolutely had to be ready for Frankfurt, development of the Sassou followed a furious pace, particular attention being paid to matters of roominess. “We did a lot of work on accessibility”, continues Zollino, “both for passengers and as regards loading objects into the boot”.

In spite of the “European” stamp of the design and the Italian construction of the model, the Sassou retains strong ties with the culture of its motherland. Kabuki theatre, particularly the Kumadori make-up technique, with its thick stripes of colour to emphasise the expressions of the face, and Shoji, or the transparency of rice paper used in home decoration provided the designers with some of the sources of their inspiration for the development of the interior.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 156

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