Best in Show

Brendan: It captured our hearts, if not our minds. While details were slim as to powertrain, Mazda’s RX Vision Concept pretty much stole the Tokyo Motor Show right from the outset. It was long, lean, and low, and we fell in love with it.

However, I really have to wade in with a warning here: there’s just no way this thing isn’t going to break our hearts. Check out the dimensions: that nose is ridiculously long. Sure, looking a bit like a Mazda-fied Aston Martin is a recipe for one hot Japanese number, but there’s absolutely no packaging reason for it, not if it’s truly going to get some next-generation Skyactiv-R rotary engine. The whole reason behind using a rotary is its compact packaging, and frankly a reborn RX-7 wouldn’t need to be much longer than the current MX-5 if it was a two-seater. This thing looks more like a new version of the 2000GT.

However, it’s still amazing, and gets my vote. A rotary-powered future might be a bit fuzzy, let alone one that looks like this, but we can dare to dream.

Jonathan: Like Brendan, I felt that the RX-Vision stole the show almost before it even started. While the proportions are overly dramatic and unnecessary for a compact rotary power plant, there is no denying its overall appeal. However, what got me even more than that slinky profile were the details: the unique sliver of a lighting element springing from the headlight, the evolution of Mazda’s signature spar through the taillights, and the way light curls and reflects off the subtly curved body panels and the stainless steel housings for the gauges and other interior trim.

Mazda will face some severe challenges getting a rotary-powered sports car to market, but they have a body ready and willing to inherit the soul of Mazda’s quirky powertrain legacy.

Best Concept

Brendan: Aside from Mazda’s vision of a slightly phallic future, there was one car that tempted me to break onto the stand and go ripping around the streets of Tokyo. It wasn’t a Toyota, it wasn’t a Honda (although that open-wheeled single-seater 2&4 was amazing), it was a Yamaha.

The Gordon Murray–designed Yamaha Sports Ride concept is like a baby McLaren F1, crafted from carbon-fibre and offered up as a potential competitor to the Lotus Elise. It’s a lovely confection of a thing, and if they could make it cheaply enough, it’d be the weekend antidote to the self-driving future.

Jonathan: Best Concept was a little hard to choose from after the sultry RX-Vision. There were many cool and quirky concepts, as well as high-tech and innovative ideas in play, but the one that stood out for me was a boxy little Daihatsu called the Nori Ori. Truly a shoebox of a vehicle for maximizing interior space relative to its footprint and in line with kei car designs popular in Japan, the Nori Ori is a demonstration of accessibility-focused design, with a low floor and ramp and reconfigurable interior (especially the folding front passenger seat that can slide under the front dash) for easy entry and exit of wheelchairs, strollers or people, and there was something captivating about its friendly inviting green and white colour scheme with lovely hardwood floors. It may not be a soul-stirring driver’s car, but for those that travel with wheelchair bound family or mobility-impaired friends, it’s a welcome innovation.

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