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The Kai concept holds Mazda’s internal combustion future

The next Mazda 3 may look this awesome

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Mazda Kai Concept
Mazda Kai Concept
The Verge / Amelia Holowaty Krales

Mazda’s process of teasing its interesting and striking future continued at the 2018 New York Auto Show where they showed the Kai Concept. Already revealed last fall in Tokyo, the Kai has even more significance. First, it’s likely a preview of the next Mazda 3 hatchback due next year, and second, that car holds Mazda’s gamble that the internal combustion engine can be cleaned up to satisfy ever-stringent global emissions standards.

We got a turn in a prototype equipped with the SkyActiv-X engine in January, the company’s bet that it can make gasoline engines that are as efficient as diesels without the emissions problems that have given them a bad name. Through engineering witchcraft, Mazda’s engineers say they’ve worked out many of the efficiency losses for the internal combustion engine, while insisting automakers should perfect that technology before throwing everything in the electric basket.

Mazda is also banking on the fact that people will still want to drive their cars in the near future, so new cars inspired by the Kai will be lighter, more agile, and have interiors that don’t intimidate drivers with oversized screens. Will it work? We’ll find out soon enough. But in the meantime, the Kai is a great-looking concept, and the next Mazda 3 should also be a great-looking hatchback that isn’t insanely priced.