The flowing style of Mazda’s ‘Nagare’ design, seen on its concept cars over the past two and a half years, debuts on a production model this autumn – not on a sporty model like the MX-5 or RX-8, but on the new generation Mazda5 people carrier/MPV/minivan.

This presented a challenge for chief designer Koji Tabata and his team: applying the wave-like styling to what is traditionally a boxy shape.

Speaking at a preview of the new model in Vienna, Tabata said: “Once we had decided to employ Nagare design, we had to work out how to implement it on a minivan. We had design iterations from all our global design studios.

“The design philosophy for this car was ‘seductive smartness’ – making it alluring and tempting. We wanted to create a head turner. The final design has also achieved better aerodynamics and generates more downforce for reduced noise and better handling.”

In creating the flowing flutes along the side, the designers hit a number of stumbling blocks. Would it still be cost effective to stamp the more intricately-shaped panels? And what about repairability after an accident?

Tabata added: “We also found that the sculptured lines also created reflections that we did not expect and these changed as the car moved or the doors opened. Eventually we had to work with manufacturing experts, using actual steel panels, to finalise the design.”

The flowing lines running along the side panels actually look deeper than they are and are quite smooth to the touch. “We did a lot of experimenting with the depth of the fluting, the negative surfaces had to be kept shallow to prevent strange reflections,” added Tabata.

While the front of the car takes on the new Mazda face first seen on the latest 3, the rear lamps have been re-engineered. “Originally we gave the first generation 5 an upright rear light cluster to accentuate the fact that it is a roomy MPV. Now the vehicle has become established, we have made the cluster horizontal for a more sporty look. The car looks lower and slimmer.”

Inside, the new model, which will be sold worldwide including North America, carries over the very flexible seating configuration that can accommodate up to seven passengers (the outgoing NA versions seats six; the new one on sale from winter will take seven) and luggage as well as the sliding rear doors.

Programme manager Hideki Matsuoka said that the MPV was aimed at young families in their 30s.

“So price is a priority,” he added. “But the car also has to be practical, emotional and elegant. The USP is design and driving performance.”

Price here in the UK is likely to be between GBP17,500 and GBP21,500. Edmunds.com estimates the US version, which will share a new 2.5-litre I4 engine with the North American 3, will be priced from US$18,105. Mazda Europe will offer 1.8- and a new two-litre petrol engines plus a diesel. The model, launched at the Geneva show earlier this year, is called the Premacy in Japan.

Mazda Motor chief Jeffrey Guyton said the first generation 5, which replaced an earlier generation Premacy over here in 2005, had since sold around 500,000, 170,000 in Europe.

He added: “Biggest markets in the region are the UK, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It’s a tough market, there are 18 models in the C-MAV segment (C size multi-activity vehicle) representing some 1.4m sales annually – but ours will be the best looking and the best driving.”

The car will be launched in the UK initially with the two-litre direct injection petrol engine with Mazda’s iStop, stop-start system and the 1.8-litre petrol. The diesel will follow soon after launch.

On a very short test drive, iStop appeared very quick to restart the engine. There are no plans to offer the system with the older 1.8 although it will appear on a new diesel later. This will be smaller than the current 2.2-litre diesel, according to deputy programme manager Tetsuo Fujitomo.

He added: “Our target for the new two-litre engine was to be under 160g/km of CO2 to avoid tax penalties in various European markets. By using higher gearing and the stop start system we have been able to reduce emissions from the 150hp engine down to 159g/km from 187g/km in the previous engine.”

Also helping to keep emissions down: a gear shift indicator which tells the driver when to change up. It also indicates when to shift down when accelerating hard above 1,000 rpm to optimise engine performance, particularly when overtaking.

Fujitomo said that, over a measured test route, fuel economy was improved by 12% by following the gadget’s guidance.