Over the past two and a half years Mazda has shown off its Nagare design, based on flowing-wave-like lines, with concept cars at the world’s motor shows.

Not it’s launching the first new production model based on the Nagare design concept, the vision of the company’s former design chief Laurens van den Acker, who has since moved on to Renault . But it is far from a sporty model like the original concepts, it’s the new 5, the C segment people carrier/MPV/minivan once known (still is in Japan) as the Premacy.

The automaker’s head of European design, Briton Peter Birtwhistle, said: “The Nagare design concept was always seen as controversial and it was never going to be easy to get something so flamboyant into production.”

He added that under new design chief ‘Speedy’ Maeda, the sculptured lines of Nagare will be toned down.

“In Maeda we now have a new design chief who is giving a direction to tone the style down while remaining just as stylish. What we looking at draws inspiration from Nagare but with more discipline in terms of movement – a more classic look.

“You will still see movement and motion but the decorative nature of Nagare will be calmed down.

“We have had two and a half years of positive feedback about Nagare and when we launched the 3 people were asking us when they would see the design concept put into production. It was always our intention to apply it and it just so happened that the 5 was the next model in the pipeline.

“There are two ways of looking at this. Nagare was seen as very sporty and so not very logical to apply it to a van – but then why not? The shape of a van is not very easy to work with but with the flowing lines we have got some movement into the vehicle, which is difficult on this type of car, and it really does stand out on the road.

“The execution of the wave-like lines along the side of the 5 are particularly well done given that the rails for the rear sliding door did not make this very easy. The flutes running the length of the car are a really nice, sensitive execution – they don’t look like great gouges.”

Birtwhistle said that if Mazda’s next model had been the MX-5 or RX-8, it may have been able to apply Nagare in a more purposeful way.

His Frankfurt-based design team worked on early versions of the new MPV, which he said took many of its design cues and form language from the 3, sold mainly as a hatchback in northern and western Europe. It was then handed over to the Hiroshima designers in Japan to add the Nagare expression.

“When we first started work on the 5, the Nagare concepts were still in their first stages. We were still looking for a modern minivan look although we were restricted by the fact that we were working with the same basic architecture as the previous model.”

The next generation of Mazdas, said Birtwhistle, will see new platforms and a design not so much based on flamboyancy but on quality and engineering excellence.

“Of course they will be good looking cars, but they will be high quality, with expressive interiors and they will of course have the new Sky engine technology.”

Clues to this new wave will be seen at the end of the summer when Mazda will show off its latest concept vehicle, a teaser for the next D segment 6.

“We want to retain the strong, expressive front end of the 3, toned down a little without losing its strength. In Europe the big front grille is not an issue, but it does not seem to play so well in the United States.

“We will certainly retain the 5-point front graphic brand symbol and the concept will remain provocative and sporty. The next generation will have a classic design that will appeal to mature customers.”