Mazda's new red alert

Artisan Red Premium is set to be Mazda's new signature colour.
Neil Briscoe
Neil Briscoe

Published on March 1, 2024

Mazda is changing its red paint. I know, I know - this will be upsetting to many of you, certainly anyone who's been a fan of the Soul Red Crystal paint job employed to such profound effect on the likes of the MX-5, CX-30 and Mazda6.

First introduced in 2016, and itself a replacement for the previous Soul Red, Soul Red Crystal has become a signature colour for Mazda and has been deployed to its best effect on the MX-5 sports car. Even the humble 1.5-litre MX-5 looks almost Ferrari-like in the glowing scarlet hues of Soul Red Crystal.

Soul Red Crystal was one of the first paints to use Mazda's 'Takuminuri' process. Now, you might think that paint is just paint - spray it on, let it dry and we're good to go. Oh dear me no, it's so much more complex than that.

Like an OLED screen for your car

The Takuminuri process uses the same basis as any automotive paint - there's a basecoat, a topcoat and a clear translucent layer on top. Soul Red Crystal, back when it was new, had a highly saturated red pigment for a richer red. In addition to high-brilliance, extremely thin aluminium flakes, the reflective coat also had little light-absorbing flakes that brought out shaded areas and make it possible to achieve a depth of colour that had previously required two layers. Think of these light-absorbing bits as like an OLED screen compared to a simpler LED one - the colours look brighter because the blacks look blacker.

Mazda always reckoned that the Takuminuri process used to develop Soul Red Crystal gave what were mass-production vehicles a precise, high-quality finish that looked like a master craftsman had sprayed them.

Now, though, Soul Red Crystal is no more. But don't despair, because here comes Artisan Red Premium, Mazda's new signature red paint.

It's already been used briefly on the special 20th Anniversary Edition of the Mazda6, and it will be used extensively on two new large SUV models which will be launched globally in the coming months, joining the existing Mazda CX-60 and the CX-90 (which is only sold in the USA, for now).

A dynamic and delicate expression

According to Mazda, Artisan Red Premium is part of a process which sees the company's design team "focusing our efforts on developing colours that accentuate a dynamic and delicate expression in line with the Kodo - Soul of Motion - design theme."

The idea behind Artisan red is that it looks more mature, refined and sophisticated than Soul Red Crystal, closer to the colour of mature wine. According to the designers: "Artisan Red Premium accentuates the strength and beauty of form that takes shape, and highlights hit by light portray a fine-grained transparent red shining brightly, and the dominant shade produces a profound depth and richness, rendering high contrast."

As before, Artisan Red Premiums consists of three layers - a clear layer, a translucent paint layer and a reflective/absorptive layer. For the translucent layer, Mazda has developed a high-chroma red pigment that's said to be "the reddest of reds" and for the reflective/absorptive layer, there's a new process which smooths out the distribution of those shiny little aluminium flakes, making sure they are dispersed at regular intervals.

Not just reds...

Incidentally, the same process has been applied to some of Mazda's other Takuminuri colours - Rhodium White Premium and Machine Grey, the latter of which gets a deeper jet-black pigment, which brings out the shadows more.

According to Mazda: "In the belief that 'colour is an element of form', Mazda will continue to pursue new colour expressions and painting technologies to enhance the attractiveness of our products, aiming to be a company that shares a special bond with customers."

It does seem to be working, too. At a time when the colour palettes of many rival car makers seem to consist of little more than variations of grey and silver, Mazda's famed red is proving popular - on average, 33 per cent of customers have chosen Soul Red or Soul Red Crystal when buying a Mazda in the past ten years. Czechia sets the record with 45 per cent of Mazda cars being sold in this colour, followed by Romania and Slovakia with 40 per cent. In Ireland, a little over 27 per cent of customers chose the Mazda Soul Red.