Mazda Motor announced Tuesday that the newest version of its Axela model (known as the Mazda3 elsewhere) will go on sale later this month in the Japanese domestic market. The Axela and Axela Sport are joined by the Mazdaspeed Axela (pictured above, this model is the Mazdaspeed3 in North America and the Mazda3 MPS in Europe, Australia and New Zealand).

More pics and info after the jump...
The freshened Axelas (Axelae?) are intended to be "dynamic sporty compacts that further exceed your expectations," with enhancements to exterior and interior styling and dynamic performance. From our perspective, the best news is the addition of an all-wheel-drive model for the first time.

On the outside, the Axela gets redesigned front and rear fascia, new alloy wheels ranging up to 17 inches for the Sport and 18 inches for the Mazdaspeed version, a rear roof spoiler and side skirts. LED taillights appear on some models.

The interior gets a materials upgrade, along with optional leather and a new optional instrument package. An MP3-enabled eight-speaker Bose sound system is an available option.

Powertrain upgrades include the introduction of an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission (the Activematic) for the 2- and 2.3-liter models, and the addition of sequential valve timing for the 2-liter engine to give better low-end performance. All models receive a drive-by-wire throttle. The new all-wheel-drive option is currently available only with the 2-liter powerplant, and features an Active Torque Split AWD System to dynamically distribute power between the front and rear wheels depending on conditions.

The Mazdaspeed model (still FWD-only) gets the MZR 2.3-liter DISI turbo (shown below), good for about 260 hp and 280 foot-pounds of torque, driving through a six-speed manual. A new addition is a torque-sensing limited slip differential, to help deal with torque steer. The Mazdaspeed also gets exclusive aero enhancements, including a front spoiler, floating rear spoiler and streamlined underfloor.

[Source: Mazda]


Mazdaspeed 2.3-liter turbo


Axela "Sport" model


Mazdaspeed Axela with floating rear spoiler.


Mazdaspeed interior