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The 2014 Mazda3, or the Axela as it is called in its home market, has just gone on sale in Japan. Other than the usual 1.5/2.0 litre petrol and 2.2 litre diesel engines that have been announced for export markets, however, the domestic range consists of a 2.0 litre hybrid variant simply called the Mazda Axela Hybrid.

As rumoured in 2009 and confirmed a year later, the 2013 Axela/Mazda3 Hybrid licenses Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system. No output figures have been detailed, but the hybrid package in use here is most likely to be the current Prius’ 82 PS/207 Nm electric motor and eCVT transmission. Toyota, of course, is already working on the next-gen Prius.

The Axela/Mazda3 Hybrid’s 2.0 litre petrol engine is Hiroshima’s own, however. Mazda claims that it differs from the standard car’s SKYACTIV-G 2.0 unit, as it has been developed “exclusively for the hybrid powertrain” while retaining the brand’s “trademark driving pleasure.” Fuel economy is pegged at 30.8 km per litre, measured under the JC08 test cycle.

It looks identical to its petrol and diesel siblings on the outside, but the Mazda3 Hybrid’s cabin features a few notable additions. The bespoke, Prius-like gear knob is unique to the hybrid, as is the revised instrument cluster. The boot is smaller too, as some space is partitioned off to store the electric motor’s bulky battery packs.

In Japan, the hybrid variant is only available in sedan form and forgoes Mazda’s i-stop and i-ELOOP technologies. It forms the Axela Sedan’s top variants (above the base 1.5 litre models), and is priced below the range-topping turbodiesel Axela Sport 2.2 XD (hatchback).