The 2017 Perodua Axia facelift, which appeared in Malaysian showrooms this week, has been officially launched at the MYPerodua Nation carnival at Aeon Shah Alam. The event is being held at the mall’s outdoor car park for this weekend, and it’s free for all to attend.

The Axia, Malaysia’s most affordable car and Perodua’s most popular model, has been with us since September 2014, which makes it nearly two and a half years old. This mid-life refresh brings more than just altered faces for the hatchback’s two designs; there’s also an improved powertrain as well as some useful new features.

Let’s start under the bonnet, where the 1KR-VE 1.0 litre engine now gains VVT-i. The addition of variable valve timing to this three-cylinder engine was first seen in the Bezza sedan last year, and the Axia now gets the update. Outputs are up by 1 hp and 1 Nm to 67 hp at 6,000 rpm and 91 Nm at 4,400 rpm.

Perodua claims a fuel consumption figure of up to 22.5 km per litre with the manual, up from the original Axia’s 21.6 km per litre and just a hair under the Bezza’s 22.6 km per litre figure with the 1.0 litre engine and stick shift. No change in transmissions – one can choose between a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

As facelifts go, this is quite a big one that’s immediately noticeable. The original Axia came with two faces – one for the Standard and another for the SE/Advance – and both get updates here. Now, the Standard E and G variants get the pre-facelift SE/Advance model’s projector headlamps (an upgrade), paired with a redesigned front grille (with a silver bar) and bumper. The Standard face is much bolder as a result.

The side signal repeaters on the front fenders and 14-inch wheels (steel items on the Standard E, eight-spoke alloys on the Standard G) remain unchanged, along with the rear bumper design and red tail lamps. A new addition is a tailgate handle where there was none before, in place of an external keyhole on the pre-facelift car.

The more expensive and sportier-styled Axia SE and Advance models receive get a bigger design revamp. Gone is the ‘Angry Birds’ look, replaced by a new chrome two-bar grille, new design projector headlamps and a bumper that looks like it came from a Honda Jazz, which is no bad thing. The foglamp housings now feature chrome highlights and faux carbon-fibre surrounds.

On the profile, the Axia SE/Advance gets wing mirror LED signal repeaters (as before), new “spiral design” 14-inch wheels from the top Bezza Advance variant and chrome door handles with a keyless entry button on the driver’s side. The sharper rear bumper and clear rear lights are unchanged. The new tailgate handle gets a keyless entry button here.

As expected, there’s less change inside. All variants now get the Eco-drive Mode light (including the Standard E) and a revised instrument cluster design, with white illumination on the SE and Advance. The costlier/sportier two also receive a push start button, located next to a new off switch for the front parking sensors.

Click to enlarge price list

The top Advance gains a new touchscreen infotainment system with “Smart Link” screen mirroring for Android phones (the SE retains a simple radio/CD head unit with Bluetooth, while the Standard G omits the CD player). Other changes include new fabric seat designs for Standard and SE models, as well as new grey (previously red) seat stitching/piping and steering wheel stitching on the Advance.

No change on the safety front – no ESC for the cheapest new car one can buy in Malaysia, but ABS is standard from the Standard G above. All Axias get dual front airbags for a four-star ASEAN NCAP rating. Prices have been revised upwards by up to RM2,773 spec-for-spec, and now range from RM24,900 to RM42,900. Gear Up accessories are available, too. Full price list above.

Two offbeat colours – Lemongrass Green and Cherry Blossom – have been discontinued, leaving Ivory White, Glittering Silver, Ebony Black and Midnight Blue in the colour options list. The SE and Advance have two additional hues – Solid Sunflower Yellow and Metallic Lava Red.

Since order books for the Axia facelift opened on January 13, Perodua has collected around 3,000 names for the car, Perodua MD Datuk Dr Zahari Husin revealed. The company’s sales target for it’s “new baby” is 6,000 units per month. Perodua has sold a total of 214,700 Axias since September 2014.

GALLERY: Perodua Axia 1.0 Advance facelift

GALLERY: Perodua Axia 1.0 SE facelift

GALLERY: Perodua Axia 1.0 Standard G facelift with GearUp bodykit

GALLERY: Perodua Axia facelift official images