The Axela is based on Ford's global C1 platform, which was developed by Mazda, Volvo and Ford and is shared with the latest European Ford Focus and Volvo S40. Based on the styling of the MX-Sportif concept car, the Axela is available in two body styles, a four-door sedan, marketed as "coupé style" in Europe, and a five-door hatchback, branded the Sport version in Canada, Japan, and the United States.
Front suspension is by MacPherson struts, with coil springs and an anti-roll bar. Rear suspension is a Ford-designed "E-link" multi-link suspension, with four locating links per wheel and an anti-roll bar, suspended on coil springs that are mounted inboard of the shock absorbers to reduce suspension intrusion into the cargo area. Disc brakes are standard at all four wheels, with 300mm (11.8in) discs front and 279mm (11in) discs rear; ABS and electronic brake force distribution are available or standard, depending on the model. Wheel and tire sizes vary with model, from 15in on base models to option 17in wheels on upper-level models.
When first introduced, United States-market Mazda3 models were available in only two trim levels, i and s, with the 2.0L and 2.3L engines, respectively. Since then Mazda has introduced a proliferation of additional models under the Touring and Grand Touring labels. British Mazda3s are offered in S, TS, TS2, Sport, and a top end 2.3ltr turbocharged Mazda3 MPS (Mazda Performance Series) models. Since April 2008, when there was a mainly cosmetic facelift of the Mazda3, there have been some changes to the trim designations for UK cars, with the models now being the entry level S, then Takara (which replaces TS), the Tamara Special Edition and the Sport and MPS as before.
All 3 models use the inline-4 Mazda MZR engine, with various types, displacements and outputs including the MZ-CD turbodiesel, depending on model and market. Transmissions are a five-speed manual transmission and a four-speed automatic transmission; since the 2006 model year, a five-speed automatic is optional on models with the 2.3 L engine. This transmission has now been made standard on the 2.0 L engine in Japan (FWD models only), as part of a minor facelift in early 2008 which includes different front/rear bumper designs, new wheel designs and bodycolors, stiffened chassis, and better interior materials. The MPS / Mazdaspeed version is only available with a six-speed manual.