A keen-eyed Japanese blogger has snapped the facelifted 2016 Mazda 3 in its homeland ahead of the new model’s Australian launch at the end of the month.

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While the company has remained tight-lipped on the details of its refreshed best-seller, a leaked image from a Japanese brochure in May gave the first clues as to the design changes for the new Mazda 3.

Considering the current third-generation Mazda 3 was first introduced back in 2013, it’s about time Mazda's rival to the Volkswagen Golf received a mid-life update.

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Now, livedoor blog has published close-up images of the new Mazda 3, which appears to be sitting in a Japanese stockyard.

Known in its home market as the Axela, changes to the car’s design are as expected – relatively minor, bringing the popular small car in line with the newer Kodo designs worn by its more recently-launched stablemates – like the new CX-9 large SUV.

As previously seen in the leaked brochure image, up front the new Mazda 3 sports a squarer grille with thicker chrome wings that blend directly into the headlights – like the Mazda 2 small car and CX-3 small SUV – along with a repositioned front badge that is now located entirely within the grille.

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The front bumper has been refreshed, with a new lower intake and new indicators – the models pictured don’t have fog lights. Revised headlights feature an updated LED daytime-running light (DRL) signature that is no doubt inspired by the new CX-9.

Adding to the changes up front are repositioned indicators on the wing mirrors, which now sit on the lower edge of the housing facing forward as opposed to the side-mounted signals on the current model.

More subtle changes have been made at the rear, with a new chunkier rear bumper worn by these hatchbacks – no rear images of the sedan have surfaced, yet.

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Above: Although this Mazda 3 has an 'AWD' badge, it's unlikely we'll see a four-wheel driven drivetrain locally

A single tailpipe is a noticeable difference in both Mazda 3s pictured, however this could be down these models likely being fitted with the smaller 1.5-litre petrol engine that isn’t offered in Australia.

The tail-lights also appear to be a slightly darker shade of red, and while not visible in the images, are likely to have a slightly revised LED signature on higher-spec models.

Images of the new car’s interior were leaked in March by Autohome – another Japanese blog – from a partially disguised pre-production Mazda 3 sedan.

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Although the changes are subtle, the updates to the interior should lift the cabin ambience – further adding to the premium feel that is already a strong suit of current Mazda models.

In the spy images uploaded by Autohome, it seems the new Mazda 3 has done away with the current steering wheel and swapped it for the sportier one from the new MX-5 and CX-9, while the manual handbrake has been ditched for a new electric park brake.

The revisions to the centre tunnel have freed up space for a larger cup holder storage compartment, which is now covered by a retractable sliding lid.

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CarAdvice will be attending the Australian launch of the facelifted Mazda 3 later this month, so stay tuned for more details of the updated small car in the coming weeks.

Click the images tab for more photos of the updated Mazda 3.