TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Mazda Motor Corp. said Wednesday it will launch a hybrid version of the Axela compact car in Japan on Nov. 22, entering into the segment for the first time amid growing competition.

The fully renovated Axela, known as the Mazda3 abroad, will also come in gasoline and diesel versions. The hybrid car will only be sold in Japan for now, but the other two models are already on sale in North America, and they will be sold in Europe from October and in other Asian markets down the road.

"Including our first hybrid, all three models will be able to offer high traveling performance and environmental friendliness," President Masamichi Kogai said at a press conference in Tokyo.

The hybrid version, which employs Toyota Motor Corp.'s hybrid system, can run 30.8 kilometers per liter, making it almost as fuel efficient as Toyota's mainstay Prius hybrid.

The gasoline model has a fuel economy of 19.6 km per liter, a 26 percent improvement compared with its predecessor.

The diesel model will be put on the market in January next year, the Hiroshima-based company said.

The cars will be offered at retail prices between 1,711,500 yen and 2,982,000 yen. The automaker plans to sell 500,000 units of the flagship car in the global market annually.

Since its launch in 2003, the Axela has sold over 3.7 million units in around 120 countries, accounting for roughly 30 percent of Mazda's global sales.