The Toyota Auris is a spacious, but unspectacular attempt at a high quality Golf rival. Only the availability of a hybrid lifts it from obscurity
What is it?
Imagine a Toyota Auris, spiffed up, sportified a touch and with a burbling 3.5 V6 nestling under the bonnet. That's what this is, and in its native Japan it's known as the Toyota Blade Master-G.
A VW Golf-style premium hatch that’s several times smoother, faster and more interesting than the capable but not class-leading Auris, this Blade Master-G is apparently too niche, exotic and CO2 suspect to make it anywhere near the UK, alas.
What's it like?
The Master-G proves pretty entertaining, as you might expect thanks to its big-engined formula and 276bhp and 254lb ft.
This 3456 cc V6 unit (lifted from the Lexus IS350) delivers the kind of instant power, zest and tractability the regular 2.4-litre Blade (another Japan-only product) and Auris can only dream of.
Refinement, too, for the V6 is creamily smooth all the way to the 6400rpm red line and with a wide power band, the Master-G really does just pick up and go, although the throttle response could be sharper. It sounds just the job, too.
A slick, quick-shifting six-speed auto with steering wheel paddle shifts is also part of the extensive spec list.
The cabin is big, roomy and high quality and while, on paper, the Master-G seems a Japanese version of the VW Golf R32, the reality is rather different.
For a start, the Toyota channels all the power through its front wheels and actually does a decent fist of it, with no discernible weaving or fight under power. Higher-grade suspension than the Auris – front struts, plus rear double wishbones – plays a role here.
But while handling is competent, it’s not nearly as incisive as the Golf's. The Master-G is fast but not exciting, with dull steering, and traction control that can’t be turned off.
Should I buy one?
If you’re a downsizing Japanese baby-boomer who want six cylinders, comfort, speed and kit in a compact, affordable package, the Master-G ticks all the right boxes.
This understated Toyota is more GT luxury than hot hatch and at the end of the day comes over as one of Japan’s most beguiling Q cars.