More a luxury GT in miniature than a hot hatch. An intriguing Japanese curiosity.

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.

Peter Nunn

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SF695 10 March 2009

I might add

I would love to see this engine in the Avensis. Preferable using the Valvematic system

SF695 10 March 2009

A little correction

I know, that basically it's the same engine, but to be correct the 2GR-FE engine is found in the Toyota Camry among others, but not in the Lexus IS 350. The engine in Lexus IS 350 is called the 2GR-FSE.

Basically the same engine, the difference between the two is, that the FSE in the IS 350 has direct injection, combined with conventional injection and i believe higher compression ratio. Where as the FE in among others the Camry only uses conventional injection. As a result, the engine used in the Lexus IS 350 and the Toyota Crown Athlete has 310 hp, compared to 270 in the Camry and the Blade Master G