ROAD TEST: Toyota Blade Master

The formula of taking a big engine and jamming it into a small car is a time-honoured way of getting performance, leading to the creation of that hallowed class of pocket-sized performance cars, the Hot Hatch.

The Toyota Blade Master is, on paper, a true proponent of the hot hatch ethos; an unnecessarily large (3.5-litre) and powerful (206kW) V6 engine wedged into the engine bay of a Corolla body. It is a combination that virtually screams “Hot Hatch!” from the roof tops and should make the Blade Master the ultimate Japanese incarnation of the pocket-rocket segment.

Except it doesn’t.

You see, while the theory is all present and correct, in practice the Blade Master is anything but a hot hatch. Think of it more as a mini-luxury GT and you are getting closer to the truth.

Being one of those wonderful oddities obviously born and bred solely for the Japanese domestic market, the Blade is an endearing, if slightly confusing, blend of small car dimensions and big car luxury.

If the sight of a Corolla interior slathered with Lexus-style luxury and electronic goodies isn’t jarring enough, burying the foot into the plush carpet for the first time will certainly do the trick – a most un-Corolla-like growl emanates from the engine bay and exhaust as the Blade picks up pace at a rate that would be quite upsetting in the parking lot of the local bowls club.

If the plush interior and ultra-comfortable seats hadn’t already tipped you off to the fact that Toyota’s thinking behind the Blade was all about luxury, rather than ragged-edge performance, then tipping it into a corner for the first time will.

There is simply no way to get the Blade around a corner in a fashion that could be called “enjoyable”. Go in hard and try to carry maximum speed through the corner and it wallows on its soft suspension and pushes the nose wide. Go in slow and use the big power to pull it out the other side and it torque steers and pulls the nose wide. You can’t win, so don’t try is the message here…

In a straight line the Blade is remarkable in a way it never seemed possible to say about a Corolla, so tip-toe it through the corners and power up the straights. Overtaking is effortless and amusing and comfort is top-notch.

Radar cruise control and other such Lexus goodies are all standard and the suspension tune that makes it so wallowy through corners also make the Blade a remarkably comfortable high-speed cruiser.

So there you have it – despite having the name of a muscular Anime uber-hero, the Blade Master is anything but the ultimate muscular Hot Hatch uber-hero. Despite what you may be tempted to think reading the spec sheet, the Blade Master is all about comfort and going in a straight line very quickly indeed…

This article first appeared in New Zealand Company Vehicle magazine.

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