Toyota’s new entry-level little star is here, replacing the Etios and driving in from R204 900 for the 1,4-litre runner.
The current Starlet is the product of an alliance between Toyota and Suzuki with the former gaining access to the latter’s compact vehicles while Toyota offered hybrid technology in exchange – so the Starlet is actually a reworked Suzuki Baleno.
Joint ventures, mergers, acquisitions and cross-brand partnerships are rife in the automotive sector, with multi-brand partnerships having been around for many decades with vehicles (and their components) being built all across the world.
The Starlet name dates back to 1973, and has adorned Toyota’s sub-compact hatchback in the Japanese domestic market for five generations (ending in 1999).
The sub-B segment accounts for the second highest share of passenger vehicle sales in South Africa and is a fiercely competitive territory. The Starlet replaces Etios in Toyota’s line-up – a vehicle that captured an average 22% share of the sub-B segment over its lifespan.
Starlet, according to Toyota, builds on the core strengths of Etios – good performance, fuel efficiency and affordable pricing – then amplifies the product offering with a modern exterior design, spacious interior and enhanced specification levels.
The exterior design follows a classic hatchback profile, with a short, downward-sloping nose and rounded-off rear hatch. A v-shaped front grille (in Toyota-specific finishing) with centrally-mounted Toyota insignia, are joined by two vertically-arranged headlamps with chrome inlay. A trapezoidal lower air dam is flanked by stylised fog lamp housings (where fitted).
The side profile features contour-following upper and lower crease lines topped off with colour-coded exterior mirrors and prominent wheel arches.
The rear design centres around the large LED tail lamps with red and translucent accents. These are joined by a chrome garnish strip and trapezoidal indent in the lower bumper section.
The centre ‘hang-down’ section of the dashboard neatly groups the ventilation, infotainment and climate-control switchgear. Contour lines create a feeling of unison with the exterior design. The driver is greeted by an instrument cluster with on-centre Multi-Information Display (MID) and dual analogue gauges.
A three-spoke steering wheel incorporates steering switches and cruise control (where equipped).
The foundation of Starlet is Suzuki’s TECT platform, which utilises high-tensile steel in critical areas as well as energy absorption channels – to produce a strong, safe and lightweight chassis. A traditional McPherson strut front-suspension design is joined by a torsion-beam rear axle. The torsion-beam layout provides enhanced packaging and contributes to Starlet’s spaciousness.
The Xi model is equipped with 15-inch steel wheels shod with 175-65R15 tyres and a space-saver spare wheel. Xs and Xr variants feature turbine-shaped 16-inch alloy wheels with 185-55R16 rubber.
Powering the Starlet is a 1,4-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine. Featuring Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and a tumble-flow intake manifold, the engine eproduces 68 kW at 6 000 r/min with 130 Nm of torque 4 200 r/min.
Two transmission choices are on offer, a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic, all driving the front wheels. The 0-100km/h dash is dispatched in 10,9 s for the manual and 11,6 s for the auto variant.
Claimed fuel consumption is between 5,1 and 5,4 l/100 km depending on variant. A 37-litre fuel tank provides an effective range of over 700 km on a single tank.
Towing capacity is 400 kg unbraked and 1 000 kg braked.
A three-grade strategy has been adopted using the familiar Xi, Xs and Xr symbols used across Toyota’s other passenger-car ranges. Despite serving as the entry point to the Starlet range, the Xi model is generously specced, featuring air-conditioning, electric power steering, dual 12-volt power outlets, electric windows, tilt-adjustable steering column, 60/40 split rear seats, power-adjustable side mirrors and remote central locking. The Xs model adds alloy wheels to the ensemble.
The flagship Xr models receive the full package, comprising chrome door handles and side mouldings, rear privacy glass, front fog lamps, LED + Projector headlamps with daytime running lights (DRL), side-mirror mounted indicators and a roof spoiler. Moving to the interior, the spec level is amped up courtesy of a digital speedometer with colour MID, leather steering wheel with telescopic adjustment, park distance control (PDC), reverse camera, climate control and push-start operation. Cruise control is also provided, operated via steering-wheel-mounted switches.
Xi and Xs models feature a double-DIN audio system with CD/Bluetooth/USB/Aux functionality, playing through 6-speakers. Xr models offer a touchscreen audio system complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration for navigation, telephony and music-streaming services. Traditional USB, Bluetooth and MP3/Aux compatibility remains – offering the user a wide variety of in-vehicle entertainment sources. Reverse camera monitoring is also embedded within the infotainment system.
All Starlet models are also equipped with the Toyota Connect telematics system which includes an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and complimentary 15 Gb data. Once linked to their profile, customers can manage their vehicle via the MyToyota App.
All Starlet models come equipped with safety and security equipment which include active electronic aids such as anti-lock braking, EBD, Brake Assist (BA) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). Automatic transmission models also include Hill Assist Control (HAC).
Xi and Xs models are fitted with Driver and Passenger (D+P) crash bags, while the Xr variants also feature Curtain and Side bags (C+S). Two ISOFIX points and a security system are provided across the board.
Model Line-up & Pricing
Starlet 1.4 Xi MT – R204 900
Starlet 1.4 Xs MT – R215 200
Starlet 1.4 Xs AT – R235 700
Starlet 1.4 Xr MT – R258 500
Starlet 1.4 Xr AT – R272 500
All Starlet models are sold with a 3-services/45 000 km service plan – with 15 000 km service intervals. A 3-year/100 000 km warranty is also provided.