Starlet-struck after driving Toyota’s latest release

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This car offers quality and affordability in a cash-strapped market. Pictures: Supplied
This car offers quality and affordability in a cash-strapped market. Pictures: Supplied

CAR SPOTLIGHT | TRENDING


I was a little taken aback when I heard about Toyota’s latest car. Maybe even a tad confused. The Starlet? What kind of name is that for a car?

I have a thing about how manufacturers name their vehicles. So I did a bit of research and was surprised to discover that the name Starlet is not new.

Between 1973 and 1999, the Starlet was manufactured by Toyota, selling almost 2 million units worldwide, in various upgraded derivatives.

I was also happy to hear that the Etios – not my favourite Toyota – was being phased out of the local market to make way for the new Starlet.

During a virtual launch, more interesting news was shared by South Africa’s best-selling vehicle manufacturer.

Cars
The Starlet shares the drive train by way of the Baleno’s celebrated naturally aspirated 1.4-litre engine

In March last year, the two Japanese vehicle powerhouses – Toyota and Suzuki – struck a deal to form a partnership of equal benefit.

The first fruits of this alliance were reaped locally a few weeks ago with the launch of the Starlet, which is, in fact, almost identical to the well-respected Suzuki Baleno.

While the Starlet has a new grill and wheel design, it shares the drive train by way of the Baleno’s celebrated naturally aspirated 1.4-litre engine, producing 68kW of power and 130Nm of torque.

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There’s a choice between a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic.

The new Starlet is offered in three trim grades – the entry-level Xi, the mid-level Xs and range-topping Xr, which I got to test drive a few days after the webinar launch.

I grabbed the leather-wrapped steering wheel and was immediately impressed by the inside. The cabin is attractive and ergonomically sound.

The colour touchscreen infotainment system is modern and efficient, and is compatible with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

car
Toyota has come out with aggressive pricing, with the entry-level Starlet costing R17?000 less than its Suzuki counterpart

Safety wise, there are a generous six airbags in the Xr, as well as an anti-lock braking system with electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist and vehicle stability control.

The boot space is adequate at 345 litres, but with the rear seats folded down, space increases to a generous 1 075 litres.

I was also impressed that my drive had smart entry with a push-start button, a reverse camera and cruise control.

My unit was literally out of the box, with only 200km on the clock.

Initially, I had to get used to the power distribution while changing gears, especially on inclines. But, after adding another 100km to the clock, she felt smooth, run-in and really pleasant to drive.

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Overall, I was impressed with the Starlet’s zippy engine and the sure-footed feel of the ride.

While the Etios is still available in South Africa, Toyota has come out with aggressive pricing, with the entry-level Starlet costing R17 000 less than its Suzuki counterpart.

After a week in my Toyota, I was more than a little Starlet-struck.

PRICES
  • Toyota Starlet 1.4 Xi R204 900
  • Toyota Starlet 1.4 Xs manual R215 200
  • Toyota Starlet 1.4 Xs automatic R235 700
  • Toyota Starlet 1.4 Xr R258 500
  • Toyota Starlet 1.4 Xr AT R272 500


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