Farewell Etios, hello Starlet - Meet Toyota's new affordable star


• Toyota and Suzuki launch their first model from its joint venture.

• The Toyota Starlet is based on the Suzuki Baleno.

• Pricing for the B-segment offering starts from R204 900.

• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za

Toyota has launched its brand new Starlet on Monday (21 September), its first product from its joint venture with Suzuki which was announced in 2019. 

The Starlet is a 'funky' and modern new offering from Toyota and is also a replacement to the now-discontinued Etios. But in short, it's a Suzuki Baleno with a Toyota badge, a slightly largely line-up, and a new name - and it's also more affordable than it's twin sister.

Production for the Etios ended earlier in March this year. Direct rivals for the new Starlet, which is Suzuki's version of the Baleno, is the Ford Figo, Volkswagen Polo Vivo and Renault Sandero.

Toyota's senior vice-president of sales and marketing Leon Theron says: "On 28 August 2019, Toyota and Suzuki announced a formal alliance between the two companies, in order to leverage each other's strengths and compete in the evolving global vehicle market. Toyota's expertise in Hybrid technology and autonomous driving would be of benefit to Suzuki, while Toyota would get access to compact vehicles, a Suzuki strength. A mutually-beneficial alliance was born."

The automaker says 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). Staying true to the ethos of being a compact, efficient and value-focused product, the newcomer proudly revives the Starlet badge.

These joint ventures are also nothing new to Toyota who launched the new Supra last year in collaboration with BMW, along with another project with Daihatsu.

toyota starlet

Image: Motorpress/ Cornel Van Heerden

Theron also says motor companies are under tremendous pressure worldwide and as OEMs, they have to think out of the box. There are numerous mobility factors being offered to customers which include not having to purchase a vehicle. The Starlet plays into the hands of the B-segment and will attract younger customers such as those finishing up at university or young married couples. 

With a tag line of 'Make space for fun', the automaker says the new model is affordable to run, has a great infotainment system, includes Toyota Connect, Android Auto, and CarPlay.

Joy Mibela, manager marketing planning says the sub-B segment makes up for about 34% of the market and the B-segment equoates to 43%  market share. The Starlet, she says, is a stylish little car, sociable, and has an attractive price, as well as good styling, and makes for a sensible choice. 

The Etios was launched in 2012, and sold about 1125 units monthly, according to the automaker. However, its styling has become outdated, there was no VSC and a lack of an auto transmission played a huge part in current needs for consumers.

toyota starlet, interior

Image: Motorpress/ Cornel Van Heerden


The Starlet and Suzuki's Baleno can be differentiated by the V-shaped front grille and the badging. The automaker says the exterior design follows a classic hatchback profile, with a short, downward-sloping nose and rounded-off rear hatch. The front grille in Toyota-specific finishing has centrally-mounted Toyota insignia, and features two vertically-arranged headlights with chrome inserts. A trapezoidal lower air dam is flanked by fog light housings (where fitted).

Toyota also says the side profile features contour-following upper and lower crease lines – with no sharp edges - and colour-coded exterior mirrors. 

The rear design centres around the large LED tail lights with red and translucent accents. There's also a chrome garnish strip and trapezoidal indent in the lower bumper section.

Interior Design

Toyota reckons spaciousness and ergonomics without compromise was a priority for the interior. The centre 'hang-down' section of the dashboard neatly groups the ventilation, infotainment and climate-control switchgear, says Toyota. The instrument cluster is bright and easy-to-read with on-centre Multi-Information Display (MID) and dual analogue gauges. 

A chunky three-spoke steering wheel incorporates steering switches and cruise control (where equipped).

What's under the bonnet?

The Starlet houses a 1.4-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine featuring Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and a tumble-flow intake manifold. Power output is pegged at 68kW at 6000rpm with 130Nm at 4200rpm.

Two transmission choices are on offer, a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic, all driving the front wheels. The obligatory 0-100km/h dash is dispatched in 10.9s for the manual and 11.6s for the auto variant.

Toyota claims fuel consumption figures between 5.1-litres/100km for the manual version and 5.4-litres/100km for the auto models. A 37-litre fuel tank provides an effective range of over 700km on a single tank.

Toyota says the foundation of the 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 the Starlet's spaciousness.

The Xi model is equipped with 15"-steel wheels shod with 175-65R15 tyres and a space- saver spare wheel. Xs and Xr variants feature stylish turbine-shaped 16"-alloy wheels with 185-55R16 rubber.

Toyota says the towing capacity weighs in at 400kg unbraked and 1000kg braked. 

toyota starlet, interior
Image: Motorpress/ Cornel Van Heerden

Grade Strategy and Specification

toyota starlet gradewalk

Image: Toyota

All Starlet models are also equipped with the Toyota Connect telematics system which includes an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and complimentary 15Gb data. Once linked to their profile, customers can manage their vehicle via the MyToyota App. This intuitive app allows on-demand service bookings, vehicle information and history, tracking data as well as Toyota Connect data recharge services and much more.

Is it safe?

According to Toyota, yes based on the following: all Starlet models come with safety and security equipment which include active electronic aids such as ABS, 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) airbags, while the Xr variants also feature Curtain and Side airbags (C+S). Two ISOFIX points and a security system are provided across the board.         


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 three services or 45 000km service plan – with 15 000 km service intervals. A three-year or 100 000km warranty is also provided. Customers can purchase an additional service plan and warranty extensions from their local Toyota dealer – and of they benefit from the biggest dealer network in the country (over 220).

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