My toddler is five years old, and she somewhat understands that Mommy test drives cars for a living.
Without any prompting, she has started giving her opinion of said cars when they arrive on test in the proverbial Wheels24 garage.
She'll usually wait until after her first drive in it, and then she'll start sharing what she likes, or doesn't fancy. Her biggest gripes are always about space or lack thereof, and she'll say - 'I don't like this car much, it's too small'.
So when the new Toyota Starlet arrived the other day, we went for a little spin. She sat quietly in the back - which is unusual for the most part, unless she's busy making mental notes.
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She only asked while looking out the window from her carseat - for which there are two Isofix fittings (child restraint fittings for carseats), and child locks on the rear doors: 'So, what's this car's name, Mom?''
It's a Toyota Starlet', I say, but don't explain that it's the manual XR range topper model priced at R258 500 - the base model pricing starts from R204 900.
'Oh, that's a pretty name. Almost like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?'. Yes, I say, almost like that.
"Well, I like the stripey car mats, and I love how much room there is here in the back. I can stretch my legs, and there's lots of space for Uni-Uni (her Unicorn teddy which never leaves her side), for grandma and Pa, and all my bags.
"I also like that you can make phone calls because you must never be on your phone while you're driving.' How do you know you can make phone calls through the car? I ask. She says she can see the green phone button on the screen display in the front so that means I can just press a button to make a call. I never realised my child has noticed that, and has clearly become a lot more observant during the pandemic than I realised. But toddlers will surprise you like that.
But yes, the Starlet comes with all the niceties like Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, and Toyota Connect, cruise control, six airbags, and a reverse camera.
We get home after our errands, and she says, can you show me the boot, please? So I pop open the boot open by pressing the button under the badge in the rear. "Wow, Mommy!" she exclaims, "Look how big this boot is! Skye (our two-year pitbull) could fit in here, and we can put so many of our things in, or lots of shopping bags."
If you had to pick between the Toyota Starlet or the Suzuki Baleno, which one would you choose, and why? Please email us your thoughts? Or, if you have a little one who is crazy about cars, please send us your stories here.
It also helps that the model we have on test is Torch Red, one of five available body colours which include Mystic Pearl White, Ice Silver, Urban Blue and Iron Grey Metallic. She loves bright colours on cars, and that usually is the first attraction for her.
It also comes standard with anti-lock braking system(ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), vehicle stability control (VSC) and park distance control. It's not a large car, so it's perfect for young drivers, or the more experienced driver, to bustle around in town. It also has a 4.9m turning circle meaning parking manoeuvring is a breeze when you need to get in or out of a tight spot or make a three-point turn.
And yes, it's a Suzuki Baleno at heart with the same engine and gearbox, delivering the same power figures of 68kW and 138Nm, so it drives the same and has an almost identical interior. But, is it a better-packaged deal? On paper yes, especially when you're comparing it to its twin sister and the Polo Vivo, and when you're comparing value for money. I suppose it will come down to brand loyalty on this one, and that's where Toyota will trump any rival.