Some 62% of passenger vehicle sales in South Africa are in the small-car market and Toyota's Starlet is the second-most popular in its sub-compact class after VW's Polo. Toyota is taking on the Polo with a new model of the Starlet — and the German marque faces a fight in the value stakes.
Toyota's original Starlet was launched in April 1973 and lived on in various iterations – including a 'GT Turbo' model — until 1999. The name was revived in 2020 and sold exclusively in some African countries and India. While the original Starlet was Toyota through and through, the 21st-century incarnation is a rebadged Suzuki Baleno with a slightly tweaked front end, new headlights, fog lamps and some chrome detailing (on pricier models).
The new Starlet comes with a 1.5L engine, up from the previous 1.4L — which adds 9 kW and 8 Nm over the outgoing model. There are five flavours of Starlet — well, three as the Xs and XR each come in a 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto. There is a variety of interior features though.
The base 1.5L Xi MT retails from R226 200 and has some nice touches — including halogen headlights — offering excellent value for money with built-in dependability. Stepping up a notch to the Xs models (R239 100 for the MT or R261 100 for the AT) offers the choice of transmissions, with LED fog lights and 16-inch alloys replacing 150-inch steel wheels.
The range-topping XR AT will set you back R313 300, but adds chrome detailing, LED lights, auto light control system, an electrochromatic rear-view mirror, leather steering wheel and the ultimate luxury — a glove box light. Oh, and a colour display, 6-speaker sound system, cruise control, reverse camera, smart-entry doors and additional airbags.
Your choice of colours is Shadow Grey, Luxe Red, Champagne, Shadow Black Pearl, Mystic Pearl White, Dark Indigo Blue or Premium Liquid Silver.
Xi and XS variants have a seven-inch touchscreen, while the XRs gets two additional inches. Bonus? USB ports for the rear passengers. The claimed fuel consumption is between 5.4 and 5.7L/100 km, which heavy-footed car reviewers claim is remarkably accurate for a change – meaning you can hope for around 700 km on a full 37L tank.
Toyota have earned a reputation for steady reliability and bullet-proof engineering and it's unlikely they'd have given their blessing to put the perpendicular-swirl logo on a Suzuki unless the same were true.
Standard is a three-year/100 000 km Toyota Maintenance Plan, and a three-year/45 000 km Toyota Starlet Service Plan. If you want more peace of mine, add a Toyota Unlimited Warranty for six to eight additional years of cover and includes 24/7 road cover, as well as wear and tear cover on selected components.
The top-up Toyota Genuine Extended Service covers all manufacturer-specified services for the duration of your plan, which can be extended for up to 10 years or 300 000 km. Then there's a Toyota Maintenance Plan that covers all scheduled maintenance and fair wear and tear items, for up to six years from the date of original sale.
Toyota Financial Services offer a variety of finance packages to help you experience the Starlet — or check out all your options with our helpful finance comparison tool.
MyToyota Insurance guarantees any repairs will be done by accredited repairers, using genuine Toyota parts. It also covers accidental damage, theft and hijacking, third-party liability, hail damage, windscreen and factory-fitted sound system and accessories, assist services and vehicle repatriation.