Motoring | Motoring News
Andre De Kock
Familiarity, the saying goes, breeds contempt. For instance, South African taxpayers have grown familiar with government officials using state tenders to hugely enrich themselves, generally without rendering actual services. And the worst is about to come. Right now, you should be able to hear the rumbling of cadres stampeding to secure the tenders to distribute Covid-19 vaccines.
This will be the Big Daddy of all heists – those long dreamt of, life-altering deals that will enable elite comrades to retire in Dubai with billions. And, judging by the way they delivered on previous state-generated tenders, your vaccine jab – if you ever get one – might well consist of cattle dip.
“Breeding contempt” is exactly the right phrase. Which is, admittedly, a bit of a stretch to get to the Toyota Starlet 1.4 XR, but bear with me. The vehicle proved that familiarity does not always lead to contempt. This writer would normally get to evaluate test vehicles for a week at a time, but I had the luxury of the Starlet’s company for a full month over the Christmas holidays. And, far from generating contempt, the little car grew on me, to the point where I bitterly resented eventually parting with it.
I am not the only one who likes the Starlet – it is currently selling like hot cakes since it’s local market launch in September. Basics first – the Starlet is a five-door hatchback which, at R263 700, is aimed at young families. We thought it is pretty, but styling is a subjective subject, so we invite you to peruse the photographs herewith and decide about that for yourself.
It is powered by a normally-aspirated, four-cylinder, 1 373cc petrol engine, that develops 68kW of power at 6 000rpm and 130Nm of torque at 4 200rpm. The grunt and twist goes to the front wheels via a manual five-speed gearbox, and the whole package sits on 16-inch spoked alloy wheels in 185/55 R16 rubberware. Sadly, it comes with a space-saver spare wheel – something we despise – but nothing is perfect, right? It comes standard with ABS brakes, brake assist and stability control, plus front driver, passenger and curtain airbags.
Inside, it is well appointed, with standard features including stuff like keyless entry, highly efficient climate control, electric windows, cruise control, a fully adjustable steering column, daytime driving lights, LED headlights with height adjustment plus park distance control with a rear-facing camera. It has a multi-function steering wheel, an on-board computer, touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, and the cloth-covered seats will seat four adults in comfort and five in a squeeze.
On the road, the Starlet did not prove spectacular, but it was extremely capable. Like millions of Toyota family cars through the years, this vehicle just does everything easily, which makes it simple and pleasurable to drive. A race car it is not – Toyota claims a 0 to 100 km/h time of 10.9sec and a top speed of 180km/h, but we would doubt both claims. However, it would comfortably cruise at 120km/h in fifth gear all day with 3 000rpm on the clock, and is nippy enough to easily keep up with highway and city traffic.
The gearbox is smooth on both up and down shifts, the handling feels sure-footed, and its turning circle of 9.8m makes parking lot manoeuvres a toddle. The vehicle also impressed with its frugality – over the course of the month, the average fuel consumption leveled out at 5.4L/100 km.
The Starlet 1.4 XR comes with a 100 000km warranty, plus a three year/ 45 000 km service plan. The Starlet is a sturdy, comfortable and all-round able family car, that should continue to sell well. Don’t miss out final instalment on the Starlet, which has been in our long-term fleet since November, in February.
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