Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring


Toyota Starlet hits the ground running

Over 1 000 units of Etios replacement sold in its first month.


There was a fair degree of scepticism around Toyota's unveiling of the Starlet, its successor to the discontinued Etios, back in September. Reason being that the little fellow was no more than a rebadged Suzuki Baleno, a car that has been on our roads for a number of years and is the result of a joint development between the two Japanese manufacturers. But the Baleno has never performed as well as Suzuki would have hoped for, with models around it constantly stealing its thunder in terms of monthly sales. The South African public's loyalty to its favourite car brand didn't…

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There was a fair degree of scepticism around Toyota’s unveiling of the Starlet, its successor to the discontinued Etios, back in September.

Reason being that the little fellow was no more than a rebadged Suzuki Baleno, a car that has been on our roads for a number of years and is the result of a joint development between the two Japanese manufacturers. But the Baleno has never performed as well as Suzuki would have hoped for, with models around it constantly stealing its thunder in terms of monthly sales.

The South African public’s loyalty to its favourite car brand didn’t take long to show once Toyota put its own badge on the Starlet along with a few price and spec tweaks. An astonishing 1 102 Starlets found new homes in October, in stark contrast to the 51 Balenos that was sold.

Having spent time in quite a few Baleno testers over the years, The Citizen has now welcomed a Starlet to its long term fleet. Over the next three months, our Starlet, in top spec XR manual guise at R258 500, will do what most motorists will buy it for. Navigating its way through city traffic between the office, school and shops.

The entire Starlet line-up utilises one engine option, a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. It produces 68 kW of power and 130 Nm of torque which in sent to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. Our first impressions of the powerplant are quite good. It gets going effortlessly with a light clutch enabling smooth gear changes.

On out first tank of fuel, we have made no attempt to drive it economically and the overall consumption has been an excellent 6.2L/100km. At this rate, with the tank’s capacity being 37-litres, we should be able to go at least 500km before having to refill.

In addition to the standard specifications like air-conditioning, electric power steering and remote central locking, the XR also have chrome door handles and side mouldings, rear privacy glass, front fog lamps, projector-type LED headlamps with daytime running lights, side-mirror mounted indicators, a roof spoiler and turbine-shaped 16-inch alloy wheels cladded in 185-55R16 rubber.

Inside you get a digital speedometer, leather steering wheel with telescopic adjustment, park distance control (PDC), reverse camera, climate control, push-start operation and cruise control The touchscreen infotainment system features Bluetooth along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, plus the Toyota Connect telematics system which includes 15 Gb of data. Safety spec include driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control and two ISOFIX points.

For a small hatch back, the boot space offers very decent space rated at 345-litres, which should come in very handy between the school and the grocery store. The Starlet is sold with a three-services/45 000 km service plan, with service intervals being every 15 000 km or year. A three-year/100 000 km warranty is also provided.

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