By Malusi Msomi
The Toyota Starlet was launched in 2020, and yes, it is based on the Suzuki Baleno. It must be a solid product for Toyota to put its badge on it. Toyota managed to sell more than 12,000 models last year alone, even with the strong hold of the Covid pandemic. With this new model, Toyota is aiming to sell more than last year.
It comes in three derivatives: Xi, Xs and Xr. The new model boasts a modern and sleek look. At the front you’ll find the new model has a chrome-plated fog lamp vessel ornament and distinctive honeycomb grille. We love the new fresh look that also has a dash of sportiness. Our chariot was finished in one of the new colour options, Pearl Black. With a sleuth of standard features across the model range, the Xr model higher up the range gets auto-folding mirrors auto and Light Control + Follow Me Home. The Xr and Xs get 16-inch wheels while the entry-level Xi gets 15-inch steel wheels.
Stepping inside the Starlet, you’ll find a new dual-tone finish with chrome detail for the Xr model. There’s a generous use of plastic, but overall a great looking cabin. You’ll also find niceties such as a touchscreen audio system with USB, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto interface, rear USB charger, automatic Climate Control, power-retractable mirrors and electric windows.
Driving the new Starlet
The starlet now has a new 1.5-litre engine compared to the previous model that had a 1.4-litre. The 1.5-litre engine in the Toyota Starlet is great. It produces 77kW (9kW more) and 138Nm (8Nm) of torque. The 5-speed transmission is smooth and a joy to use while traversing on the beautiful Cape Town roads. Buyers also have a choice of a 4-speed automatic in the Xs and Xr models. Being at the coast, it performs seamlessly. It will be interesting to see how it performs at higher altitude environments like Johannesburg.
On the safety front, you get rear parking sensors (PDC), Hill Assist Control (HAC), Vehicle Stability Control, ABS and EBD across the model range. Whilst driver and passenger airbags are available with the flagship Xr grade featuring side and curtain airbags.
The Starlet falls under what Toyota calls the Upper B segment but at an affordable B-segment price. The Starlet is a tad more expensive than the Baleno, but Toyota has an Ace up its sleeve in that being it has a much larger dealer network of around 200 and parts availability.
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