Not often you have something totally new in the Automotive sector, but this week I drove the Toyota Starlet, a compact hatch, which is a joint venture between Toyota & Suzuki. The reasoning behind this, is that Suzuki can benefit from the hybrid technology that Toyota has already built, and that Toyota can benefit from the Suzuki strength, of smaller passenger cars.
Quite ironic you would think, being that Toyota has the most popular nameplate in the World, namely the Corolla. But costs have pushed this model into a more expensive sector. And the Starlet will replace the veritable Etios nameplate, that garnered a handy 22% market share during it’s lifetime.
So the Starlet will be placed in the hotly contested sub-B segment, and will feature all the attributes that the Etios did, in particular- spacious interior and enhanced good performance, fuel efficiency and affordable pricing. The Starlet name has been around since 1973 in Japan.
The Starlet is a good looking hatch, and the exterior design follows a classic hatchback profile, with a short, downward-sloping nose and rounded-off rear hatch. A v-shaped front grille (in Toyota-specific finishing) with centrally-mounted Toyota insignia, are joined by two vertically-arranged headlamps with chrome inlay. A trapezoidal lower air dam is flanked by stylised fog lamp housings (where fitted). It looks very well planted in stance.
It has an attractive rear end, with LED tail lamps with red and translucent accents. These are joined by a stylish chrome garnish strip and trapezoidal indent in the lower bumper section. The overall result is a harmoniously handsome design.
Into the Cabin.
The Starlet seems to embody a simplistic, yet attractive design in the interior, and also has a spacious layout in the front & back. I liked the dash, which was well set out and groups the ventilation, infotainment and climate-control switchgear. The driver is greeted by a bright and easy-to-read instrument cluster with on-centre Multi-Information Display (MID) and dual analogue gauges.
A chunky three-spoke steering wheel incorporates steering switches and cruise control (where equipped).
The foundation of Starlet is Suzuki’s TECT platform, which utilises high-tensile steel in critical areas as well as energy absorption channels – to produce a strong, safe and lightweight chassis. A traditional McPherson strut front-suspension design is joined by a torsion-beam rear axle. The torsion-beam layout provides enhanced packaging and contributes to Starlet’s spaciousness.
The Xi model is equipped with 15”-steel wheels shod with 175-65R15 tyres and a space- saver spare wheel. Xs and Xr variants feature stylish turbine-shaped 16”-alloy wheels with 185-55R16 rubber.
Powering the Starlet is a 1.4-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine. Featuring Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and a tumble-flow intake manifold, the engine exhibits a rev-happy character and makes light work of the daily commute. Power output is pegged at 68kW @ 6000 rpm with 130Nm of torque @ 4200 rpm.
I found that the manual variant that I drove was powerful enough, and this being in the thinner air of the Reef. It was nippy through traffic, and fuel economy was excellent.
Two transmission choices are on offer, a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic, all driving the front wheels. The obligatory 0-100km/h dash is dispatched in 10.9s for the manual and 11.6s for the auto variant.
Grade & Spec.
A three-grade strategy has been adopted using the familiar Xi, Xs and Xr symbols used across Toyota’s other passenger-car ranges. Despite serving as the entry point to the Starlet range, the Xi model is generously specced, featuring air-conditioning, electric power steering, dual 12-volt power outlets, electric windows, tilt-adjustable steering column, 60/40 split rear seats, power-adjustable side mirrors and remote central locking. The Xs model adds alloy wheels to the ensemble.
The flagship Xr models receive the full package, comprising chrome door handles and side mouldings, rear privacy glass, front fog lamps, LED + Projector headlamps with daytime running lights (DRL), side-mirror mounted indicators and a roof spoiler. Moving to the interior, the spec level is amped up courtesy of a digital speedometer with colour MID, leather steering wheel with telescopic adjustment, park distance control (PDC), reverse camera, climate control and push-start operation.
Cruise control is also provided, operated via steering-wheel-mounted switches. This is the variant that I drove, and was mightily impressed with all on offer.
Audio & Infotainment
A modern car requires great tech, and the Starlet certainly has that, with touchscreen audio system complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration for navigation, telephony and music-streaming services. Traditional USB, Bluetooth and MP3/Aux compatibility remains – offering the user a wide variety of in-vehicle entertainment sources. Reverse camera monitoring is also embedded within the infotainment system.
All Starlet models are also equipped with the Toyota Connect telematics system which includes an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and complimentary 15Gb data. Once linked to their profile, customers can manage their vehicle via the MyToyota App. This intuitive app allows on-demand service bookings, vehicle information and history, tracking data as well as Toyota Connect data recharge services and much more.
Safety & Security
All Starlet models come generously equipped with safety and security equipment which include active electronic aids such as ABS, EBD, Brake Assist (BA) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). Automatic transmission models also include Hill Assist Control (HAC).
Xi and Xs models are fitted with Driver and Passenger (D+P) airbags, while the Xr variants also feature Curtain and Side airbags (C+S). Two ISOFIX points and a security system are provided across the board.
Model Line-up & Pricing
Starlet 1.4 Xi MT – R204 900
Starlet 1.4 Xs MT – R215 200
Starlet 1.4 Xs AT – R235 700
Starlet 1.4 Xr MT – R258 500
Very competitively priced indeed, and I believe the Starlet will do well. It feels bigger and more accomplished than the Figo, which I drive quite often. All Starlet models are sold with a 3-services/45 000 km service plan – with 15 000 km service intervals. A 3-year/100 000 km warranty is also provided. . All