Toyota has decided to discontinue its much loved Etios model. Don’t feel too bad because the motoring giant has replaced the Etios with something new, well sort of new. It’s called the Starlet and it looks to be a promising option within the segment.
Let’s get the business out of the way first. The world had changed in the last few years and joint ventures, mergers, acquisitions and cross-brand partnerships – these are the driving forces of an ever-increasing global market. On 28 August 2019, Toyota and Suzuki announced a formal alliance between the two companies, in order to leverage each other’s strengths and compete in the evolving global vehicle market.
The first result of this partnership is the Toyota Starlet, which if you know your cars will notice that it is actually a Suzuki Baleno. The Starlet name, however, dates back to 1973 and has adorned Toyota’s subcompact hatchback in the Japanese Domestic Market for five generations.
The Toyota Starlet looks quite good to my eyes and that’s because the Suzuki Baleno is actually a decently styled hatchback. Toyota didn’t do a full cut and paste job, the Starlet does feature some Toyota specific details such as the front grille which features a centrally-mounted Toyota insignia which is joined by two vertically-arranged headlamps with chrome inlays. The side profile features contour-following upper and lower crease lines – which create a sense of motion – topped off with colour-coded exterior mirrors. Prominent wheel arches give the Starlet a sure-footed stance. At the rear large LED tail lamps with red and translucent accents are joined by a stylish chrome garnish strip and trapezoidal indent in the lower bumper section.
Three trim grades will be on offer in the form of the Xi model which is equipped with 15”-steel wheels shod with 175-65R15 tyres and a space-saver spare wheel. The Xs and Xr variants feature stylish turbine-shaped 16”-alloy wheels with 185-55R16 rubber.
The interior is also slightly adapted from the vehicle on which the Starlet is based which again is not a bad thing. Toyota has however changed the steering wheel and has added a bright and easy-to-read instrument cluster with on-centre Multi-Information Display (MID) and dual analogue gauges.
The Xi and Xs models feature a double-DIN audio system with CD, Bluetooth, USB/Aux functionality, playing through 6-speakers. The Xr models, however, offer a touchscreen audio system complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration for navigation, telephone and music-streaming services. Traditional USB, Bluetooth and MP3/Aux compatibility also remain. Reverse camera monitoring is also embedded within the infotainment system.
Under the bonnet is a 1.4-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine featuring Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and a tumble-flow intake manifold. The rev-happy engine has a power output of 68kW and 130Nm of torque. Unfortunately, there is no official confirmation on if we will get the Suzuki developed BoosterJet turbo engine. Nevertheless, the Starlet will be offered with either a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic. Customers can also expect around 700km from its 37-litre fuel tank as the Starlet will consume between 5.1 and 5.4l/100km.
Connecting the stars
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.
Coming back to earth
Toyota dropped a test unit off for me to sample a few hours after the digital South African launch. After spending some time with the newcomer I can confirm that it is a really appealing product, it is an honest product, well-built and good looking. It will be interesting to see how this product compares to the Suzuki, does the badge make all of the difference? We will soon find out.
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
- Starlet 1.4 Xr AT – R272 500
Warranty & Maintenance
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. Customers can purchase an additional service plan and warranty extensions from their local Toyota dealer – and of they benefit from the biggest dealer network in the country (over 220).