On 28 August 2019, Toyota and Suzuki announced a formal alliance in order to leverage each other’s strengths and compete in the evolving global vehicle market. Toyota’s expertise in Hybrid technology and autonomous driving would be of benefit to Suzuki, while Toyota would get access to affordable compact vehicles which as we know, is a Suzuki strength.
The first product to come out of this brand alliance and make it to our shores is the Toyota Starlet which is essentially a rebadged Suzuki Baleno. The Starlet name dates back to 1973, and has adorned Toyota’s sub-compact hatchback in the Japanese Domestic Market for five generations (ending in 1999).
The Starlet’s Positioning + Design
The sub-B segment accounts for the second-highest share of passenger vehicle sales in South Africa and is a fiercely competitive territory. The Starlet replaces Etios in Toyota’s line-up – a vehicle that captured an average 22% share of the sub-B segment over its lifespan.
The Starlet follows a classic hatchback profile, with a short, downward-sloping nose adorned by a Toyota badge and a rounded-off rear hatch.
The side profile features contour-following upper and lower crease lines, colour-coded exterior mirrors and prominent wheel arches.
The rear design centres around the large LED tail lampsthat are joined by a chrome garnish strip and trapezoidal indent in the lower bumper section.
The interior layout prioritises spaciousness and ergonomics. The central facia groups the ventilation, infotainment and climate-control switchgear. Contour lines create a feeling of unison with the exterior design. 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 Xi model is equipped with 15”-steel wheels shod with 175/65/R15 tyres and a space-saver spare wheel. Xs and Xr variants feature stylish turbine-shaped 16”-alloy wheels with 185/55/R16 rubber.
Engine & Performance
Powering the Starlet is a 1.4-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine featuring Variable Valve Timing (VVT) producing 68kW @ 6000 rpm and 130Nm @ 4200 rpm.
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.
The claimed fuel consumption registers between 5.1 and 5.4 l/100 km depending on variant.
A three-grade strategy has been adopted using the familiar Xi, Xs and Xr symbols used across Toyota’s other passenger-car ranges. The base Xi model features 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 includes a digital speedometer, 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.
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.
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