The Toyota Starlet is “Starry, starry…bright”

Wow, how bad is that headline? But “Starry, starry night” is one of my favourite songs and I had to include it somehow. And what better opportunity than with a car named Starlet? Now, before I get in to it, we have to acknowledge the obvious elephant in the room, yes this is still essentially a Suzuki Baleno (2nd generation) with a Toyota badge on it, but there are few differences to this updated Starlet that make it ever so slightly different. Like super slight.

Interestingly, the new Baleno launched at the exact same time as the Starlet this week and I had already RSVP’d to Toyota. Awkward much?


The front and the rear have been restyled with the front grille being the most obvious change. It is also very Toyota all up in that grille. There are also new headlamps and rear light clusters and chrome detailing around the fog lamps. The 16-inch alloys have also been updated.

The interior sees a few updates as well, most of which Toyota claim are based on customer feedback. There is a seven or nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system as standard which features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is also a USB port in the front and the rear. There is also automatic climate control, power-retractable side mirrors, and rear parking sensors, hill assist, vehicle stability control and ABS with EBD standard across the range.

The familiar three-grade strategy has been retained with the Xi kicking off the line-up, the Xs sitting in the middle and the Xr at the top. This model gets Smart Entry, push start, and cruise control. And still standard across the range is Toyota Connect, a connectivity package that includes in-car Wi-Fi, which Toyota believes sets it apart from the Baleno.



The biggest news is probably the change in engine. Gone is the 1.4-litre and in its place is a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre pot – it is the same as we find in the Urban Cruiser (Suzuki Vitara Brezza) and puts out 77 kW and 138 Nm. It is a keen little engine and overall the ride and drive of the Starlet is really comfortable. The extra power from this engine will surely appease customers. The only thing that could have been added is an extra gear. The five-speed manual transmission is well mated, but that extra gear would help with fuel efficiency if anything. With that said, fuel consumption is not too bad considering. We saw a figure of around 6.8l/100 km but you could get it much lower than that with more economic driving behaviour. Toyota claims a figure of 5.4l/100 km in the manual and 5.7l/100 km in the four-speed automatic version.


The Volkswagen Polo Vivo has been a favourite for many years, but I think this Starlet will continue to give it a good run for its money. This car offers great value for money and even more value over its predecessor. The thing is, Toyota has a world-class reputation in this country, you can’t really put a price on that…or can you?

The Starlet has only increased by R1 000, and now offers even more than it previously did. Some might question why some would take this over a Suzuki Baleno when the latter comes in cheaper? Well, Toyota’s reputation for one, its dealer footprint for another…and not even mentioning customer loyalty.

I haven’t driven the Baleno yet, but I can confidently say that I will love it as much as I love the Starlet. And Suzuki is a brand you want to keep an eye on. It is excelling in leaps and bounds. If Toyota is willing to put its badge on its products, you must know they’re pretty great. It’s a real toss up for me because either way you will be getting an excellent car at an excellent price point. What a great position to be in as a car buyer.


  • Starlet 1.5 Xi MT – R 226 200
  • Starlet 1.5 Xs MT – R 239 100
  • Starlet 1.5 Xs AT – R 261 100
  • Starlet 1.5 Xr MT – R 294 900
  • Starlet 1.5 Xr AT – R 313 300

All Starlet models are sold with a three-services/45 000 km service plan and a three-year/100 000 km warranty, but a service plan has to be purchased.

I’m Julz, South African motoring journalist with a passion for cars and a questionable sense of humour. I am not your average motoring journalist, and this is not your average motoring website.

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