Toyota Starlet is a great value family hatchback

By Miles Downard

The Starlet has become a core part of Toyota South Africa’s model line up. Boasting a 30% market share this B segment hatchback is clearly a favourite and for good reason too. It’s affordable, looks good and comes with Toyota’s stellar local reputation for reliability, resale value and vast support through an extensive dealer network. 

Toyota has recently introduced an enhanced version of the Starlet, boasting revised looks, better features and a bigger, more powerful engine. The revised front end of the Starlet really goes a long way in modernising the design with sleaker headlights and a more integrated front grille. Surrounds around the fog lights in the lower part of the front bumper round off what is a pretty good looking hatchback. 

Now at 1.5 litres in capacity, the Starlet offers 77kW which is 5kW more than the old 1.4 litre engine. There’s almost no noticeable increase in fuel consumption either at an impressive 5.6 litres/100km. You can have a 4 speed automatic or a 5 speed manual gearbox. 

On the features list is an all new 9 inch touch screen that offers Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Its user interface is quite slick. Keyless entry, cruise control and rear camera are standard in the Xr model. The lower spec Xi and Xs forgoes those items but still boasts 7 inch display, climate control, rear parking sensors and multiple USB charging points including two for the rear seats. 

Out on the road the Starlet performs remarkably well. It’s got plenty of get up and go and feels solid and dependable on the road. It’s spacious too, offering decent legroom for rear passengers and a nicely sized boot that would comfortably swallow two big suitcases (of 4 overnight ones). This is far more impressive than the Starlet’s main competition, the VW Polo Vivo. 

Pricing starts at R226,200 for the Xi Manual and rises to R313,300 for the Xr. Comparatively the Polo Vivo is around R30,000 more (spec for spec) at the lower end and remains cheaper through to the top spec models. The Starlet includes a 3 year / 45,000km service plan.


1.5L Xi MT 5 speed MTR226 200
1.5L Xs MT 5 Speed MTR239 100
1.5L Xs AT 4 Speed ATR261 100
1.5L XR MT 5 speed MTR294 400
1.5L XR AT 4 Speed ATR313 300

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