Launch Review: 2022 Toyota Starlet
Cape Town - From the first time it hit the showroom floors the Toyota Starlet was an immediate hit selling like brandy specials in Pretoria on a Friday night. It shows the power of brand loyalty because the package is a rebadged Suzuki Baleno out of India, which struggled to get a hit rate on the sales charts.
Currently 62 percent of passenger sales are in the small car market and the Starlet is the second most popular B hatch, just behind the VW Polo.
The new Toyota Starlet is still based on the Suzuki Baleno with a revised front end with new headlights, wide-mounted fog lamps and chrome detailing tying it all in.
The rear gets similar treatment with the two piece rear light clusters joined by a chrome strip across the tailgate. The chrome strip is perhaps a bit too much for me but that seems to be the trend to give it a more distinct impression so I would possibly look at giving it a darker cover with a wrap.
Overall though the Starlet is a good looking little car.
The biggest change though is in the engine bay where the 1.4-litre petrol engine has been replaced with a 1.5-litre motor that pushes out 77kW and 138Nm, 9kW and 8Nm more than the outgoing model.
There’s still a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission option. It would probably have an effect on price, but an extra gear in both options would have helped, especially for highway cruising.
The interior has also received an upgrade with “swooping accent lines”, a centrally mounted infotainment screen and a good old fashioned instrument binnacle. There are also new front seats with improved lateral and shoulder support.
I harp on it often, I know, but there’s no volume control button so you’re limited to the touchscreen and the steering wheel control.
Talking of the steering wheel, a nice touch are the grey metallic inserts and a flat-bottom edge.
In terms of infotainment the Xi and XS variants get a seven-inch touchscreen and the XR a nine-inch screen, which are all Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. There are also USB ports in the back.
The Starlet’s engine is eager to please and will happily get to the red line if you push it, and while there may be a bit of body roll the average owner isn’t going to be horsing around Chapman’s Peak at breakneck speeds.
The clutch is light and gear changes smooth and easy, and with the new engine providing a bit more power, there won’t be as many changes when driving in the rarified Gauteng air.
Steering is as you’d expect from a car in this segment, it’s quite light with enough feedback when you tackle sharp corners and, considering its target market, suits its purpose just fine.
The Starlet’s body shell has been improved in terms of rigidity and stiffness and changes to the rear torsion beam as well as 20mm more suspension travel and 10mm wider tyres across the range all add up to a comfortable and compliant drive.
Because the roads in the Western Cape are significantly better maintained than most of the rest of the country we didn’t have to battle potholes and cracked tar, but I’d say that it would handle these with little effort.
Toyota claims between 5.4 and 5.7L/100km which is very likely considering that we averaged 6.1L/100km with a rather heavy foot.
Safety features have been improved across the range with stability control, ABS, EBD and hill start assist and rear parking sensors standard. The XR gets a reverse view camera.
There’s definitely still an appetite for affordable hatchbacks in South Africa. With the Toyota Starlet already being a popular choice among buyers, and with the new one imposing a price increase of only R1 000 over the outgoing model in base form, it provides decent value for money and it will be interesting to see how it fights for top spot in the sales charts.
The Toyota Starlet comes with a three-year/100 000 km warranty and a three-year/45 000 km service plan.
Toyota Starlet Pricing (June 2022)
1.5 Xi MT: R226 200
1.5 Xs MT: R239 100
1.5 Xs AT: R261 100
1.5 Xr MT: R294 900
1.5 Xr AT: R313 300