Smarter, quicker, lighter Starlet impresses on test
Restyled, revamped, powered-up and improved in just about every way, the all-new Toyota Starlet also benefits a nine kilowatt and eight Newton-metre step up to a friskier 77 kW 138 Nm 1.5-litre K15B engine. We put the flagship Xr automatic to the test.
Let’s get straight to the throat. This new engine delivers a decent balance of torque, willingness to rev and fuel efficiency. And at just 955 kg the Starlet is also 10% lighter than its competitors to deliver a best-in-class 81 kW per tonne power-to-weight ratio. ‘To improve both performance and fuel consumption’.
Starlet beats impressive claims across the board
Toyota promises that Starlet will sprint to 100 km/h in 11.2 seconds in this automatic get-up and rush on to 160 km/h. We love it when carmakers understate the obvious and our tests revealed 0-100 km/h in closer to 10.4 seconds. It happily did 160 km/h too, so its top end must be a fair bit quicker than that claim. It’s feisty, truth be told.
Look, this auto box is dated. The fourth gear is long and that hampered otherwise good acceleration where you need it most for overtaking. It shifts up just after 90 km/h so it’s right where need it least when overtaking. But otherwise, it works just fine. This car is also quiet at speed compared to its rivals.
Baleno is also as frugal as promised. We saw better than the claimed 5.7 l/100 km in this 4-speed slush box version. Fuel economy however dwindles quickly if you’re having fun or pushing a bit on the highway. 120 km/h or more kills range quick. It’s still a perfect antidote for petrol at R22 a litre. Did we say Baleno? Oops, sorry, we meant Starlet!
Fashionable Starlet looks far better now
Starlet rides on an evolved higher tensile steel-rich platform. It gains revised coil spring suspension and damping with a beefier torsion beam at the rear. There’s 20 mm more suspension travel too, to deliver improved ride without compromising handling. Add 10 mm fatter 195/55/R16 tyres on fashionable face polished black alloys in this flagship model.
Talking fashionable, you won’t miss this Starlet’s styling advances. 3,990 mm long, it sits on a on a 2,520 mm wheelbase. Looks the part with a wider three-dimensional grille design and chrome brightwork to complement flowing body lines.
Step inside to a quality feel two-tone cabin with swooping accent lines and multi-hued detailing. Larger 23 cm full-colour touchscreen infotainment does the job. It has CarPlay, Auto, Bluetooth and yes, both two USB-A and one C charger port. Some far cleverer cars can learn a trick from this humble model there. Add a 12V socket and a Multi-Info Display.
A cool and well equipped cabin
Dials and the TFT multi info display are easy to read, and the multifunction steering wheel has a sporty flat-bottom. Its far cooler in there now. Improved, supportive higher-grade cloth upholstered front pews get an adjustable centre armrest. Add auto climate, power windows and retractable mirrors, and multiple cup holders too.
There’s even remote central locking with smart entry, push to start. Add cruise control, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. A host of safety and assistance kit ranges from dual front, side and curtain airbags to stability control, hill assist, and ABS and EBD brakes, ISOFIX anchors and an alarm and an immobiliser too.
The spacious and people friendlier rear bench seat sits in front of a 314-litre boot. It folds down in 60-40 fashion to open it up to 1,057 litres for bigger loads.
Starlet is better equipped to do a better job
This new Toyota Starlet now certainly looks the part, inside and out. Better equipped, its smarter cabin has an upmarket feel and its more pleasant and convenient, even if some finishes are a bit plasticky and the car is a bit tinny.
The new engine brings a smarter, far quicker if a bit rowdier nature. And being lighter weight, it handles, rides, and drives well, too. In short, this latest Starlet is far better equipped to do an even better job. – Michele Lupini
Images & testing: Giordano Lupini
ROAD TESTED: Toyota Starlet 1.5 Xr Automatic Engine: 77 kW 138 Nm 1.5-litre petrol I4 Drive: 4-speed automatic FWD TESTED: 0-60 km/h: 4.61 sec 0-100 km/h: 10.48 sec 0-120 km/h: 15.57 sec 0-160 km/h: 30.43 sec 400m: 17.5 sec @ 127km/h 80-120 km/h: 8.19 sec 120-160 km/h: 14.87 sec CLAIMED: VMax: 160 km/h Fuel: 5.7 l/100 km CO2: 133 g/km Range. 650 km Warranty/Service: 3y 100K/3 service 45K km LIST PRICE: R324K RATED: 8