The Starlet was added to the local Toyota range during 2020 and has been a great success as a larger B-segment hatch offering. Reaching peak sales of around 1400 units in a month.

I was privileged to spend the last few days in the Western Cape to experience the new version of the Starlet. This is an enhancement and includes many upgrades and improvements on a proven winning recipe.

On the exterior changes include a new honeycomb grille and front fog lamps on upper spec models. Top XR adds items like auto-folding mirrors and auto lights with follow-me-home functionality. XS and XR models also get new 16" alloy wheels. All models now get a rear spoiler for improved aerodynamic performance.

The biggest interior change is the addition of a full infotainment screen with full connectivity, 7" in lower spec and a 9" unit in top XR models. Overall the interior is well finished and the larger footprint of the Starlet creates plenty of passenger space in the rear, even when the driver’s seat was set for my 1.89m tall co-driver.

The biggest change takes place under the bonnet. The engine goes from 1.4 to 1.5L providing 77kW and 138Nm to the front wheels through either 5 speed manual or 4 speed automatic transmissions. Increases of 9kW and 8Nm may not sound like much but the manual version in particular (we deliberately chose a manual for the major part of the drive) certainly performed well around the Peninsula and over Chapman's Peak. The power delivery is smooth, the car handles well around the bends and the ride is comfortable and compliant.

We had a shorter drive in an automatic version and this left me with mixed feelings. Obviously, an auto is much smoother and less stressful in traffic and we handled rush-hour towards the airport with ease. On the other side, the gearbox seemed to hunt between 3rd and 4th gears which was a bit of a let-down. I'm sure that most drivers who spend their lives commuting will not notice this and find the auto a pleasure in the daily commute.

I am always aware of safety and I noted the lack of automatic door locking on pull-off. Personally, I believe that this should be a standard requirement on every car sold in SA.

Overall, this is a case of a proven success being enhanced and improved in every respect yet with a minimal price increase of R1000 over the previous model.

The new range:

1.5 Xi manual        R226 200

1.5 Xs manual       R239 100

1.5 Xs Auto            R261 100

1.5 XR manual       R294 400

1.5 XR Auto            R313 300


All models include a 3 year/ 45 000km service plan.


Alan Rosenmeyer:   MotorMatters: