New Toyota Starlet shines bright
In an economy where customers across the board are looking for more bang for their buck, automakers seem to have an answer. Take Toyota for example. They partnered with the leaders in the compact car segment, Suzuki and introduced the Starlet, a Baleno based budget hatch. However, when you slap a Toyota badge onto anything it tends to garner a few more sales and that is exactly what happened with the previous model. So, the Starlet then. What is it like?
The new Starlet promises to deliver even more, on all fronts. The front styling ups the visual ante with sleek headlamps with LED options on the top-spec. The front is further unified by a sleek chrome 'brow' and prominent lower air dam - creating a signature Toyota look. Wide-mounted fog lamps replete with C-shaped trim, add to the overall appeal. The rear features two-piece rear light clusters and a broad, chrome tailgate garnish which completes the sporty yet elegant profile.
Step inside and you will notice a revised interior design which features swooping accent lines and multi-hued detailing, with a large centrally-mounted infotainment screen and easy-to-read instrument binnacle. Here designers focussed on creating a stylish design while maintaining excellent ergonomics.
All models now come equipped with a touchscreen audio system with USB, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto interface, as well as two rear USB chargers. Automatic Climate Control, power-retractable mirrors, electric windows and Multi-Information Display are features on the standard menu which is great news.
Spaciousness and comfort remain a hallmark of the new Starlet. A 60/40 split seat back provides the option to expand the 314 litre boot space and create even more utility.
Under the bonnet, the newcomer gets a boost in performance with the adoption of a larger 1.5-litre engine. This motor develops 77kW and 138Nm of torque and can be paired to either a 5-speed manual gearbox or an automatic gearbox.
Safety is also improved upon as driver assistance systems now include rear parking sensors, Hill Assist Control , Vehicle Stability Control, ABS and EBD across the board. Driver and Passenger airbags are also provided with the flagship Xr grade featuring Side & Curtain versions too, for a total tally of 6. ISOFIX anchor points are standard across the range.
Ride and handling has also been enhanced, in fact the new Starlet makes use of a completely revised suspension setup, with changes to the torsion beam at the rear, new coil springs all-round, and recalibrated dampening in conjunction with an additional 20mm of suspension travel.
Out on the road, our test unit proved to be a great companion, doing what was required of it without question. The motor is eager to rev and despite the 4-speed automatic which featured on our test unit, the Starlet wasn’t lacking forward momentum at any given point throughout our week. The Starlet is great for dealing with everyday life. We found it to be relatively comfortable with decent infotainment capabilities, space and most importantly, fuel economy.
In a market that seems to be favouring the compact SUV it is refreshing to get behind the wheel of a decent, compact hatchback that is big on value as well as features. The Starlet should be on your list when shopping in this segment.