The original Toyota Starlet was launched in Mzansi during the deep midst of the COVID-19 pandemic back in September 2020. Despite this, it quickly shot up to the highest levels of unit sales, regularly exceeding 1 000 units per month. Clearly buyers adore the Starlet, so in order to keep it shining, Toyota has brought out the updated model. There were virtually no complaints about the predecessor, therefore the new car will simply just improve on what was already a winning formula.

Changes have been made in a number of key areas, not least of all the exterior design. A new front end with new headlights, front grille with a wide wingspan in chrome cutting across the Toyota emblem, a larger lower air dam and foglights give the Starlet a “friendlier”, yet dare I say; sportier look. Some models do feature LED headlights too.

On the sides the main attraction are the side mirrors which now carry indicator lights. Larger Goodyear tyres in the form of 185/65/R15 frame the 15-inch steel wheels, while the 16-inch light alloys get 195/55/R16 rubber. These changes are also in line with an improved suspension setup. Of the seven exterior paint colours, customers will be able to choose an extra two new ones.

Where occupants spend their time with the Starlet – inside – the updates have also been pronounced. There’s new front seats for example, which Toyota says offer better lateral support, whilst the rear seats have more thigh and shoulder support. An air of spaciousness is enhanced by ample storage spaces, including the mandatory cup holders.

Infotainment has also been liberated to become available for all models. The system comes with a touch screen interface, USB ports, Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple Carplay, and radio function with pre-set functionality.

Toyota has employed the same naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine found in the Urban Cruiser for the Starlet. That means 77kW of power and 138Nm of torque for the front wheels. Transmission choices remain the same, at 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto. In spite of the engine size and power increases, Toyota reckons one can still return 5.7 litres per 100km in average fuel consumption from the new Starlet. Yes, it’s not a sports car, and so the sprint time of 11.2 seconds from standstill to 100km/h is unsurprising. Neither is the 175km/h speed limit.

Driving the updated Starlet briefly in the Western Cape I could feel the positive changes made, although most of it was still familiar. Remember this is not an all-new car, and therefore it will not be completely alien to the 20 000 or so current owners. Mainly I noticed how more quiet it is, and how compliant it is when driving over uneven road surfaces, how well it absorbs the bumps. Over a longer period of testing time will the fuel consumption reveal itself. However, I would be surprised by an average of over 6.5 litres per 100km.

Some of the driver assistant systems included in the Starlet are ABS with EBD, at least two airbags (up to six), as well as Park Distance Control, Hill Assist Control, Smart Entry and a reversing camera for higher grade models. With all these updates, the Toyota Starlet should continue to shine in its segment by providing buyers with a mid-sized hatch that is comfortable, safe and reasonably priced.

Starlet Prices

Xi manual – R226 200

Xs manual – R239 100

Xs auto – R261 100

Xr manual – R294 900

Xr auto – R313 300

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