CRA Motoring News – South Africa
By Val van der Walt
Toyota SA recently replaced the Etios hatchback with the Starlet. The Starlet, for those who don’t know, is actually a Suzuki and has been available in SA for a few years as the Baleno.
This happened because the two Japanese brands have signed a share agreement which will see Suzuki also bringing out some rebranded Toyotas in future.
It must be one of the best partnerships in the automotive world because both companies make excellent cars and have a reputation for reliability and practicality hardly matched by others.
Interestingly, there’s a marked difference in the pricing of the Starlet and the Baleno, the Toyota-badged car selling for less, but Suzuki’s aftersales package is better.
Then there’s Toyota’s extensive dealership network, so the Starlet is bound to attract more attention than the Baleno.
Having driven the Etios extensively in all its forms during its years as Toyota’s go-to budget car, and also the Baleno and now the new Starlet, it is clear that this is a move in the right direction.
The Etios was a borderline vehicle – a bit too large and powerful for the A segment (the smallest and lowest-priced cars), and too small and plain to be decisively classified as a B-segment hatch. It lacked in the space department with a rear bench which could not be split, and its road holding was also not what one would expect of a B-segment vehicle.
Now the Starlet is all B segment, albeit lower than the top (expensive) scorers in that category, but as far as drivability and refinement go, it’s definitely a better vehicle than the Etios.
While the Etios ran a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre (66kW/132Nm) engine, the Starlet uses a 1.4 (68kW/130Nm) plant, but the smaller engine feels more refined and actually much more responsive thanks to the newer car’s lighter construction, especially in manual form.
Self-shifting Starlets have a five-speed transmission and the automatics use a four-speed box. There was no auto option in the old Etios line-up. Understandably, manual Starlets are a bit more perky in town, but those with the four-speed auto are also a joy as the Suzuki box responds well to road conditions and shifts are smooth.
Out on the open road the Starlet performs much better than the Etios ever could, being more stable which, after all, is what every car buyer should aim for when moving on to a new vehicle – a car that drives better. Changing from an Etios to a Starlet is therefore without doubt an upgrade.
Not only is the Starlet better to drive than the Etios, it’s also a more comfortable and stylish vehicle inside. The greatest reason must surely be the instrument panel which, in the Starlet, not only looks better but actually sits where instrument panels are supposed to be – behind the steering wheel and directly in front of the driver.
The Etios’ centred instrument panel, positioned above the radio, never really appealed and besides looking odd, was impractical. The Starlet’s fit and finish is also better than that of the vehicle it replaced and the overall layout inside the cabin is not just easy on the eye, but user-friendly as well, especially seeing that the rear bench has a 40/60 split and the boot is larger.
Toyota, to distinguish between trim levels, named the Starlet models Xi, Xs and Xr. Xi and Xs derivatives feature a double-DIN (two-tier) audio system with CD/Bluetooth/USB/ AUX functionality, while high-spec Xr models come with an Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integrated touchscreen. Xr Starlets also have a reverse camera linked to the touchscreen.
All Starlet models come equipped with the Toyota Connect telematics system which offer in-car Wi-Fi (through a hotspot) with 15Gb of data compliments of the manufacturer, or in this case, the seller.
The Starlet is a good car and Toyota is offering it at a very good price.
The range starts at R204 900, which is basically where the Etios also sat when it was discontinued two months ago, and that makes the car a good option for Toyota fans who own the old Etios. It’s a better car. In fact, it outshines many direct rivals from other brands and I will even go as far as saying the Starlet is a better proposition than Toyota’s own Yaris which sits above it in the brand’s line-up.
If you look at everything available in the SA market in this category and price range, the Starlet is SA’s new budget superstar!
Photos: Cornel van Heerden – www.cornelvanheerden.com
Article Credit To Pretoria Record.