Thoroughly refreshed, we hop into the updated Starlet. So, how is it? 

The wait is over. The refreshed Toyota Starlet has finally touched down in South Africa. We spent some time with the budget-friendly hatchback on the official launch in Cape Town. The Starlet first made its way to us in 2020, and, in 2021, the local arm of the Japanese automaker sold a whopping 12 103 units. That’s over 1 000 units per month! 

So what exactly has changed? For starters — and this is arguably the most noticeable change — its refreshed grille and bumper design lend it a more pronounced styling. The Starlet has also gained some neat, redesigned headlamps and LED taillamps. The Starlet also got some new treads in 16-inch alloy wheels. 

Moving the party inside, the updated Starlet features many tech upgrades. Included in the package is a new touchscreen infotainment system. This comes in at either seven or nine inches, depending on what trim level you splash out for. It supports the usual Apple CarPlay and Android Auto screen-mirroring functionality. Automatic climate control also makes an appearance in the refreshed model line-up. 

Other features include rear parking sensors (Xr models gain a reverse-view camera), hill assist, vehicle stability control, and ABS and EBD. The side mirrors are now also power-retractable. There are two front USB charging points and a third for the rear passengers. And for all current and future families, don’t fear — all three trim levels pack Isofix child-seat anchors.

StarletAll of this gets driven by a 1.5-litre engine. The four-cylinder petrol kicks out 77 kW and 138 Nm of torque. The powertrain is available with the option of a five-speed manual gearbox and four-speed self-shifter.

We are being nailed with fuel prices at the moment. So what can you expect on the economic side of things? Well, the Manual gearbox will get you 5.4 L/100km. The automatic-equipped models have a claimed consumption of 5.7 L/100km. 

There are five derivatives available in SA. Kicking off the show is the Xi trim level that will set you back R226 200. This is followed by the mid-tier Xs models, priced at R239 100 for the manual and R261 100 for the automatic derivative. Then, to wrap up this show is the range-topping Xr which will cost you R294 900 for the manual and R313 300 for the auto.

Opting for the range-topper comes with its perks. You get many extras such as lekker LED projector headlamps that also equate to LED daytime-running lights, automatically retractable side mirrors, push-start ignition, and a steering wheel wrapped in leather. The Xr’s audio system also upgrades to six (from four) speakers. Parking is also easier with a reverse camera. 

Slipping into the driver’s seat, you immediately get that sense of familiarity. The cabin is pretty user friendly. Everything is positioned and laid out to be, well, very laid back. Upon pulling away, you will notice the smooth gear engagement. The steering isn’t very firm, leading to a pretty relaxed drive. 

It’s a solid car with very little to no rattle. The cabin noise is also on the minimal side. However, on an incline, the Starlet does start to feel out of breath. Cruising on the open road, though, quickly makes you forget this. There is a sense of calm at 120 km/h in top gear, not much rattle or over-revving. Overtaking does require a bit more pedal to the metal. Overall, it’s evident why so many Starlets have found homes since its introduction to SA.