Juliet reviews…the Toyota Starlet

It’s a strange thing writing a review on a car you’ve already reviewed, but one with a different badge. You see, the Toyota Starlet, the car I am reviewing today, is in fact, a Suzuki Baleno….with a Toyota badge on it. It’s not completely uncommon, however, but it has been a while since I have reviewed two cars that are this similar.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden) www.cornelvanheerden.com

So what’s the deal? Toyota and Suzuki joined forces in 2016 and this is the first car that has come out of that collaboration. It makes sense for manufacturers to band together, just think about it, you’ve got two strong Japanese companies who can share developing costs and technologies. This isn’t the first Toyota collab, obviously, last year we saw them team up with BMW and so the very impressive Toyota Supra evolve out of that, which was based on the Z4.

But back to this Baleno, I mean, Starlet. It is an affordable family car with a tag line from Toyota that reads “Make space for fun.” This car is quite spacious, in fact it is a segment leader in terms of space. Bearing in mind that this Starlet is the successor to the very popular Etios which stopped production in March of this year.

It has a 1.4-litre engine under the bonnet, the same as that found in the Baleno. It produces 68 kW of power and 130 Nm of torque. It is a lovely little engine and is perfect for city driving. It also boasts a low claimed fuel consumption of between 5.1 and 5.4l/100 km. What is noticeable is how it fairs on the open road. Having experienced what felt like a hurricane in Cape Town last week, I can truly attest to the solidity of this car. I was on the highway expecting to blown away, but the Starlet stuck to the road and felt very solid indeed.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden) www.cornelvanheerden.com

Where it differs only ever so slightly from the Baleno, is with the model line-up. The Starlet has a three-grade strategy, namely the entry-level Xi, the mid-level XS and the top of the range Xr. Suzuki only has two trim options. The Starlet Xr is the one to go for if only for the added spec, which includes that of Apple Carplay and Android Auto among other things. But all models are pretty generously specced.

Things start to get really interesting when you look at the pricing of the Starlet. It comes in cheaper than the Baleno across the range. Even though it offers a few tiny extras like alloy wheels on the mid-grade spec. The entry level Starlet is about R5 000 cheaper than the equivalent Baleno. But where Suzuki has the ever-so-slightly upper hand is with the service plan and warranty offering  four years/60 000 km and the promotional warranty is five years/200 000 km. Toyota offers a three services/45 000 km service plan.

It really is a bit of a head scratcher for me, especially for Suzuki, as they seem to lose out a bit on this deal. Time will tell, but Toyota, who is the Goliath here, has a reputation for reliability, a bigger footprint dealership wise, and overall is the more popular brand in this country. I almost feel a bit sorry for Suzuki.

TOYOTA STARLET PRICING

Starlet 1.4 Xi MT         – R204 900

Starlet 1.4 Xs MT        – R215 200

Starlet 1.4 Xs AT        – R235 700    

Starlet 1.4 Xr MT        – R258 500    

Starlet 1.4 Xr AT         – R272 500

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