Toyota’s second-best selling car in SA: The Starlet

The 2022 Toyota Starlet features an updated exterior design, a modern-day interior, more standard tech, and a new engine. The rebadged version of the Suzuki Baleno offers an ideal mix of affordability, practicality, comfort, economy, and performance. It is Toyota's second best-selling vehicle in South Africa (after the Hilux).

The entry-level hatchback in the Toyota SA line-up has received a significant facelift with a unique front bumper and grille, extra chrome detailing, and newly-designed headlamps. We see a chrome strip between the new taillight clusters at the back.

Perhaps, the biggest and most desirable change is the new petrol mill. The automaker swapped the 1.4-litre engine with the more robust 1.5-litre unit. It offers 9 kW more power and 8 Nm more torque, translating to around a 10% boost in power and torque compared to the previous 1.4-litre unit.

The new engine pairs with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission and feels perkier than before. However, the fuel economy rating takes a slight hit (just about 0.2 l/100 km), so it stays between 5.4- and 5.7 L/100 km. In the real world, expect the new Starlet to consume a litre more for a 100-kilometre travel.

Toyota offers the new 2022 Starlet in three trim levels – Xi, Xs, and Xr – all propelled by the new 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine. The interior gets a new 7.0-inch touchscreen system for the infotainment (Xi and Xs trim levels) and a 9.0-inch display for the high-end Xr. Both infotainment screens support Apple Carplay and Android Auto.

Additionally, the Japanese automaker added extra safety facilities in all models to make Starlet more competitive in the segment, which is aced by Volkswagen Polo Vivo.

While we couldn’t have a chance to drive the 2022 Starlet, South African motoring journalists have found the drive comfortable and quiet with a light steering feel. Do not expect a sporty experience; the Starlet is just an entry-level hatchback, and you will experience a reasonable amount of body roll around corners. If you mostly drive around town, we suggest you opt for the 4-speed automatic gearbox, but the manual would be ideal for more control.

The new infotainment system is the biggest highlight inside, replacing the old dot-matrix radio that only offered Bluetooth connectivity. The 7.0-inch infotainment display for the Xi and Xs and a 9.0-inch touchscreen for the Xr with Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatibility, along with additional USB ports, make the interior more acceptable for new buyers.

Toyota’s focus on a safe travelling experience brings more standard safety equipment on board in the shape of stability control, ABS, EBD, hill-start assist, rear parking sensors, and a reverse-view camera (standard for Xr only).

Additionally, the Xi and Xs come equipped with two airbags (one for the driver and one for the passenger), while the top-spec Xr includes four airbags.

With an increase of just R1,000 over the previous model, the 2022 Starlet Xi manual starts at R226,200, and the price goes as high as R313,300 for the Xr automatic. All models are available with a 3-year/100,000 km warranty and a 3-year/45,000 km service plan and come with a better standard specification than before for more peace of mind. (Prices correct at time of publication.)

Looking for a new car? At MotorHappy, we believe the first step in buying a new car is research. The MotorHappy blog is a great place to start – click here to read our other car reviews.


Please note the imagery supplied in this blog was taken off


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