Toyota Starlet returns to Africa

Toyota revives an iconic compact car model name.

The Japanese automotive giant announced a new Starlet hatchback, targeted at Toyota’s ambitious African expansion plans.

Although the Toyota badge takes pride of place in the middle of its grille, this Starlet is a true example of badge engineering. There is virtually no trace of Toyota in its components or mechanical engineering.

This new Starlet is the result of Toyota’s agreement with Suzuki and is, in fact, a Baleno underneath. As more automotive companies seek economies of scale and cost benefits from cooperation, badge engineering is a reality that will become commonplace.

For Toyota to develop a new compact hatchback for African markets and their robust conditions, it would not be cost-effective. Suzuki’s Baleno is a proven vehicle, with its design strongly influenced by Indian road conditions, which are broadly similar to most African markets.

The cooperation between Toyota and Suzuki is, therefore, a logical conclusion and gives African consumers, a tidy new hatchback choice – with a legendary name.

Although Toyota South Africa has not commented on any local possibility of the new Starlet, it does look quite tidy. The only notable specification change between Toyota’s Starlet and its Suzuki donor platform concerns the engine.

The Suzuki’s Baleno's 1.4-litre engine, good for 68 kW is also carried over to the Starlet, both producing a similar peak torque value of 130 Nm. Starlet buyers will have the option on both a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission

In terms of overall size, this new Starlet measures nearly 4m bumper-to-bumper and is 1.74m across and stands 1.47m tall.

With its own grille and wheel design, the Starlet is slightly differentiated from Toyota’s Glanza, which is its exact twin-vehicle in India, also based on the Baleno.

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