OPINION | Instead of a 'copied' body, Toyota's Starlet could've been something much better
• The Toyota Starlet is based on the Suzuki Baleno.
• The car shares many of its underpinnings with its fellow Japanese.
• Toyota and Suzuki entered into a new partnership in 2019.
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Toyota dropped yet another new model into its ever-growing production list with the recent launch of the Starlet compact hatchback.
This one though, is very unToyota-like in all departments because it is basically a re-badged Suzuki Baleno. There is no definitive way to tell the difference other than looking at the badge.
If you take into account the joint venture with Toyota and Suzuki which was announced last year, the Starlet has most likely been in the works for some time. The use of the Starlet name is perhaps surprising.
Suzuki Baleno (Motorpress)
Copy and paste
The Starlet is not an entirely new model. For those not 100% in the know, the name made its debut back in the early 70s in both Japanese and European markets with many calling it the baby Corolla.
What's interesting is the fact that the Japanese manufacturer binned the Starlet nameplate in the late 90s and the Yaris took its place. Locally, the Starlet will replace the Etios as the new lightweight king on the block.
Just like sports stars announce that they've retired only to make a comeback a year later, Toyota pulled the Starlet out of retirement only to deliver an underwhelming 'copy and paste' job.
Instead of going 99.9% Suzuki, Toyota could have revived the Starlet nameplate independently, straight from the production line in Aichi. They did well enough with the new Supra, even though it wasn't 100% Japanese under the bonnet.
Seeing as Toyota decided against spawning another generation of the Etios for various reasons, the Starlet could also be on the production line for some time and then be deemed surplus to requirements.
Do you think Toyota should have kept the Etios in production? Email us.
Toyota Starlet (Motorpress)
One would think under the bonnet there would be some sort of a difference. Nope, it's all Baleno there as well. A 1.4-litre engine that is good for 68kW and 130Nm, hooked up to a five-speed manual or four-speed auto gearbox.
From a pricing perspective, the entry-level Starlet is almost R20 000 cheaper than its Suzuki counterpart and this will play a big part in sales figures but in a way, the Toyota will feel like kind of a 'knockoff'.
The Starlet will have to strut its stuff against some of the already established heavy-hitters in its segment. The VW Polo, Renault Sandero and even the Suzuki Baleno will be jostling for high sales numbers come month-end.
Times are changing and things, especially vehicles, are not being manufactured to look or perform how they once used to. Sad in some ways but with all things considered, is probably for the best.
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