Joint ventures, mergers, acquisitions, and cross-brand partnerships, these are the driving forces of an ever-increasing global market.
The automotive sector is no stranger to this, with multi-brand partnerships having been around for many decades with vehicles (and their components) being built across the world. As a result of an ever-expanding market, more demanding customers and economic emancipation, automakers are increasingly being required to adapt and innovate.
On the 28th of August Toyota and Suzuki announced a formal alliance between the two companies, in order to leverage each other’s strengths and compete in the evolving global vehicle market.
Toyota’s expertise in Hybrid technology and autonomous driving would be of benefit to Suzuki, while Toyota would get access to compact vehicles, which is a Suzuki strength. This is how this mutually beneficial alliance was born.
The first product to come out of this brand alliance and make it to South Africa’s shores is the Toyota Starlet. The Starlet name dates back to 1973 and has adorned Toyota’s sub-compact hatchback in the Japanese domestic market for five generations (ending in 1999). Staying true to the ethos of being a compact, efficient and value-focused product, the newcomer is set to revive the Starlet name.
The sub-B segment accounts for the second highest share of passenger vehicle sales in South Africa and is a fiercely competitive territory. The Starlet replaces the Toyota Etios, a vehicle that captured an average 22% share of the sub-B segment over its lifespan.
The Starlet builds on the core strengths of the Etios namely good performance, fuel efficiency and affordable pricing. It then further amplifies the product offering with a modern exterior design, spacious interior, and enhanced specification levels.
The exterior design follows a classic hatchback profile, with a short, downward-sloping nose and rounded-off rear hatch.
The interior layout prioritizes spaciousness and ergonomics without compromising on flair. The centre ‘hang-down’ section of the dashboard neatly groups the ventilation, infotainment and climate-control switchgear. The driver is greeted by a bright and easy-to-read instrument cluster with on-centre Multi-Information Display (MID) and dual analogue gauges.
A sporty three-spoke steering wheel incorporates steering switches and cruise control (where equipped).
Powering the Starlet is a 1.4-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine. Featuring Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and a tumble-flow intake manifold, the engine exhibits a rev-happy character and makes light work of the daily commute. The power output is 68kW at 6000rpm with 130Nm of torque at 4200rpm.
Two transmission choices are on offer, a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic. The 0-100km/h dash is dispatched in 10.9s for the manual and 11.6s for the auto variant.
Low fuel consumption is a key feature, with the fuel index registering between 5.1 and 5.4 litre per 100km. The 37-litre fuel tank provides an effective range of over 700km on a single tank.
Despite serving as the entry point to the Starlet range, the Xi model features air-conditioning, electric power steering, dual 12-volt power outlets, electric windows, tilt-adjustable steering column, 60/40 split rear seats, power-adjustable side mirrors and remote central locking.
The flagship Xr models receive the full package, comprising of chrome door handles and side mouldings, rear privacy glass, front fog lamps, LED plus projector headlamps with daytime running lights (DRL), side-mirror mounted indicators and a roof spoiler.
Moving to the interior, the spec level is amped up courtesy of a digital speedometer with colour MID, leather steering wheel with telescopic adjustment, park distance control (PDC), reverse camera, climate control and push-start operation. Cruise control is also provided, operated via steering-wheel-mounted switches.
The Xi and Xs models feature a double-DIN audio system with CD/Bluetooth/USB/Aux functionality, playing through sic-speakers. The Xr model is offered with a touchscreen audio system complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration for navigation, telephony and music-streaming services.
The traditional USB, Bluetooth and MP3/Aux compatibility remains, offering the user a wide variety of in-vehicle entertainment sources. Reverse camera monitoring is also embedded within the infotainment system.
All the Starlet models are also equipped with the Toyota Connect telematics system which includes an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and complimentary 15Gb data. Once linked to their profile, customers can manage their vehicle via the MyToyota App.
This intuitive app allows on-demand service bookings, vehicle information and history, tracking data as well as Toyota Connect data recharge services and much more.
All the Starlet models are sold with a 3-year service or 45 000km service plan, with the service intervals recommended for every 15 000km. A three-year or 100 000km warranty is also provided. Customers can purchase an additional service plan and warranty extensions from their local Toyota dealer.