The Toyota Starlet is a product of an alliance between two global car manufacturers – Toyota and Suzuki.
The two brands entered into this alliance “in order to leverage each other’s strengths and compete in the evolving global vehicle market”, states Toyota.
Starlet is not a new name for Toyota, however, as it adorned Toyota’s sub-compact range in the Japanese domestic market for five generations – from 1973 to 1999.
Now, it is back, and it has its sights set on VW and their ever-popular Polo Vivo.
The Starlet builds on the strengths of the outgoing Etios – performance, efficiency, and affordability – and then improves it with a new look, inside and out, as well as new features fitted as standard.
The new design includes typical hatch styling with a short front and rounded rear, a v-shaped front grille – finished in Toyota-specific finishing – and chrome detailing around the vertically-aligned halogen headlights and LED tail lights.
The body-coloured mirrors are electrically adjustable, and the car stands on 15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers as standard.
Compared to the Polo Vivo, the Starlet’s design is almost three years newer, and more spacious thanks to the 23mm longer and 63mm wider footprint.
The current generation of the Vivo was introduced in 2018.
Essentially, it was a rebadged and slightly updated version of the previous-generation Polo, meaning that the look of the Vivo is well established and could be seen on our roads as early as 2015.
In contrast to the Toyota, the mirrors of the Vivo are not body-coloured or electrically adjustable, and it is fitted with 14-inch steel wheels with plastic covers.
It does, however, receive a heated rear window – an option which is not available on any Starlet.
Sadly, no daytime running lights or fog lamps will be found on either car.
It is nearly impossible to confuse these cars from the outside, as their designs are radically different and the proportions are unique to each model.
The interiors, however, are much more alike – and there is no clear winner in this department.
Both cars come standard with cloth interiors, albeit with a different look.
The seats on the Vivo receive the “Traditional” trim from Volkswagen, which pull inspiration from the early Golfs.
Those on the Starlet have a different design, and feature a two-tone black and bluish colourway.
The interior layout in the Toyota then focuses on ergonomics and space, as the controls for features such as ventilation, infotainment, and air-conditioning are all situated within the centre “hang-down” section.
It’s further fitted with a Toyota double din audio system – which sees the addition of an infotainment display in the dash – and allows Bluetooth, USB, and AUX inputs along with a 6-speaker layout.
Toyota Connect app support – which offers in-car Wi-Fi – is also enabled as standard across the range.
On the Vivo, Volkswagen has fitted their MIB infotainment system which also provides a screen on the dash as well as the same inputs as that of the Starlet.
The controls for ventilation, infotainment, and air-conditioning are more spaced out, however.
It is also worth mentioning that the Vivo has two speakers fewer than its competitor.
Both cars have a small multi-information-display inside the instrument cluster, where information about your vehicle is displayed at all times.
Further power-operated interior features remain limited though, as both vehicle’s seats, climate controls, and steering columns are manually adjustable.
The Starlet then receives electric windows all round, whereas the Vivo’s only electrically-adjustable windows are at the front.
The following safety features are also shared:
- Central locking
- Dual front airbags
- Alarm and immobiliser
- ISOFIX child seat mountings
The Starlet is additionally fitted with brake assist, vehicle stability control, and hill-assist control to place it at the front of its market segment in terms of safety and security features.
Price and performance
Under the hood of the Toyota is a 1.4-litre petrol engine which produces 68kW of power and 130Nm of torque.
This is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox, and allows the Starlet to achieve a claimed combined fuel efficiency of 5.1l/100km.
The Toyota Starlet 1.4L Xi MT has a starting price of R209,000.
With this you will receive all the features mentioned above, as well as a 3-year/100,000km warranty and a 3-year/45,000km service plan.
The VW also receives a 1.4-litre petrol engine, which 55kW and 130Nm. This gives the Polo Vivo a slightly higher claimed fuel consumption of 5.7l/100km.
The Volkswagen Polo Vivo Trendline 1.4, with a 5-speed manual transmission, has a starting price of R218,100.
With this you will receive all the features mentioned above, as well as a 3-year/120,000km warranty.