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Car reviews - Toyota - Starlet - Life 3-dr hatch


23 May 1996

TOYOTA crashed the growing light car segment a decade late after stalwarts like the Holden Barina and Daihatsu Charade helped define it. The Starlet suffered from indifferent styling and high prices, but when the latter was rectified after Toyota entered the infamous cutthroat price war with the Hyundai Excel and Ford Festiva, sales soared. Against its cheap South Korean rivals, the Starlet offered lively performance from a 55kW 1.3-litre 4E-FE fuel-injected twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine, high levels of refinement, frugal fuel economy, dogged durability and a relatively strong body. The base three-door hatchback Life enjoyed the lion’s share of the sales compared to the well-equipped Style five-door and sporty Group X three-door. By mid-'97 the range grew with the arrival of a five-door hatch Life model, undercutting the Style. In March '98 the Starlet lost the Style and Group X models but gained a beefed-up body, a driver’s side airbag, seatbelt pretensioners, revised suspension tuning for a softer ride, new cabin fabrics and revised wheel trims. After this car's conservative styling, its Echo replacement seemed like it was from another epoch.
Model release date: 1 April 1996 to 1 October 1999

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