1997 Toyota Starlet Reflect F 4E FE from Australia and New Zealand


A great, reliable around town-er


Front seats have no side support, and what remains of the driver's side foam support has come away from the steel frame.

Distributor cap inside terminals require oxide removal every 10,000 Kms to ensure good spark transmission, improve starting, and general engine running.

Just your standard battery changes.

General Comments:

Overall a typical reliable Japanese import Toyota car.

Very good around town-er, but can be a little skittish on the motorways at speed. To improve the ride and handling, get rid of the skinny tyres and put on 175mm width tyres. Makes a huge difference.

Change your oil regularly, at least once a year.

As a Japanese import, the car is not well tuned to 91 octane for NZ. Use 95 or 98, and you will get a much better fuel economy and power. I currently use the Ethanol bio fuel, with great results.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 17th September, 2010

7th Jan 2013, 20:29

I have a Toyota Starlet 1997. I bought it used with 142K on the meter.

The car is manual and it is slow in take offs (I mean much slower than cars around at the signals). The gear shifting takes time, which makes it slow, like from 1st up to 3rd gear. If you want a quick take off, you have to change gears very quickly to reach 40 Kmph. The car required only unleaded fuel (there's a sticker behind the fuel door, which clearly says that the car requires unleaded fuel). I used bio fuel i.e. Ethanol (E10); the performance feels a little bit different, but it just harms the engine. You will notice the engine oil burns, and in some situations you will have to top-up very often. I am now using unleaded fuel.

The car is pretty slow on the hills; it makes the driver feel awkward.

The car doesn't have any safety add ons, the suspension are hard, and the ride is noisy.

It's good for the students, as a second car, and as a first car to learn in. It's a car with a body, engine and A/C; nothing else. It's good for the Asian market, not for a country where you need more horsepower and powerful engines to drive freely.

But overall it's not bad. You can drive it as rough as you can; it won't die. It has near to no maintenance.

You may install a good sound system to avoid to road noise.

1997 Toyota Starlet Sportif 5 Door 1.3 petrol from UK and Ireland


Why oh why did Toyota stop making this model?


New exhaust system less catalytic convertor at 70k.

New battery in March 2007.

Camshaft belt replaced at 56k.

New front brake pads at 80k.

General Comments:

The model is one of the best of the series as it has manual everything with no nasty electric windows or air conditioning to go wrong, and it weighs less. It looks particularly good with the original Toyota/Wolfrace alloys on the five door bodyshell.

Having driven a few Yaris, I fail to understand why Toyota did not continue to develop the Starlet rather than bringing out the admittedly more technically advanced model. The 4E-FE Engine gives a linear torque curve, which compares extremely favourably with the peaky VVTI engines in the Yaris and still delivers an average mpg, when driven moderately hard, of 38-40 mpg. Overall performance is very lively aided by the close ratio, but rather low geared transmission.

Handling is like the proverbial motorised roller skate, although the responsiveness is due in part no doubt to the optional lightweight alloys. The ride is firm and a bit crashy on rough roads, and watch out if you seriously overcook things as the only exit will be straight off!

The instrumentation is a bit spartan, having no rev counter. The interior is finished in a hard wearing grey cloth and the absence of a sun roof is unlamented. The rear leg room is limited although the available boot space appears more generous than on the Yaris. Seats are comfortable, but lack side support.

Outstandingly reliable - even started when the battery was almost completely discharged!!

Service costs are reasonable, provided you shop around, and the car is a sound proposition for home maintenance. Creates the impression of being built like a small tank - admittedly a lightweight one with a surprising turn of speed. Equally at home around town and on long distance runs when the low gearing can become more apparent.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 4th January, 2008

6th Jan 2008, 04:45

I agree. Toyota should have kept making them.

They were very popular here in Australia, and people never really got used to the looks of its replacement- the Echo (Yaris).

Starlet is a very good little car that beats all of its competitors for quality and ruggedness.

2nd Jul 2009, 04:13

I have owned a Starlet since '97, for its first year (65,000 km) it was a Driving School car. Since then I have used it for personal use, current mileage 187,000km. I replaced the brake pads at 160,000km, yes that is correct! I also did its first wheel alignment at the same time. It is 2 inches lower & stiffer than standard which made a huge improvement in the car's handling at any speed. I am also running wider tyres than standard, which also help in the grip.

This car is more than a car, it is like a faithful dog, it has never let me down & after 12 years it continues to exceed my expectations. So far nothing has broken except for the items that are designed to break. I am expecting to get 200,000km out of the first clutch.

8th Nov 2009, 03:25

I am in South Africa and it seems your Starlet is very similar to the Toyota Tazz models in South Africa.

I agree with the comments above, about taking the 5 door model off the market. Not only is a 5 door safer, but the 3 door in an accident becomes a trap for passengers in the rear seat.

The 1.3 liter model is a most reliable vehicle. My present Corolla is a 5 sedan with the 1.3 motor. 7 years old.

Stick with a tried and tested formula, it also keeps sales volumes up. After all, young people tend to buy the base models as a first form of mobility.

26th Oct 2010, 11:53

I bought mine for £250 UK pounds, N reg, that's 15 years old with 58k miles, 93k km.

Aesthetically not the sweetest with a few dents and faded paint, but otherwise good. Door locks don't work, so I open them from the back... soooh cool yeah!

Engine is torquey and willing, revs freely, but not worth doing so.

The ride is good on smooth surfaces, but pretty choppy on the uneven stuff, and can get very hairy if you overcook it on bouncy corners, or any corners for that matter. Feels very vague in the wet around corners, could be the cheap tyres, but I think not.

It has simple and clean lines, a simple and functional interior, everything is well made to be cheap, but not cheaply. Better finished and equipped than my wife's more recent Micra.

Good, cheap motoring, supported by a good, well executed design and engineering. It's better than the few numbers on the road would indicate. A Star (let) in more than just name.