1997 Toyota Starlet City 1.3 twin cam petrol from Australia and New Zealand


Built like a tank and goes like a rocket!


Hardly anything ever went wrong in this car. When the Starlet was first advertised in the Australian market, the marketing line said "built like a tank, goes like a rocket". This was the exact experience that I had with the car.

General Comments:

The Starlet was one of the cheapest cars that I ever owned, and I only purchased it as I needed something cheap and reliable to get me to the university and back. I purchased the car at an auction with about 135,000 km on the clock, and seeing that it had a 1.3 litre engine, people told me that I was mad and that the engine is probably on its way out. Well I drove the hell out of that car for the next five years and sold it for more than what I paid for it initially with 276,000 km on the engine. Apart from the routine services (brakes, fluids etc. I only changed the clutch in it once).

I was in my early 20s back then and I drove the car like it was some sort of supercar; simply put, I was abusing that poor little engine and it still kept going and going. The fuel economy was amazing, and even with my abusive driving, I was using around 6.5 litres in 100 km.

Couple of years later I bought another Starlet for my partner, as she was only a learner driver and this one had an automatic trans. This was a completely different car from the one with the manual car. The auto version was underpowered and the engine was not doing very well at all, even though I purchased it from an elderly lady with mere 52,000 km. So if you are thinking Starlet or Echo in the later models, then definitely go manual.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 20th April, 2017

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.