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.

1997 Toyota Starlet Life 1.3L 4EFE turbo petrol from Australia and New Zealand




Severe seat wear on driver & passenger side.

Hmm. that's about it, really. Can't fault it bar the seats.

General Comments:

Stock suspension wallows when changing direction quickly.

Stock exhaust extremely restrictive even on stock engine - replacing with sports will give much better drivability and more torque.

Stock clutch slips with provocation, but will give years of reliable service, for up to 6PSI of turbo boost. If you want more boost & power, you need a new clutch (~$420)

Gearchange can be a little vague, synchros wear easily.

Headlights are OK for most situations, but could be a lot better. Installing decent driving lights is a great fix.

Seats have worn badly in 8 years of usage, metal bars rubbing through on shoulderblades. If you're a big bloke, you'll want to get extra padding in the seats or install sportier seats (MR2 Spider seats are fantastic)

All in all, an absolutely marvellous car with huge potential. A true turbo shopping trolley. Seats four comfortably, will zip and zoom about with ease, light and nimble, and fairly frugal on fuel (11.2L/100km when driven extremely hard around mountain roads, on a 214HP @ front wheels tune.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 7th June, 2006