The Starlet returns

What you need to know:

With its modern design, advanced features, and practicality, the Starlet is a great choice for anyone looking for a reliable and affordable car.

David Mwesigye’s first car was a 1992 Toyota Starlet. Bought in 2003 at Shs2m, Mwesigye’s was registered with number plates 563 UCN. A single door by design, at the time, the Starlet was popular among artistes and younger motorists for a number of reasons.

“Its fuel economy was very friendly. I would drive from Kyaliwajjala in Kampala to Entebbe (a distance of about 55.9kms) thrice a week on five litres of fuel and I would still have some leftover fuel,” Mwesigye recalls.

The other feature was that since the Starlet was built with a carburetor engine, if you were a practical driver, in case you ran out of fuel, you would just disconnect the fuel tubes, pour in the carburetor and the engine would start up until the next fuel station. If the tubes were equally dry, the Starlet was small enough for one person to push to the fuel station.

“Mine had a manual transmission. I would just put it in free mode and push. Maintenance was done after every 3,000km. Buying it was as cheap as maintenance because I needed about Shs50,000 or less to service everything. When I put it up for sale, it was still in a good mechanical condition yet I was the third owner,” he adds.

According to Mwesigye, the durability of the Starlet was only compared to the Pick-up trucks known as 1200. The latter models such as the Toyota Starlet FX maintained the principles of cheap maintenance and general user friendliness that endeared them to motorists for long.

The 2023 model

After many years of missing in action where the Toyota Starlet was overshadowed by cars of almost similar sizes such as the Toyota Passo and Toyota IST, among others, the Starlet is finally back on the road. The 2023 model, new by aesthetics and features, boasts of a dynamic and more powerful 1500cc petrol engine.

This was, however, increased from the previous 1400cc engine capacity such as Mwesigye’s, not only to improve and enhance engine power when accelerating but also realise more torque and better fuel economy.

In addition to the beautiful facelift aimed at enhancing the physical looks of the vehicle’s interior and exterior, the Starlet’s body has also been made wider, with a higher ground clearance to better manoeuver through Kampala’s bumpy and rough roads. 

“The Starlet has made a return and will continue to evolve. To the generations that grew up in the era of the Starlet, it was a household car. Its simplicity, durability and economic fuel consumption endeared it to many customers and they are the same features the car has maintained. It is for someone that seeks to maneuver through Kampala traffic jam amidst high fuel prices without compromising their comfort and class,” says Isaac Tegule, the CFAO (previously known as Toyota) marketing manager.


To cope with the latest automotive technology, the Starlet, a five seater by capacity, boasts of connectivity and convenience with the integration of Android auto and Apple CarPlay as some of its infotainment features. All you do is simply connect or pair your smartphone to the car’s multimedia system and enjoy a hands-on driving experience with easy access to navigation, music, and a wide range of application using its smart screen.

Like most modern cars being released on the market regardless of the continent, the keyless entry and start system provides effortless access to the vehicle, adding an extra touch of convenience to your daily routine.


Priced at Shs79.8 million for the 2023 brand new zero mileage Starlet, CFAO Motors offers an exceptional package with every purchase. You also get complimentary vehicle service for two years or 50,000km, ensuring your vehicle remains in the best mechanical condition throughout its early years on the road. This also comes with a three-year warranty period or 100,000 km. 


Peter Amadi, a mechanic at Dalas Auto Limited, says maintenance of brand new cars should not be similar to that of second hand used cars.

This is because brand new cars have not been driven elsewhere and were customised to African standards that take into consideration a number of aspects such as road conditions, weather and fuel.

“To have brand new cars longer on the road without challenges of service, it is important to use high octane fuel from trusted fuel stations and accompanying parts such as fuel filters. If, after the warranty or complimentary period you are to do service, do not replace the serviceable parts in phases. If you are to replace engine oil, replace it along with the oil filter, the spark plugs and transmission fluid. Have the discipline to service the car on time or as recommended in your service manual,” Amadi advises.


In 1999, the Starlet was replaced by the Vitz—sold as the Echo or Yaris in international markets—and the bB mini MPV, which was later sold as the Scion xB in Canada and the United States and as the Daihatsu Materia in Europe. However, Toyota effectively vacated the European city car market until the Aygo was launched in 2005.

The ‘‘Starlet’’ nameplate was revived in 2020 for a rebadged Suzuki Baleno hatchback, sold exclusively in some African countries (and in India under the «Glanza» name)


Engine Capacity - 1.5

Transmission - Manual 5-speed

Fuel Type - Petrol

Fuel Consumption - 5.4/100kms

Seats -  5