The JDM sizzling hatch class has a few of the most underrated JDM cars, one in all which is the Toyota Starlet. However like most sizzling hatches, only a few patrons would contemplate it because of the presence of the adored Honda Civic. Additionally, when it’s a precedence to get a Toyota as a primary JDM automobile, a front-wheel-drive Starlet sounds much less interesting because of the presence of iconic tuner automobiles such because the Toyota Sprinter Trueno and sleeper sedans such because the Toyota Chaser.

Consumers have solely lately began leaning in direction of the Starlet as a result of its affordability since most tuner automobile costs are hitting an all-time excessive. At this time, the Toyota Starlet stays a legend in Toyota’s halls of fame because it impressed the Yaris, which has advanced to turn into the very best small sizzling hatch taking the crown away from the Germans. The Yaris GR has been praised by automobile fanatics, even those that wouldn’t purchase it because it doesn’t swimsuit their driving type, and a few have even gone forward and acquired it.

Unknown to many, the Starlet competed within the A5 Class on the WRC whereas in its fourth technology and had a number of podium standings. Did Toyota Promote the Starlet in the USA? Solely the rear-wheel-drive third-gen Starlet discovered its technique to United States soil between 1981 and 1984. Turbocharged variants launched later in 1984 had been strictly reserved for the Japanese market, which is among the causes you can purchase one.

Toyota Starlet Execs and Cons

Toyota Starlet


Low cost To Purchase and Preserve

Value is among the main figuring out components when shopping for any automobile, JDM automobiles included. No matter what these automobiles signify within the automotive world, one should guarantee to not overpay, even with costs rising as we enter a interval the place most automobiles from the Nineteen Nineties may be legally imported to the USA. Toyota Starlet costs begin at lower than $5,000 for older generations, together with items with a turbocharged engine.

Newer turbocharged variants and restricted version items such because the Starlet GT and Glanza retail for extra. Most of them promote for figures above $10,000, however you get worth for cash in comparison with the Honda Civic, and it’s assured it can promote for greater than that after some time. The transmission additionally determines the Value of a Toyota Starlet, whether or not imported or regionally used. Models with an computerized transmission can go for half as a lot as these with a handbook transmission.

Like every other Toyota, the Toyota Starlet has distinctive reliability and sturdiness. Thus upkeep prices, which primarily contain insurance coverage, fuel, and fluid adjustments, are inexpensive even for a first-time automobile proprietor making possession flawless. Insurance coverage prices hardly ever exceed $400 a month, and Toyota elements are fairly low-cost.

Enjoyable To Drive

The primary cause it’s higher to purchase a Toyota Starlet over a contemporary Corolla or Prius is that it’s thrilling to drive, particularly in the event you get one with a turbocharged engine mated to a handbook transmission. It could be front-wheel-drive, however commutes to and from faculty or work turn into satisfying greater than the Prius’ gas economic system, consolation, and security options. You may as well get the Toyota Starlet with a rear-wheel-drive platform, as Toyota switched to front-wheel-drive in 1984, however the engine choices aren’t interesting.

0-60mph in a Toyota Starlet would possibly take endlessly, however anybody who buys one is aware of that and as an alternative focuses on the fun of the exhaust screaming at 8000rpm and ready to bang second gear on the quick throw shifter. The primary drive will stamp a smile in your face that will probably be onerous to wipe off and at all times comes again whenever you begin the engine after an extended week with out driving the automobile.

Dealing with is top-notch within the Starlet, which is surprising in a front-wheel-drive JDM automobile, significantly in items with Toyota’s Digital Modulated Suspension, TEMS. It’s an energetic suspension first launched within the third-generation turbocharged variants and refined within the fourth technology. The TEMS system routinely responds to the driving terrain and may be operated manually to swimsuit a driver’s driving type. Only a few automobiles from the Nineteen Eighties and Nineteen Nineties had such superior suspension techniques.

Straightforward To Work On

Do you have to decide a Toyota Starlet as your first JDM undertaking automobile? Sure. That is the signal you’ve been ready for in the event you’ve been contemplating it as your first JDM undertaking automobile. For freshmen, it’s straightforward to work on a Starlet as all it takes is a YouTube video and a web-based restore information. After that, you might be already changing the drum brakes with disc brakes and the 4-stud hubs to interchange them with 5-stud hubs, that are among the many first mods Starlet house owners suggest on older mannequin years.

Engaged on an uncomplicated however well-built automobile is each automobile proprietor’s dream because it reduces upkeep prices, improves craft round automobiles, and helps acquire familiarity with the car. The transversely mounted engine within the Toyota Starlet makes it straightforward to carry out fluid adjustments, examine fluid traces, and even work on the engine itself when it’s nonetheless within the automobile. The identical applies to chassis and suspension work because it’s light-weight, and you’ll carry the automobile on residence storage jack stands.


The Toyota Starlet makes the proper storage addition if you need one thing that’s daily-drivable or has higher gas consumption than your Toyota Supra. It matches into the tiniest parking areas because it’s virtually related in measurement to a mean Kei automobile. Do you might have a undertaking automobile that can take longer to finish than anticipated and need to keep away from a boring automobile to drive whereas at it? The Toyota Starlet is among the many finest candidates, particularly if you’re into older Toyotas. Get one in mint situation, improve a couple of elements, and also you’ll have the very best runabout.


Poorly Constructed Inside and Impractical

One of many main disadvantages of shopping for small sizzling hatches just like the Toyota Starlet is that they’re much less sensible and have poorly constructed interiors. Most of them had been made in two physique configurations, a two-door or a four-door hatch, with each automobiles having rear seats. Legroom within the Toyota Starlet is horrible, particularly within the again seats since they’ll’t be adjusted, and the headroom is fairly related. Tall drivers would possibly discover it troublesome since wiggle room within the entrance seat is minimal, and the roof is low because it recedes to merge into the A-pillar.

Toyota is thought for making dependable and bulletproof automobiles but in addition for making the worst interiors on automobiles, primarily consisting of plastic trims, poor-quality materials, and missing the barest minimal of options comparable to cup holders. An inside overhaul and aftermarket seats ought to be among the many high ten mods do you have to purchase an outdated Toyota Starlet. However in the event you can face up to fixed rattling, failing door locks, and worn-out ground mats, benefit from the automobile as it’s.

The Toyota Starlet makes the proper newbie automobile or 16th birthday current for an adolescent, however as soon as they discover they’ll’t match their pals comfortably for a highway journey, they’ll begin searching for higher choices. However in the event you acquired it for them as their first JDM car, they’ll get used to it since such points are unavoidable in most JDM automobiles.

Restricted Aftermarket Assist

Shopping for a Toyota Starlet as a undertaking automobile is nice. Even so, persistence have to be exercised by anybody who decides to construct one because it has little aftermarket help in comparison with its greatest competitor, the Honda Civic. Interchanging elements from different Toyotas is feasible, however getting elements made particularly for the Toyota Starlet is best. However it’s not that aftermarket elements are unavailable. You’ll both have to attend for ages for elements to be shipped that took months to seek out or pay ridiculous costs for custom-made elements. Because of this, most house owners desire holding their Starlets inventory or engine swap with engines with wonderful aftermarket help, such because the 3S-GTE or 4A-GE.

Toyota Starlet Frequent Points

Entrance Suspension Failure

Toyotas could be dependable and bulletproof, however this doesn’t imply that faults and failures are dismissible when shopping for them. Fortunately, most points and issues, comparable to entrance suspension failure within the Toyota Starlet, are discovered on poorly maintained or excessive mileage automobiles. In any case, not every part on the automobile was made to final a lifetime, particularly if it’s mechanical or electrical.

So what goes incorrect with the Starlet’s entrance suspension? Entrance suspension failure is frequent in front-wheel-drive automobiles, and the problems primarily begin on the ball joints, management arms, and bushings. It is because the entrance suspension has extra stress than the rear, being liable for propelling and turning the automobile. Additionally, being front-engined, the automobile is heavier on the entrance, however this majorly impacts the shocks, struts, and comes.

Having the entrance suspension rebuilt on a Toyota Starlet ought to repair the noises heard when corning and going over bumps, and the antiroll bar bushes in later mannequin years shouldn’t be forgotten. Any cracks or bends within the management arms ought to be taken severely for the reason that solely resolution is to interchange the management arms. If the noises persist and the automobile sits a bit low, examine the strut towers and the engine mounts recognized to wear down quickly on older automobiles since they’re fabricated from rubber.

Energy Loss

In outdated JDM automobiles, lack of energy is frequent, however most house owners solely take it flippantly and relate the difficulty to the ignition system, which is usually the case. Carbon buildup within the Toyota Starlet is among the culprits leading to lack of energy, primarily occurring within the 4E engine. It’s regular for an engine to have carbon buildup for the reason that carbon is a by-product of gas and air combustion. However in the event you discover extra buildup on the sparkplugs, backfires, and onerous begins, it’s time for an engine flush to clear the buildup.

Numerous points might result in carbon buildup. For starters, if there’s inadequate air or gas within the engine, combustion will probably be incomplete, leading to extra fumes. Changing the outdated defective gas pump, air filter, and gas injectors ought to repair hunger. Some house owners of automobiles with the 4E engine suggest eradicating the mass airflow sensor behind the air filter because the engine runs higher with out it. Nonetheless, doing all that with out flushing the engine with a carbon buildup cleaner will solely partially remedy the issue.

In turbocharged variants, turbo failure and enhance leaks are frequent, resulting in lack of energy within the Toyota Starlet. Turbo failure is especially brought on by outdated age and over-boosting because it cracks between the port and wastegate. Getting old is unavoidable, and over-boosting weakens the turbocharger. That’s why changing the turbocharger on a Toyota Starlet is advisable in the event you drive onerous. Whereas at it, examine the enhance traces for cracks, dents, gasket leaks, and free clamps, which end in enhance leaks and would possibly have to be changed when putting in a brand new turbo.

Engine and Turbo Overheating

Like the inside construct high quality, the cooling system within the Toyota Starlet isn’t adequate, inflicting the engine to overheat. Typically the trigger may be minor comparable to a damaged or clogged coolant line which is simple to repair. However some points, for instance, a leaking radiator or water pump failure, are too vital to disregard. Additionally, an outdated or worn-out intercooler doesn’t sufficiently cool sizzling air from the radiator, inflicting elevated temperatures within the combustion chamber.

Inspecting and changing defective cooling system parts, beginning with the thermostat, water pump, and radiator cap, recognized to lose strain, is the one technique to gauge if the engine is getting ample cooling. Injury to the intercooler is especially brought on by highway particles which may be prevented by putting in a mesh within the hood scoop. However it’s not solely engine overheating that can gentle up the instrument cluster.

The turbocharger will overheat if it isn’t getting sufficient oil to chill it; thus, the examine engine gentle will come on. That is brought on by clogged turbo oil traces stopping circulation or low engine oil and leaking oil provide traces inflicting hunger. If not mounted, warmth from the turbocharger heats the bearings rising friction exerted onto the turbo housing, which places the turbocharger prone to blowing.

Failing Electronics

In case you’ve tried utilizing the stereo or AC in a automobile from the 20th Century, you’ll know more often than not, it doesn’t work. It’s not that totally different within the Toyota Starlet or every other JDM automobile made throughout that interval, and a few electrical points ought to be anticipated. Some, comparable to headlight and wiper motor failure, are minimal, whereas others, comparable to starter motor failure, deem the automobile undrivable and may be irritating. Rewiring the wiring system and changing the fuses and harnesses are the one options to stop such shortcomings since most of those are too brittle to face up to fixed use.

Common Costs

With costs beginning at roughly $3,000 for a base spec trim, the Toyota Starlet is among the many most cost-effective newbie JDM automobiles. It has no demand nor standing within the automobile neighborhood that drives costs excessive, in contrast to most JDM automobiles right now. Toyota Starlets with turbocharged engines go for a $10,000 minimal, however they’re nonetheless well worth the worth contemplating how a lot enjoyable they’re to drive and maintain worth fairly nicely.

Toyota Starlet For Sale

View Toyota Starlet Ads for sale

What To Look For When Shopping for a Toyota Starlet

If you’re available in the market for a Toyota Starlet, keep away from shopping for one with the 3-speed computerized transmission, because it stresses the engine even below the lightest load. The four-speed computerized transmission is best however much less partaking to drive than any handbook transmission possibility. Additionally, handbook transmissions are much less problematic and are simpler to restore, making possession flawless as a result of lowered upkeep prices.

The 4-cylinder engines on the Toyota Starlet aren’t as tunable as these in different Toyota Sports activities automobiles, just like the Toyota Celica, and they’re additionally delicate to mods. As soon as they’re modified and tuned, they’ll flip into cash pits, and shopping for one with or without minimal mods is best. If a Toyota Starlet has an engine swap, the higher because it’s attainable to make extra energy from a Okay-series, B-series, or 4A-GE engine, that are a few of the finest engine swaps on a Toyota Starlet. Lastly, examine for the standard rust spots on JDM automobiles, take a look at drive the automobile and ask for all documentation earlier than making the acquisition.

Comparable Options

Honda Civic (Buying Guide)

Nissan Pulsar (Buying Guide)

Suzuki Alto (Buying Guide)

Honda City

Mazda Lantis

Mitsubishi Mirage

Fashions and Specs

1973-1978 Toyota Starlet (P40/P50)

Toyota Starlet

Toyota launched the first-gen Starlet in 1973 as a cost-effective model of the Toyota Publica and the Corolla E30. Most elements, together with the physique panels, had been carried over from different Toyota fashions onto the Starlet to scale back manufacturing prices, making it troublesome to inform early fashions aside. Not like the Corolla E30, produced as a liftback coupe or sedan, the Starlet was produced as a sedan or two-door hatch.

The Starlet P40/P60 is powered by a 1.0-litre or a 1.2-litre engine driving the rear wheels through a 2-speed computerized or 4-speed handbook transmission. Toyota later launched a sportier trim stage with flared fenders and sportier wheels to compete in opposition to the Honda Civic CX-S offered because the Starlet 1200 SR. It had a 5-speed handbook transmission as an alternative of the 4-speed in entry-level Starlets.

1978-1984 Toyota Starlet (P60)

Toyota Starlet

On account of rising demand for transportation companies in Japan, Toyota added a van and station wagon to the Starlet lineup for the Japanese market, however the sedan was discontinued. Consumers might go for a four-door 5-passenger station wagon or a two-door van for industrial functions. The 2-door Starlet hatchback was additionally offered in related configurations.

Throughout the second technology, the Toyota Starlet was offered outdoors Japan however by no means acquired to the USA, in contrast to the Honda Civic. Engine and transmission choices remained related as within the first-gen Starlet however with the addition of a 1.3-litre engine and a 3-speed computerized transmission.

1984-1989 Toyota Starlet (P70)

Toyota Starlet

Just like the Toyota Levin AE86 and Corolla E80, the third technology Toyota Starlet acquired a front-wheel-drive platform versus its predecessors, which had been rear-wheel-drive. The van and station wagon had been now being offered in export markets. Toyota additionally diversified the trims relying on the engine choices and measurement, thus giving patrons a variety to select from.

Entry-level wagons, vans, and hatchbacks such because the DX, LX, and XL acquired the 1.0-litre, 1.3-litre, and 1.5-litre diesel naturally aspirated engines mated to a 4-speed handbook or 3-speed computerized transmission. The turbocharged 1.3-litre engine mated to a 5-speed handbook transmission was solely used within the Starlet Turbo R and Turbo S hatchbacks that additionally acquired Toyota’s TEMS energetic suspension.

1989-1995 Toyota Starlet (P80)

Toyota Starlet

1989 was the final 12 months that Toyota produced the van and station wagon variants of the Toyota Starlet, because the fourth technology was solely produced as a 2-door or 3-door hatchback. Most JDM automobile producers within the Nineteen Nineties had been adopting a rounder design for his or her automobiles, and Toyota did the identical for the Starlet, apart from including new entrance and rear bumper designs primarily based on the trim stage.

Other than the design, there have been many upgrades on the P80 Starlet, essentially the most vital being the introduction of the dual cam 1.3-litre 4E engines in NA and turbocharged kind. The 1.0-litre and 1.3-litre E collection engines remained the identical as within the P70 Starlet. Additionally, all-wheel-drive, ABS, an LSD, and a rear strut bar had been non-obligatory on the Starlet GT Turbo. You get the fourth-gen Starlet with a 3/4-speed computerized transmission or a 4/5-speed handbook.

1996-1999 Toyota Starlet (P90)

Toyota Starlet

The last-generation Starlet hatchback debuted in 1996 in 2-door and 4-door configurations, and it had a brief manufacturing run because it was discontinued in 1999. However it has a few of the finest options unavailable in older generations. Trim ranges embody the reflet, the entry-level trim, and the Carat, which has a greater inside and higher paint, is taken into account the posh trim. The turbocharged variant was offered because the Toyota Glanza or Starlet Glanza, with the 1.3-litre turbocharged engine being the sportier trim. Different engine choices embody two 1.3-litre engines and a 1.5-litre diesel. All trim ranges acquired a 3/4-speed computerized or a 4/5-speed handbook transmission.


Are Toyota Starlets RWD?

Toyota Starlets produced earlier than 1984, first and second technology, are rear-wheel-drive, whereas the third, fourth, and fifth technology Starlets are front-wheel-drive.

How a lot is a Toyota Starlet?

Costs for the Toyota starlet begin at roughly $3,000, going as much as a most of $20,000 for turbocharged and particular version items such because the Glanza V.

Are Toyota Starlets dependable?

Like different Toyotas, the Toyota starlet gives distinctive reliability and bulletproof sturdiness. When maintained appropriately, 300,000 miles is definitely achievable with minor replacements.

Does the Toyota Starlet have a turbocharged engine?

Sure, the primary turbocharged Toyota Starlet was produced in 1984 with a turbocharged 1.3-litre engine (2E-TELU), whereas later mannequin years acquired the 1.3-litre 4E-FTE, additionally turbocharged.

Does Toyota Starlet have energy steering?

Not all Toyota Starlets have energy steering, because it was an non-obligatory further throughout manufacturing time in base spec variants, particularly these with the 1.0-liter engine.

Is the Toyota Starlet AWD?

Sure. Toyota launched all-wheel-drive within the fourth-generation Starlet GT and fifth-gen Starlet Glanza V, which wasn’t non-obligatory in entry-level Starlets.

How To Import a Toyota Starlet

Learn our Final Information on How to Import a Car from Japan.

Christopher Weydert
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