The Toyota Starlet has never been a car to stir the loins, instead content with being a car stirred by learners, mashing at the pedals for the first time - including yours truly.
In the UK, the Toyota Starlet was sold from the fourth generation before being replaced with the more modern Yaris and then Aygo models, but this is no typical Starlet. This is the third generation EP71 series, the first model to have switched to front-wheel drive, and running a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The small unit might not have masses of power, with 105hp and 110lb ft but, fitted with a two-mode turbo switch - allowing the driver to bleed waste gate pressure to the atmospheric side of the compressor via an electric solenoid - this Starlet flies through the mid-range. Boost comes from 2,000rpm with the little turbo running out of steam at 5,500rpm, even though there is still an extra 1,300rpm left till redline.
The Turbo S and R models were also the first to be fitted with Toyota's own semi-active suspension (TEMS) allowing the driver to either change modes depending on the road surface or leave it to make the decision for itself. The system helped prevent nose-dive during heavy braking whilst also suppressing suspension squat and roll during acceleration and cornering. Pretty normal nowadays, but in 1989 it was a feature reserved only for the pinnacle of luxury vehicles.
The interior is like stepping back to the glory days of the 80s - plush sports seats, simple leather rimmed steering wheel, electric windows and mirrors as well as climate control. This JDM model alludes to its added sportiness with an off-centre bonnet scoop, double rear spoiler, front and rear skirts and reflective 'intercooler turbo' lettering on the side, just in case you forget. 80s hot hatch prices have been going through the roof, but a European alternative like the Renault 5 GT Turbo or Peugeot 205 GTI go for similar money. However, nothing from this continent will quite match the quirkiness of the Starlet or its tech.
SPECIFICATION - TOYOTA STARLET TURBO S EP71
Engine: 1,296cc, 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 105@5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 110@3,600rpm
First registered: 1989
Recorded mileage: 72,000 miles
Price new: N/A
Price now: £7,995
See the original advert here