Toyota Starlet revival could actually be happening, maybe

After Akio Toyoda stepped down as CEO of Toyota last year a shuffling of the ranks put Tomoya Takahashi at the helm of Gazoo Racing. As it happens Takahashi was a big fan of the Toyota Starlet hot hatch, and said it was his dream to revive it. At the time he made sure to clarify that this was his personal wish and not an official goal of the company. But if a new report from Japan is to be believed, his wish may come true after all.

Best Car magazine is reporting that not only will the Starlet name be revived, but that a high-performance Gazoo Racing variant is already in the works. The GR Starlet will supposedly slot below the GR Yaris, using a detuned version of that car’s wild 1.6-liter turbo three-cylinder. Instead of 268 horsepower, the Starlet’s output will be around 148, thanks to a reduced displacement to 1.3 liters. It’s likely that it’ll be mated to the GR Yaris’ 6-speed manual or 8-speed direct automatic, and come with other GR goodies like aero bits and bigger brakes.

When Takahashi took the Gazoo reins he laid out his carmaking philosophy:

If you want a car to go fast in a straight line, you can put a big engine or motor in it, but that will make it heavy. A car that is heavy and cannot turn is not fun.

A lightweight car is the best, so we place great importance on making a lightweight car. Even under the current circumstances where it is difficult to make cars lighter due to collision safety and other factors, we carmakers believe that making lightweight cars is the best way to show our skills.

As such, the estimated weight of the GR Starlet is just 980 kg (2,160 pounds). Additionaly, Best Car says it will measure approximately 152 inches long, 68 inches wide, and 58 inches tall, with a wheelbase of 96 inches. By comparison, the GR Yaris measures 157 inches long, 71 inches wide, and 57 inches tall, with a 101-inch wheelbase.

While Americans may be most familiar with the rear-wheel-drive KP61 Starlet, in Japan the Starlet name is mostly associated with the later front- and all-wheel-drive versions that weren’t sold in the US.

Many were used in rallying, and that’s a torch the GR Starlet will continue to carry. Toyota already campaigns the GR Yaris in the Rally1 class, the top category in WRC. However, according to Best Car, Toyota wants to develop younger drivers and keep them in the Toyota family as the ascend through the ranks on their way to Rally1. Currently, Toyota doesn’t  have anything in the Rally4 class, and has watched rising talents grab a seat in Ford Fiestas or Renault Clios instead.

It will be a bit odd to have both the Starlet and Yaris in Toyota’s lineup, as the Vitz/Yaris was intended to replace the Starlet when it debuted in 1999. The non-GR Starlet is supposed to succeed the Toyota Passo/Daihatsu Boon twins and was scheduled to be built on the DNGA (Daihatsu New Global Architecture) platform for a release later this year. But, the recent scandal at Daihatsu regarding cheating on safety tests will likely delay the release.

If the Starlet and GR Starlet are truly under development, they couldn’t be in better hands. Takahashi has owned three Starlets and says he joined Toyota so he could build a better hot hatch than the EK9 Civic Type R. Of course, if the Starlet is reborn, it probably won’t make its way to the US.

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3 Responses to Toyota Starlet revival could actually be happening, maybe

  1. Bryan Kitsune says:

    As such, the estimated weight of the GR Corolla is just 980 kg (2,160 pounds).

    I’m assuming that should be GR Starlet?

    Would be great if it happens, even if it’s just another thing to wish we got in the US. Maybe in 25 years…

  2. Franxou says:

    I would like some clarification about Toyota small car lineup, wasn’t the Echo/Vitz/Yaris first made to replace the Tercel?
    Or is it that the Vitz\Yaris\Echo replaced the Tercel in north america, and replaced the Starlet where that car was marketed?
    Was the Tercel a sedan Starlet, or was it something else?
    I kind of know the Starlet from the Gran Turismo games but I never took time to learn abuot this car, and now I’m getting curious, what is its relationship with the Tercel?

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