Toyota’s Starlet GT has achieved a kind of cult status over the years. It’s the left-field choice of enthusiasts who value performance over the availability of bodykits. With a 1.3ltr turbocharged engine pushing out around 133bhp, the little hatchback was a slightly uglier take on what the Renault 5 GT Turbo did so well. The only difference was that, thanks to Toyota’s knack for over-engineering things, Starlet GT owners were likely to keep on motoring while their Renault-driving counterparts were left on the hard shoulder with the bonnet up.
The Starlet went through four revisions in the earlier EP82 shape. Then, in 1995, Toyota dropped the Starlet name and introduced the Glanza. The later EP91 Glanza models were more modern looking and a little heavier due to increases in safety equipment, but the turbocharged Glanza V models still used the 1331cc 4E-FTE engine. Aside from their reliability, the real attraction of these cars is their performance credentials. The small- capacity engine can push past 130bhp and help the Starlet GT to 60mph in a claimed 8.2secs, which was impressive in its day and still fairly decent now.
Interestingly, the later Glanza Turbo models also had a ‘dual-mode’ turbo, which allowed the driver to switch between two factory preset boost levels, offering 115bhp on low boost and 133bhp at higher boost. With some aftermarket tuning and 1bar of boost, around 170bhp is readily available on the standard turbo, but any more than that will be pushing things.
Something worth noting though when looking to buy a Starlet GT is the huge options list that Toyota gave with the car. Things like a limited- slip diff, Recaro seats, ABS and a 3-point rear strut brace all appeared on that list, so it’s worth checking over your potential purchase closely to see how many boxes were actually ticked. And, in the case of the LSD, finding a car with a factory-fitted one could save you money in the future if you’re planning to tune it at all.
The other point to consider when buying a turbocharged Starlet or Glanza is the fact that they were never sold by Toyota in the UK. They were purely designed for, and sold in, the Japanese domestic market. That means you may struggle for spare parts, although there are plenty of enthusiasts out there and the cars are well served by the aftermarket. In the case of items like brakes, suspension or exhausts it may in fact work out easier (and possibly cheaper) to fit uprated aftermarket parts. All models still attract healthy price tags considering their age, but if you’ve got the money and fancy some unusual hot hatch fun, then there aren’t many better places to look.
Toyota Starlet GT/Glanza V 1989 –1999 Stats
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Service history is unlikely as it will be an import, but oil should be changed every 5,000km (3,0ww00 miles), so check the owner has done this. Generally, the engines are strong, so look for the usual signs of turbo failure and check for any blowing from the exhaust manifold, as they can be prone to crack. Elsewhere, split CV boots are common and the suspension is a weak point (often due to age), so you may want to factor in the price of a replacement setup.
TOYOTA STARLET GT / GLANZA V TUNING
The world is your oyster with the Glanza V, but starting with uprated suspension is a good idea. As it’s turbocharged, a less restrictive exhaust system, uprated intercooler and induction kit will show decent gains. For bigger power (over 300bhp is possible), you’d be looking at a larger turbo plus supporting upgrades. Now that’s what we call a little weapon!