New & Used Toyota Echo: In Depth
2002 Toyota EchoEnlarge Photo
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The Toyota Echo was a subcompact sedan and hatchback sold from 2000 to 2005 in the United States and Canada. Toyota retired the Echo brand after just one generation, renaming its successor the Yaris--which was the name under which the Echo had been sold in most of the rest of the world. The Echo was intended to bring the Toyota brand to younger buyers, but it didn't succeed in that mission, which was subsequently expanded to launch the entire new Scion brand.
For six model years, the Toyota Echo could be ordered as a two-door sedan (called the Coupe) or a four-door sedan in the U.S. In Canada only, three-door and five-door hatchbacks replaced the two-door sedan model for 2004 and 2005. All Echo models used a 108-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with a five-speed manual gearbox standard and an optional four-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy was respectable for the day, with the manual version rated at 32 mpg combined (29 mpg city, 37 mpg highway) and the automatic model dropping to 30 mpg combined (26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway). Many owners report higher gas mileage than the combined number in real-world usage.
Somewhat stodgy styling aside, the most notable feature of the Toyota Echo may have been its centrally placed instrument cluster, angled toward the driver. With the flat plastic top of the dashboard the only thing visible behind the steering wheel, drivers had to move their eyes to the center of the car to check the speedometer and fuel level, which were the only gauges visible, with every other function being handled by warning lights. Reviewers and owners alike found the design annoying. (This configuration persisted on the Echo's replacement, the 2006 Toyota Yaris, and it lasted until an all-new 2012 Yaris model.)
While Toyota sold almost 49,000 Echo models in its launch year of 2000, sales fell steadily thereafter and the 2003 total was little more than half that. Sales plunged in 2004 and 2005 as the Scion xA hatchback and xB tall wagon models received the lion's share of attention and marketing once that youth-oriented brand launched in 2004 . Most Echo models sold in the U.S. were extremely basic, with manual windows, locks, and mirrors, and painted metal wheels concealed by silver plastic wheel covers.
Acceleration was decent for the day; Toyota had tuned the engine to provide torque across a wide range of engine speeds. The Echo weighed only 2,000 pounds, which is what the very lightest four-seat minicar on the market weighs today. Handling was marginal, exacerbated by the small and inexpensive 175/65R14 tires, and reviewers reported a great deal of body roll and marginal roadholding in challenging conditions.
The Echo did, however, provide unexpected interior volume for its size, courtesy of the tall body. It also had good outward visibility. That said, it's better viewed as the last of the Nineties econoboxes than any kind of modern Toyota small car--and it comes across as positively crude against the current Yaris model of the same size.