Echo is a new front-drive subcompact sedan designed to attract younger buyers to the Toyota family. Echo replaces the Tercel as Toyota's least expensive U.S. model but represents a new design philosophy that bears some similarities to the new Ford Focus.
Echo is not your father's Toyota. Whereas the Tercel was a generic small car, Echo has a distinctive appearance with a short-length, tall body that provides surprising passenger and cargo room for its petite exterior dimensions.
Though significantly shorter in overall length than the Corolla, Echo nearly matches the Corolla's 88-cubic-foot interior volume because of its taller design. Six-footers find ample headroom in the upright front seats, and they should have adequate headroom and legroom in the rear. However, only two adults are likely to fit in the back.
Echo's most unusual interior feature is the gauge cluster, mounted on top of the dashboard in the middle and angled toward the driver. There are no gauges directly in front of the driver, just a vinyl dashboard covering. Toyota says this location makes the gauges easier to read though it takes some getting used to because they are further away than usual.
Storage space abounds in the Echo: Map pockets on the front doors, three cupholders, twin gloveboxes, a small shelf below the dashboard on the driver's side and two in-dash open bins that can hold cellular phones and other stuff. The deep trunk holds 13.6 cubic feet of cargo, and an optional split rear seatback folds flat without removing the headrests. The seatback releases are located in the middle, instead of outboard, so both are easy to reach without stretching across the car. Power locks are optional, but power windows and power mirrors are not available.
Forget "longer, lower, wider." In profile, Echo looks like a Corolla that was squeezed at the ends, with the roof popping up as a result.
Echo comes in two- and four-door styling, both with a low, sloping hood that leads to a tall, upright greenhouse. The wheelbase is 93.4 inches (3.6 inches shorter than Corolla) and overall length is 163 (11 inches shorter than Corolla), with little body overhang at the front. However, Echo is 59 inches tall, 4.5 inches taller than Corolla.
Under the Hood
A new 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with variable-valve technology and 108 horsepower gives the Echo peppy acceleration and good fuel economy. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional.
Echo draws considerable attention on the road, though not everyone seems enamored with the styling. It is a functional, well-designed car that makes amazing use of a small amount of real estate. The two-door starts at an enticing $9,995, but that is a truly basic car with a manual transmission, and manual steering and no air conditioning. Plan on spending $13,000 or more for a well-equipped model.