The ECHO arrived last year to replace the Tercel and give Toyota a new low-priced, youth-oriented small car. The ECHO returns unchanged for its sophomore season in two- and four-door sedan body styles that slot below the Corolla in size and price.
Toyota has enjoyed great success with baby boomers but is increasingly targeting younger buyers like echo-boomers.
Unconventional styling gives the ECHO a unique appearance. A low, sloping hood rises to a tall, upright windshield, and at 59 inches from ground to roof, the ECHO is nearly 5 inches taller than the subcompact Corolla. But at 163 inches long, it is 11 inches shorter than the Corolla.
In profile, the ECHO looks like a conventional small car that was squished together at both ends, with the roof popping up as a result.
Though significantly shorter in overall length than the Corolla, the ECHO nearly matches the Corollas 88-cubic foot interior volume because of its taller design. Six-footers find ample headroom in the upright front seats and should have adequate headroom and legroom in the rear. Only two adults are likely to fit in the back, however.
The ECHOs most unusual interior feature is the gauge cluster, which is mounted on top of the dashboard in the middle and angled toward the driver. There are no gauges directly in front of the driver. Toyota says this location makes the gauges easier to read, though it takes some getting used to because they are farther away than usual.
Storage space abounds in the ECHO: map pockets on the front doors, three cupholders, twin glove boxes, a small shelf below the dashboard on the drivers 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.
Under the Hood
A 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.
The ECHO draws considerable attention on the road, though not everyone seems enamored with the styling. It is a functional, well-designed car that makes clever use of a small amount of real estate and provides ample interior storage.
Driving the ECHO isnt like being behind the wheel of a penalty box. Acceleration is adequate, the fuel economy is good, and the handling ability is competent.
The two-door starts at an enticing low price, but that is for a truly basic car with a manual transmission, manual steering and no air conditioning. Plan on spending $13,000 or more for a well-equipped model.