Kids want small and "cool," as Ford recognized when it introduced the compact Focus aimed at youths' desire for small and easy to maneuver and every few months has added special editions such as the Kona bike and Sony sound versions to cater to the youth demand for "cool."
Win youth over and you have them for life. Get them to buy a Focus now and as age and income grow, they'll move into an Escape, then a Taurus, then an Expedition, and then a Crown Victoria.
Toyota obviously feels Ford has come up with a winning gameplan to get 'em while they're young. It has developed a youth-oriented, limited edition of its subcompact Echo, the Roxy edition.
Roxy is a division of Quicksilver Inc., a brand of young women's clothing dedicated to active living and extreme sports. The Roxy Echo is supposed to reflect your lifestyle, at least, if you are an active, extreme young woman.
The 2001 Roxy Echo we tested comes with bodyside stripes resembling ocean waves, appropriate because it also has a roof rack with holder pads for your surfboard. In the cabin, the seat covers are made of a water-resistant neoprene material that at first look appears to be vinyl, but at first touch is a soft, cloth-like material. And in the trunk there's a large, wet-gear carrier.
Only objection to the overall Roxy decor is that the water-resistant seat covers carry a Roxy logo that's a variant of the Quicksilver logo that looks like a million rows of aces of spades from a pack of playing cards. Can't even fathom the allure of the ace of spades for active, extreme young women who surf.
Another gripe is that Toyota says you can't get power windows, power mirrors, power seats, power sunroof, remote keyless entry or anti-lock brakes on the Roxy Echo.
You can't get power mirrors, power seats or power sunroof on any Echo because they aren't available. But power windows, remote keyless entry and ABS are unavailable on the Roxy to keep the price down. Guess when active, extreme young women find the time to loaf, they do so by counting pennies.
While Echo is offered in two- and four-door versions and with manual and automatic transmission, the Roxy comes only as a four-door with automatic.
But enough about Roxy, because Echo is one very nice machine that can stand on its own, and except for that water-resistant trunk carrier, there's nothing in the Roxy package that's all that exciting--especially not all those aces of spades.
The main gripe with a Roxy Echo is that it's one of those so-called "chick cars." What Toyota needs is a Rocky Echo alternative for active, extreme young males, because Echo is one of the best small cars and should be enjoyed by all.
Looking at the Echo and putting Roxy aside, it has the roo m of a compact despite subcompact dimensions. Plenty of stretch space front and rear. If you can't load all your gear into the deceivingly large trunk, you can lower the rear seat backs for more cargo capacity.
Echo is powered by a 1.5-liter, 108-horsepower 4-cylinder. Though not many horses, they have the energy of Clydesdales. But the 4-cylinder tends to groan in response to heavy pedal pressure, a trait no 4 has been able to overcome.
And that 1.5-liter teamed with 4-speed automatic delivers 32 m.p.g. city and 38 m.p.g. highway. After a couple of days behind the wheel, we swore that the only way the fuel gauge would move off "F" was if we siphoned the tank.
Whether gas is $1 or $2 a gallon, Echo will conserve the supply for everyone.
After taking a pass on Roxy, the way to make Echo most enjoyable is to purchase the power window/remote keyless entry package at $615. Don't care how active or extreme you may be, you'll find it a royal pain to manually ank those windows up and down.
And get the ABS at $530. Salesmen who say you don't need ABS have a lot full of cars without ABS and don't want to let a sale slip away.
Other nice Echo touches are dual upper and lower glove boxes as well as stowage caverns built into the dash on either side of the radio; speedometer/odometer placement in the center of the dash, where it seems awkward until you realize it frees up more space for viewing the road ahead; and rear-seat back pouches with storage nets above them so you can hold a wealth of items in place.
But there are gripes whether a Roxy or regular Echo, one being the large, round air/heat ducts in the dash that look like vacuum heads and direct cool/warm air in a far more limited area than the more traditional open/close and side to side vents in the dash.
Another gripe is that the radials on Echo are the 14-inch p175/65R14 variety. A larger, wider tire would give you more contact with the road and better ride and handling.
Base price is a most appealing $11,325. Standard equipment includes AM/FM stereo, color-keyed bumpers and door handles, tinted glass, tilt steering, remote fuel-filler door/trunk release and low-fuel warning light. Skip Roxy and add the power windows, remote keyless entry, ABS, and you have a well equipped, affordable package.
There's really only one item in the Roxy package that you need to purchase separately. Whether active, extreme and young or sedentary and old, you'll want the air conditioning, which comes as a stand-alone option for $925.
By the way, if you're active, extreme, a man or a woman, and more into sports coupes than economy sedans, Toyota offers the "action" package for its 2001 Celica GT and GT-S. For $1,590 you get a "body kit" sports decor package that includes body-colored polyurethane front bumper with air dam, rocker panel extensions and adjustable deck-lid spoiler. Celica base prices range from about $17,000 to about $22,000.