SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 10,295 Price As Tested $ 14,264 Engine Type VVT-I DOHC 16-valve 1.5 Liter I4 w/SMFI* Engine Size 91 cid/1497 cc Horsepower 108 @ 6000 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 105 @ 4200 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 93.4"/65.4"/163.3" Transmission Five-speed manual Curb Weight 2059 pounds Fuel Capacity 11.9 gallons Tires (F/R) P175/65R14 Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content None Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.29 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 34/41/38 0-60 MPH 9.5 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 17.5 seconds @ 78.5 mph Top speed N/A * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
(The Echo is Toyota's new entry-level vehicle and it's targeting the kid market, ages 18 to 29 says Matt Hagin. Bob Hagin recalls that when the first "entry-level" Toyota appeared here, he was a "kid" himself.)
MATT - Toyota is concerned that its customers are aging and that their children are growing up without Toyota brand loyalty. The Baby Boomers are more interested in looking sharp and driving fast, while their offspring are into practicality and protecting the environment, according to Toyota research. The new Echo is the result of its interpretation of what the up-and-comers want. The concept is very popular both in Japan and in Europe. Vehicles that are economical, easy to get into and out of and are easy to maneuver and park are the most popular. Other automakers are onto this and there's already a domestic that's going for a piece of this upcoming market niche.
BOB - The Echo is the kind of car that takes some getting used to and its parameters remind me a lot of the British and European sedans that were brought over here in the late '40s and early '50s. They were tall and relatively easy and inexpensive to drive compared to the behemoths that American automakers produced. The Echo is built along these lines, but it takes advantage of modern technology. The engine is pretty small at 1.5 liters, but it uses a twin-cam head with four valves per cylinder and a variable valve timing system. It has a relatively long piston stroke, too, and the combination results in 108 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. At 34 MPG around town and 41 on the highway, fuel mileage is excellent for a car that will comfortably seat four adults and still stay up with traffic.
MATT - The transmission in our test machine was a five-speed manual and that probably accounts for a big reason behind that high fuel mileage. With a manual gearbox, Echo's driver can keep the engine within its maximum power range during acceleration, but keep the revs down on in fifth on the freeway for better gas mileage. There's also a four- speed automatic available and although it's not as sporting as the manual, it will no doubt be chosen by the vast majority of future Echo buyers. I found the engine became somewhat "buzzy" at high RPMs. The instrument panel amounts to a "pod" right in the center of the dash between the driver and front passenger. It's angled toward the driver's seat, though, and it obviously wouldn't take much to flip it toward the right side for right-hand-drive countries. It's obviously a move to make this platform and body style a "world car," and it's working well. A tachometer would have made it easier to stay on the power-band as we drove through the mountains but I guess eliminating a tach is part of Toyota's program of making this "entry-level" car more affordable.
BOB - Echo can be dressed-up with/ lots of equipment, Matt. In the case of the car we tried for a week, it was fitted with enough fancy items to add quite a bit to the base price of the car. For the Gen-X market group, having a deluxe sound system with six speakers is more important that having a tach, a temperature warning gauge and a charging system meter. In fact, the Echo probably doesn't need those items because one of Toyota's greatest strengths is its reputation for reliability. The suspension system is very straight forward and relatively inexpensive, too. The front end uses MacPherson struts and the rear layout is hung on a simple twist-beam axle. The combination of disc brakes in front and drum brakes in the rear is also an economy measure, but I feel that disc brakes all the way around is worth extra money.
MATT - Dad, this car is so light, it doesn't need better brakes. But it's going to be interesting to see if the internet generation will pass on fancy esthetics and go for practical cars like the Echo.
BOB - All Toyota has to do is slap on some cool graphics and it will sell like crazy.
MATT - Dad, this isn't 1960. Young people are much more sophisticated these days. Goofy car graphics went out with paisley ties, go-go dancers and bell-bottoms pants.