Toyota Echo – Road Test – Car Reviews – Car and Driver

25 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Toyota Echo – Road Test – Car Reviews – Car and Driver

Toyota Echo

More proof that 14 grand still buys a decent car.

Many of us here at 2002 Hogback prefer small cars over big ones. Why? For starters, small cars allow a light, agile feel you don’t get in, say, a wallowing, oversized sport-ute. Second, lightness breeds speed, and what easier way to make a car light than to make it small?

And finally, most small cars cost less than big ones.

For the past two decades, Toyota has covered the small, cheap end of the market with the competent but generally uninspiring Tercel. Its virtues were a low price (the most recent Tercel sedan cost just a bit more than an entry-level Korean sedan) and the promise of Toyota reliability and resale value (a three-to-five-year-old Tercel brings about five percent better resale value than a Hyundai Accent or Kia Sephia). In terms of performance and driving fun, however, the Tercel was frequently trumped by its Korean and American competition.

But with this new Echo sedan, Toyota plans to change all of that. The price, size, and weight remain in the entry-level ballpark, but its 1.5-liter engine boasts variable valve timing and cranks out 108 horsepower. That puts its power-to-weight ratio on a par with cars one step up, such as the Dodge/Plymouth Neon or the Echo’s big brother, the Corolla.

And the Echo’s tall-boy styling is anything but bland.

The Echo is certainly small on the outside. At 163.2 inches long, it’s 0.8 inch shorter than a Chevy Metro sedan and more than 11 inches shorter than a Kia Sephia. It’s also narrow — only the slenderest of econoboxes are skinnier than the Echo’s 65.4-inch width.

Yet standing 59.1 inches tall, it towers over every economy car but VW’s fishbowl New Beetle, a fact you might easily surmise by glancing at the tall greenhouse.

That height allowed Toyota to include an interior package that’s not as tight as the Echo’s small footprint might suggest. The front interior volume is 49 cubic feet, and in the rear, the Echo offers 39 cubic feet of space. That puts it midpack in its class and affords reasonable space for four people, although five adults are a definite crowd.

The tall trunk holds 14 cubic feet of cargo, which equals or exceeds all but the hatchback econoboxes.

Now, about that inexpensive price. The four-door base model we tested here starts at $10,750. But base model in this case means base — even power steering costs $270 extra, and a digital clock is another $70. Unfortunately, those are about the only two stand-alone options.

Want the $925 air conditioning? It comes bundled with $1560 worth of other stuff — power locks and steering, a CD/cassette deck, a rear defroster, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat — so it’s hard to keep an Echo under $13,235. Of course, that’s within a few hundred dollars of a similarly priced Chevy Metro LSi or Daewoo Lanos and at least a grand or so less than similar Neons and Honda Civics.

The Echo promises to be cheap to run as well. The EPA estimates fuel economy will run between 34 and 41 miles per gallon. Even under the lead foots around here, it averaged 35 mpg. The engine only requires regular 87-octane fuel despite a lofty 10.5:1 compression ratio.

And Toyota does have a great reputation for building reliable cars.

The Echo’s sophisticated 108-hp, 1.5-liter four-banger out powers many of its competitors, and the Echo’s quick performance is helped by its light weight. The 2128-pound Echo hits 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, more than a second faster than our last Sephia and 0.2 second ahead of a Dodge Neon. The Echo was not, however, as quick as the Neon in the quarter-mile run, but only by a hair — 16.7 seconds, 0.1 second behind the Dodge.

Top speed is governed to 112.

We won’t repeat the host of small refinements we wrote about in our October 1999 issue that account for its overall hustle. All you need to know is that the little engine revs to its 6500-rpm rev limiter eagerly and smoothly. Unfortunately, you won’t know how fast the engine is spinning — a tachometer is not offered.

We think a tach is a must, given this motor’s revvy nature. At a minimum, Toyota should have marked the speedometer with shift points so the driver would have at least minimal info to indicate when it’s time to shift.

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