Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Toyota Echo Ownership Experience: Introduction

My 2000 Toyota Echo is 12 years old, and I feel like it's finally time to give it a review on my blog! This is the first in a series of posts that will attempt to detail my ownership experience with the Toyota Echo on several levels.

Let's begin with an introduction. Toyota created the Echo starting with the 2000 model year as an inexpensive car aimed at younger customers. Previously, this segment of the car market had been served by the Toyota Tercel, and for anyone used to that vehicle's styling the Echo looks a lot like someone took a Tercel and inflated it. Inflated it a lot, actually. The tall shape and short trunk lid give it a unique look that I've heard of as "cute" or "goofy" (although I haven't really heard anyone say anything bad about it, just that it's different.) The tiny grille up front and fairly flat sides do make for an interesting look at any angle, and I always think it looks like the engine is weighing the front end down since the whole car appears slanted forward from the side. It’s a look that’s best described as “original.”

Under the pint-sized bodywork is a matching engine: a 1.5L four-cylinder aluminum engine that generates 108 horses and 105 lb-ft of torque. Of course, the curb weight of the four-door sedan is only 2030 lbs., so the engine hauls the Echo to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. Not too bad, but keep in mind that you're going to have to punch the pedal through the floor to achieve that number anywhere besides the test track. My Toyota Echo has the optional A/C (yes, air conditioning was an option) which noticeably saps engine power when it's engaged.

The engine is also equipped with variable valve timing for increased efficiency - Toyota's version is dubbed VVT-i. The Echo’s small engine is a good fit for the technology, and EPA mpg estimates for the 4-speed automatic model are 32/39. In real life I’ve been seeing right around those numbers on a highway commute of 30 miles to work and back, but it does drop some in the Midwest winter. It’s also worth mentioning that the Echo’s transmission is “hill-smart” meaning it won’t upshift to go up a hill unless it’s a serious grade. In practice this represents another smart choice by Echo engineers – the small engine is capable of moving the Echo up grades without lagging just fine in the final gear. And you won’t even notice if it does lag a little since I don’t think cruise control was even an option until the 2005 model year.

Given its low, low original price (typically under $14,000) Toyota has done an amazing job on getting all the basics right and adding just enough of a twist that you feel like you’re driving something special. In fact, it kind of makes me want to buy another quirky car just so I don’t have a common vehicle. Maybe that’s just my left brain expressing itself, since my wallet sure is going to be surprised when I have to say goodbye to my Echo!

More In The Toyota Echo Ownership Series:
Toyota Echo Ownership Experience: Notes for Tall Drivers (or Why I Chose the Echo)
Toyota Echo Ownership Experience: Notes on MPG
Toyota Echo Ownership Experience: Highway Cruising & Cabin Comfort: Not Bad, Not A Lexus
Toyota Echo Ownership Experience: What is it like driving an Echo in the snow?
Toyota Echo Ownership Experience: True Cost to Own a Toyota Echo


  1. This is solid proof that Toyota cars are indeed reliable and durable! Anyway, how’s your Echo? Will you be able to sell it for a good price? If so, what's your new car today? I do hope that you'll be able to take care of it the way you took care of your old Toyota. Make sure you have it well maintained, and make sure you have your car inspected at least twice a year for its performance.
    - Arlyne Nelms

    1. My Echo is a 2001 I bought new. It has cruise control. At 130,000 miles it still runs like new in spite of being in a couple of teenage driver induced fender benders. The car has been parked outside,but its gold paint is in good shape. Gas was $1.30 / gallon in 2001.Nobody wanted small cars and the dealer gave me a big "Red Tag" discount. I put plus 1 sized tires on it which at least makeit look a bit more grounded. Repairs have included an A/C condensor, front wheel bearings and 4 Chinese made $17 outside door handles. At 67, this could very well be my last auto purchase as everybody in the family seems to want it when I'm gone and done.

    2. My Echo is still running like a top, so I still have it. It is actually worth more than my wife's 2004 Chevy Impala with a couple thousand less miles. I plan to keep it until it dies.