Monday, January 7, 2013

Used Car Review - Toyota Echo (2000-2002)

For today, Myk Belmonte checks out a car that was ignored before but otherwise, became a stepping stone for this segment years later. If you want one, better read this review first and while you're at it, get some interesting information about this car.

2000-2002 Toyota Echo

To speak out about the truth, in the new millennium which we call it the year 2000, nobody warmed in the idea of a "quirky hatchback". I have no idea about this trend but the people who got excited about this are motoring journalists and car enthusiasts. Or maybe is because Filipinos find sedans practical while the likes of the Kia Pride cheap and has more space than the Toyota Echo? Let me explain about this later.

Called the Vitz in Japan or Yaris in Europe, the Echo was available in either sedan or hatchback configurations and first sold in January 1999. This vehicle broke the traditions of Toyota's conservative styling, and you gotta thank Sotiris Kovos for this, with design process commenced at Toyota's ED2 Studio in Europe. Keeping up with the fun theme, this vehicle utilized digital instrumentation mounted in a "pod" located in the center of the dash. It may not be exciting when it comes to interior design, but fuel economy is excellent. The XP10 Vitz/Yaris/Echo stayed in production until 2005, with the XP90 Vitz/Yaris being introduced in early 2005. Related vehicles include the Toyota Fun Cargo (Echo Verso locally) and the Platz (Vios in the Philippines).

It was a breathe of fresh air when Toyota Motor Philippines decided to bring in the Echo and its taller sibling, the Echo Verso in the year 2000. Interior space for the Echo was smaller than a Kia Pride hatchback, while pricing is almost the same with a Corolla XE and it is a CBU (or Completely Built Up) from Japan. The market was not ready for a quirky yet functional hatchback, yet (the VW New Beetle and Golf are available but they are freaking expensive). The Filipino motorist can buy a people carrier or a practical sedan for the same price.

Value and Costs
If you're aiming for a cheap yet practical vehicle that does not take up a lot of space and fuel, the Echo deserves a spot on your shopping list. What used to be prohibitively priced back then can be yours for P220,000-P270,000 now. Be cautious while scouring the classified ads since there exists the Vitz which are converted to left hand drive that are similarly priced and includes the option of a two door version, stay away from them since conversion quality is questionable.

Some say that buying a CBU vehicle is bad, especially when you need parts. Fear not, parts are plenty nowadays due to the influx of Vitz's from Japan and surprise, parts can be interchanged with the Toyota Vios. Fuel consumption is top notch for this type of vehicle and needless to say, owning one does not drain your bank account or downgrade your lifestyle.

Exterior and Interior
Mr. Sotiris Kovos is the man when it comes to designing the Echo especially that, I got to admit, made the path for other vehicles in the category to be funky looking without being OA. The bug-eyed headlamps give it an impression that the vehicle is cheerful and happy but the signal lights at the side do not look integrated at all but still, it is an odd wonder. You can't help but smile whenever you're driving this.

Aimed at the younger crowd, the interior design has the cute and cheerful environment but without sacrificing utility. The highlight of the Echo is the gauges located at the center portion, which can give a love-it-or-hate-it impression. One may like it to free driving visibility while one may leave not impressed due to the location and non-readability (same complaint with the first gen Vios and Previa). Apart from the toy-like interior and the numerous cubby holes (total of nine inside), those who plan to seat at the back can enjoy the space due to the tall roofline. Four can seat comfortably, but five would require them to bang their shoulders against one another. Cargo carrying capacity is not a strength.

Toyota picked one engine out of the six choices for the Echo, and a 2NZ-FE 1,298cc engine with 85hp at 6,000rpm and 122Nm at 4,400rpm arrived locally. As I mentioned in my Toyota Vios article last December 2011, the NZ family of engines have one strength, the availability of low end torque. Even with five people inside or traversing hills, the engine won't complain. Couple this with Toyota's famed VVT-i technology, it is sure that fuel economy is top notch.

Driving Impressions
From the maker of dull sedans, the Echo breaks the tradition especially that it is a hoot to drive especially that cornering with this car is fun and useful in the crowded streets of Manila. If you plan to bring it to the farm located in some far flung province, overtaking slow poke trucks and buses is not a problem. To sum this up, small car plus fun to drive couple it up with an impressive fuel economy equals win for the used car buyer.

Fun and quirky, the Toyota Echo was ignored by consumers but this became the lesson for other manufacturers especially that they must inject the fun factor and price it sensibly. It is a shame that this could be a good alternative for younger buyers if price didn't hinder them. You can have one and enjoy the drive, make sure you do not have a lot of cargo with you.

The Good:
  • Easy to park
  • Great on gas
  • Stylish
The Bad:
  • Bare interior (for its time)
  • Airbags and ABS brakes not available
  • Good luck in fitting a luggage with the car full
The Pick: Any well maintained local unit

Engine: 1,298cc 2NZ-FE I4 gasoline
Power: 85hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 122Nm @ 4,400rpm
Fuel Consumption: 11-13km/L (city), 13-15km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear torsion beam axle

Price (New): P630,000-P654,000 (range from 1999-2002)
Price (Now): P220,000-P270,000
Rivals: Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen New Beetle
On Sale: 2000-2002

Toyota Quezon Avenue - (02) 712-5001
Toyota Pasig - (02) 671-9854
Toyota Makati - (02) 897-3333

Photos from

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