Monday, February 3, 2014

Used Car Review - Toyota Echo Verso (2000-2004)

This unloved hatchback gets under the scrutiny of Myk Belmonte for today.

2000-2004 Toyota Echo Verso

The Japanese have a love affair with hatchbacks, similar to their Wasabi filled dishes and novelty shows. We can't blame them since Kei Cars are priced lower so even the motorcycle riding public can afford them and they have narrow streets so width is important. However, being small does not guarantee them instant success since some hatchbacks do not sell well.

Together with the Echo (or Yaris for some folks), this mini MPV was released in 2000. While the shell is larger both inside and out, the platform and engines are shared together with its smaller brethren. It was replaced by the Ractis in Japan, Verso-S in Europe, and Space Verson in Israel.

July 2000 saw the introduction of the Echo Verso together with the second generation RAV4 and Echo. While this represented a breath of fresh air, the Made-in-Japan status limited its appeal that made it costlier than a Corolla Altis 1.8 back then. Too bad, together with the Echo it was dropped in the line-up in 2004 and that was the time the hatchback market was on full force.

Value and Costs
Nearly 14 years after its launch, you can now call this vehicle "affordable" especially one can get it for below P300,000. This is one practical vehicle, since this can accommodate several long and tall items on a small package. Vehicles with the Fun Cargo badge are no-nos, since they were imports from Japan with questionable conversion process and some possessing a 1.3 engine paired with an automatic, making the vehicle struggle at high speeds.

If you think parts acquisition is hard due to its low seller status, think again. Components are shared with the Vios especially in the engine parts, which makes it easy. Exterior parts can be swapped with Japanese surplus units, just in case you have been bumped. If you are buying a unit assembled from March to June 2000, check if the brake master were fixed under a recall since rust can form that can lead to braking failure.

Exterior and Interior
Short in length, big in size; that's what the Echo Verso is all about. With its compact size, slotting in smaller roads is an easy task. In fact, you can take four people to the requisite trips to the palengke or to Divisoria with the back space reserved for the pinamili (purchased items) and without complaining about vendor infested roads. This is an ugly duckling but who cares? Before leaving, the rear door opens sideways which makes placing cargo easy.

Apart from the wonders of space mentioned above, the interior is a cubbyhole party with lots of them. Place any small item, expect to never see it again. Driving position is on the decent side, with the gauges being located on the center that one needs time to take used to it. Due to its tall headroom, no more messy hair and no more scratches in the roofline unless you are Imelda Marcos.

While the diminutive Echo has a small 85hp 1.3 engine, the Verso has a larger 1NZ-FE 1,497cc gasoline that carries 106hp at 6,600rpm and 145Nm at 4,400rpm. Even with its weight rated at 1,000kg, acceleration is effortless thanks to a standard 5-speed manual transmission. Fill it to the brim (five people plus one large baggage or two people and a box of washing machine at the back) it can chug along.

Driving Impressions
Call it small, but the driving position is similar to a van: a high commanding road position is a treat. It drives decently but check on the brakes more frequently since this does not have any ABS brakes.

Apart from the Honda Jazz and a Multicab, name me any vehicle that is small in size yet offers a big interior. The Echo Verso is one unappreciated due to its high price but that time, Filipinos aren't ready yet to appreciate hatchbacks. Nowadays, the concept of being trunkless is an acceptable norm.

The Good:
  • Spacious inside
  • Maneuverable
  • Fuel friendly
The Bad:
  • Polarizing looks
  • No automatic transmission
  • No safety kit
The Pick: 1.5 local unit

Engine: 1,497cc 1NZ-FE I4 gasoline
Power: 106hp @ 6,600rpm
Torque: 145Nm @ 4,400rpm
Fuel Consumption: 9-11km/L (city), 10-12km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear torsion beam axle

Price (New): P750,000
Price (Now): P200,000-P260,000
Rivals: Hyundai Matrix
On Sale: 2000-2004

Toyorama (parts) - (02) 712-0105

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