2002 Toyota ECHO 1.5 Liter
Small, cheap car, huge interior, nothing to break, and up to 45 MPG
Trim panel on passenger side "B" pillar comes loose sometimes, and just needs a quick whack to snap it back on.
A/C belt squeals on occasion, so I just need to get off my lazy butt and replace all of them.
I purchased this car several years back to have something newer that I could rely on, due to my other cars all being somewhat older models that run the risk of breakdowns. My criteria was that it needed a manual transmission, A/C, power steering and power brakes. I initially thought Echos were hideous, but after stumbling across this one, the price and the condition of the car quickly made it look very attractive.
It has been nothing but an outstanding vehicle. The center gauge cluster is kinda odd at first, but you quickly get used to it, and it won't phase you after less than 10 minutes. The transmission shifts with ease, and the engine, although slightly buzzy, is very quiet compared to other 4-bangers of this size. It's difficult to hear the thing idling. With the 5-speed, the car actually has some pretty decent pickup, and can do 80 MPH all day with no issue. I've driven it to California twice, in which it does the mountain grades quite well. It is somewhat susceptible to heavy cross winds, as it has a broad side profile and is a light car.
It is unbelievable how many storage bins and pockets they have crammed into such a small vehicle. There are two large ones on either side of the radio, one big long one under the steering wheel in front of the driver (great for things you need to grab quick), two glove boxes, a pocket above the climate control switches (unless you have the clock, which fills that gap) and a slide out tray cleverly stored underneath the passengers seat.
The funny looks of the car can be attributed to the interior, where it looks like they took a long car and squished it front to back, because it has a very tall roof line and the headroom is awesome. I'm 6'4" and sit in this very comfortably.
The factory CD player would not play CD's that I burned myself, but I put my own stereo in it shortly thereafter anyways, so this was a moot argument.
The interior does give off that plastic construction feel, but the fit and finish are of good quality, and it seems more on the edge of "money saving construction", and not flat out "cheap" like a lot of cars in this segment suffer from.
By far the best quality of the car is the fuel economy. I was shocked to find on my first tank of gas, I averaged 41 miles to the gallon in town, which it repeats quite regularly. The lowest I've ever seen it average was 36, and I actually have gotten it as high as 45 on road trips, which is almost Prius standards, and much better than the newer Yaris's for some reason or another...
As far as reliability, this car is bulletproof. In the almost 3 years I've had it, with 170K miles, with regular oil changes, it has not had ONE hiccup. And even if it did, repairs would be very easy to carry out, as the car is very simple by design. There is no timing belt (it has a chain), so you have already eliminated the weak link in the older econo Toyotas.
Buy yourself one, throw a large stereo in it, stop buying gas, then cruise the world, because this car will definitely take you there and back.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 9th May, 2012
I'm curious - Just what is the difference between '"money saving construction", and not flat out "cheap" like a lot of cars in this segment suffer from.'?
Echos are such underrated cars. Yeah, they look kind of goofy, but they can really rack up the kilometres. I bought mine used five years ago, and have not had any issues either. Solid. Fuel efficient, too.