A few years ago I decided that I needed an economy car. After extensive research it came down to the ECHO or the Prius. After much consideration, I decided on the ECHO. I felt that the additional $8,000 or more for the Prius was not justified unless status was the main concern. The mileage is not that much better (it would never pay for the cost difference) and I feared that the relatively new hybrid technology would be outdated in a few years. I also felt that maintenance could be a problem after the car got out of warranty. On the other hand, the Prius feels a little better made and of course it runs much quieter.
I've had many small economy cars and I must say this little car is hands down, the best. With the 5 speed it is peppy enough, and the interior is incredibly spacious for such a small car. I like the quirky humpy look of the car (ugly like the old VW Bug). The trunk is also enormous (especially with the fold-down split rear seats).
A consideration in buying any car is resale. When I bought the car, I couldn't find a used one, or if a dealer got one, it sold almost instantly so I bought a new one. I decided to sell it four months ago and I thought it was money in the bank. To my shock, four months later the car is still unsold. Part of the reason may be a slow economy and the holiday season. The main reason my car hasn't sold, I think, is that it has a manual transmission. I've had numerous calls on the car, but when the caller understands that the car doesn't have an automatic they decline. Lesson: these days don't get a manual unless you want to keep the car forever or it is a sports car.