For example: the clutch and the brake master cylinders both use one single fluid reservoir, the headliner is a single pressed piece, so it will never sag, and all the interior plastics are a softer rugged type that can flex and snap out without much fuss. For being what it is, it is as tight as a drum, and doesn't rattle and such as most cars of this type do.
If a domestic company built a car this crappy, we'd never hear the end of it. Instead, because it's a precious import, it can't ever be called what it is: cheap.
Of course it's cheap. It's an Echo. I've driven them before. The ride is a bit bouncy and road noise is fairly high. It's a sub-compact car, all of that is normal and to be expected. What you don't expect is the good quality for the amount of money your paying.
The reason it's better than an American car like it? It's cheap and IT WORKS! A friend of mine owns an '01 Chevrolet Cavalier (yes I know it's in a different class than an Echo, but Chevrolet didn't make anything smaller at the time the Echo was made) and another friend of mine used to own an Echo (don't remember the year exactly, was an earlier model however). The Echo was better in every way compared to the Cavalier. It was quieter, smoother and got better gas mileage. She traded it in with 240,000 miles and had no issues whatsoever (she never even had to replace the clutch!) Meanwhile, the Cavalier has cost my other friend thousands. It only has 85,000 miles and so far has required 3 head gaskets, 2 cylinder head rebuilds, a transmission, and a complete steering column because Chevy stupidly made the ignition cylinder an integral part of the column. It's now rusted so badly it won't pass inspection.
Cheap can mean economical, as in not costing a lot of money. I can't speak for the original poster, but I think he meant economical because it's so reliable. Also, I own an Echo, and agree with everything the original review said. They're incredibly reliable. They are anything but crappy. Crappy describes the Aveo, which is what Chevrolet peddled for seven years as their subcompact.
This was one of the first cars that sat up so much higher than other cars. That center-of-the-dash gauge pod is awful; a truly awful idea. A tacky car at best. I can see a high-school girl driving it, but no one else with a straight face.
I usually drive mine with a grin on my face when I pass the gas pumps or repair shops. I don't have to break the bank just to afford the first, and have never needed the second in the five years I've had this used car.
The center pod was a cost cutting move by Toyota, because they built and sold this car in right sided driving countries like Japan. It's irritating at first, but nothing after a month. You get used to it.
Finally, I'm a not a high school girl. I'm a guy, and I've been driving since 1992.
Yes, what I meant as the original poster by saying "cheap" is that it doesn't cost very much to buy. Mine was about $3800 with custom wheels and new tires thrown in. For people criticizing it for its interior... Yes, it is an economy car, not a Lexus, but it's better than some other cars in its class.
I have a 2002 Toyota Echo 5 speed manual, 275,000km and it is AWESOME! At best in Summer with all season radials I can get up to 750km, all for about $40. Winter tires are a tad draggy and I lose about 100km/tank when they are on. The car is light, so I throw a big bag of sand in the back to keep the rear stable for winter driving.
The car was purchased used about 4 years ago with 160,000km on it, and for the first time since 2002 had the clutch replaced this year and a couple of belts; timing chain is a replacement no one with an Echo needs to worry about.
To save money I replace the brake pads, change the oil and filter every 5,000km, replace the cabin and engine filter as required, top up fluids, and rotate/switch off all season tires for winter tires as seasons move on. This stuff is not rocket science, and the parts are relatively inexpensive and easy to get.
One of my daughters has an Automatic 2005 Echo, 130,000km, and my other daughter has a 1999 Tercel, 170,000km... both amazing cars, and all three of our Toyotas have a tight fit and finish without a squeak, rattle or leak! I do the maintenance on all these vehicles, including my 2005 Toyota Highlander. I LOVE Toyota! Enjoy your ride!