2005 Toyota Echo sedan

The Toyota Echo sedan when it first debuted in 2000 was designed for strong youth appeal with styling and packaging that departs from the norm. It was a subcompact car with a tall and narrow stance and the lack of proper proportion brought a gawky look to the exterior styling. The Hatchback model (now in its second year) on the other hand, is very good looking to say the least. While as tall and narrow as the sedan, the sloping roofline and short rear overhang makes for a cool and funky ride.

The Echo Hatchback is offered in either three- or five-door models, the base 3-door CE sells for just $12,995, while the 5-door LE tips in at $14,705, the top-of-the-line RS at $16,405. Offered with several popular options and a lengthy list of customized parts, allows the owners to personalize their car – – in fact according to Toyota Canada there is a possibility that no two Echos Hatchbacks will look the same. Unlike its sedan sibling, the standard anti-lock brakes on all models of the Echo Hatch is a welcome feature, as it provides short, controlled stops.

Inside, there is plenty of space front and rear, with generous amounts of head and legroom in all four seating positions. Also there is plenty of interior storage. On either side of the radio are a couple of handy cubbyholes and to the right of that a pair of gloveboxes. While the cargo space is small, the hatchback adds versatility. With the 60/40 split seats folded, the available space more than doubles. There is also a real handle to open the hatchback and all models (except the base CE) get a much-needed rear wiper.

Like the sedan, 1.5 litre, twin-cam, 4-cylinder engine, which is enhanced with Toyota’s Variable Valve Timing Technology (VVT-i), power the Echo Hatch. This motor delivers 108 horsepower and 105 pounds-feet of torque. The variable valve timing not only boosts mid-range performance, it delivers the available torque over broad range – more than 80 percent being available anywhere between 1500 and 6000 rpm. It also reduces emissions, meaning Echo meets low Emission Vehicle status. Regardless of whether mated to the standard five-speed manual box or the four-speed automatic ($1,000), the performance is better than the numbers suggest. Even at highway speeds there is ample passing power and only at wide-open throttle does the engine feel strained and it becomes noisy.

The Echo suspension features MacPherson struts up front and a twist beam design in back. Nothing special, but the results exceed what’s expected. The ride is compliant and comfortable, yet delivers nimble road manners. The only anomaly is the tall body and high seating position combine to exaggerate body roll. That stated, the degree is more perceived than real and is not an issue. When combined with a decent rack & pinion system and 175/65R14 tires, the response to input is positive and predictable.

The Echo hatch is a stylish and practical car that is fun to drive, and delivers excellent fuel economy. It is good choice for those buyers looking for reliable transportation at an affordable price.