Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Toyota Echo Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Toyota Echo Overview

Body
Cute and Frugal

The Echo is the most affordable car Toyota builds. Although it is priced below $11,000, the Echo still exhibits the high level of build quality, materials and design for which Toyota is best known. This fact alone makes the Echo worthy of purchase, yet there is more to the Echo story than just affordability.

Last year, Toyota performed a major design overhaul on the Echo, squaring up some of the car's more flamboyant styling cues in an attempt to attract a more mainstream crowd. In the eyes of most, the redesign seems to have worked for both the Echo coupe and sedan. The car's tall roofline—a contributing factor to its exceptionally good headroom figures—is still clearly visible; it's the front and rear fascias that now look more in line with the rest of the Toyota line. Toyota has also bumped up the optional equipment content to include larger alloy wheels and sporty side body cladding.

Toyota designed the Echo for value-conscious shoppers who refuse to waste a penny more than they have to in the quest for simple transportation. The Echo is all about efficiency, beginning under the hood. Power comes from a lightweight aluminum 1.5-liter engine that produces 108 horsepower. While this figure may not look impressive on paper, you need to remember that the Echo is not a very heavy car and with its VVTi variable valve timing technology, the engine is actually quite peppy so long as the car is not loaded down with extra passengers and cargo. As a daily commuter the Echo zips along just fine, especially when outfitted with the standard five-speed manual transmission. If you opt for the automatic, you really won't lose much in the way of off-the-line acceleration, only the ability to control your downshifts when passing, climbing or playing on twisty turns. Certainly the Echo's frugal fuel usage fits into the penny-pincher ideal, rated by the EPA at 35-mpg city and 43-mpg highway.

On the road, you'll find the Echo is nimble, easily capable of zigzagging through tight city traffic. The steering is light yet precise, with no measurable play in the wheel. The standard 14-inch tires are fine for normal driving, but if you are one who likes to round turns at high speeds and push your car a bit harder than you were taught in driver's ed, we recommend you opt for the 15-inch wheel and tire package. The larger tires really do make a considerable difference in the Echo's ability to get around turns without howling like a werewolf at the full moon.

The Echo's ride is reasonably comfortable on smooth surfaces and the taut MacPherson strut front suspension does a good job of absorbing unwanted encounters with potholes and large expansion joints. We did notice that if you load the Echo to capacity, the rear end tends to sag a bit, but the car never bottomed out nor did it exhibit any less capacity to maneuver. One other huge benefit the Echo affords its owners is the ability to fit into any space legally certified for parking.

As we mentioned earlier, interior headroom is excellent in the Echo, as are the other all-important criteria: hip, leg and shoulder room. The tall roof has allowed Toyota to mount the rear seat up high, creating a surprisingly large space for a subcompact while simultaneously elevating the rear passengers' view through the front windshield. The Echo's hiked-up rear end creates a large deep trunk that can be expanded via the 60/40 split-folding rear seats. We particularly like the wide trunk opening and low lift over that makes it easy to load in large and heavy items without straining one's back.

As for the rest of the Echo's interior, we think you'll find it rather modern. The dash is punctuated by a center-mounted pod housing the speedometer, fuel gauge and optional tachometer. There are storage bins galore, including a dual glove box, side door pockets and a passenger-side under-seat storage tray. The Echo's seats are firm and comfortable with a surprising amount of contouring that supports your lower back and thighs. Fit and finish are, as expected, excellent.

Toyota offers a host of options to help you personalize your Echo, among them a choice of power packages that include power windows, door locks, steering and mirrors. Also on the list is air conditioning, 15-inch wheels and tires, an AM/FM cassette with CD and a rear-window defroster.

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