Last post on Dec 30, 2011 at 9:54 AM
You are in the Sedans
What is this discussion about?
Toyota ECHO, Chevrolet Aveo, Kia Rio, Nissan Sentra, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris, Kia Spectra, Suzuki Forenza, Sedan
#1301 of 3871 Test Drive: 2002 Toyota ECHO 4-door 5-speed Sedan
Dec 08, 2001 (5:09 pm)
(Coolguyky7, you can use the scroll bar to skip this so you don't feel flooded.)
MSRP including Destination: $12,951 U.S.
Major Options: All-Weather Guard package, power steering, AM/FM/cassette/CD with 6 speakers, split fold-down rear seat, floor mats.
Highs: Roomy interior for its size, driving position and visibility, nimble handling, good acceleration.
Lows: Noise (wind and engine), sparse instrumentation, firm ride, feature content for the money.
Summary: Good choice for people looking for a low-priced, fun-to-drive small car that has good room, excellent fuel economy, and traditional Toyota reliability.
The salesman insisted on starting the car and driving it to a remote lot a couple of miles away before I took the wheel, so I did not get to assess cold starting or how the car performed when cold (temperature about 30 F). The driving position was very good, with excellent visibility because of the sloping hood and large windows. Some people may think it's too good since you can't see the hood, but I am used to that from others cars I've owned with sloping hoods. The front passenger seat was comfortable for the few minutes I sat in it. The driver's seat was also comfortable, with good lumbar support. I wished for just a tad more thigh support; the seat cushion height was not adjustable. I also missed having a center arm rest. The door arm rest was comfortable enough, but I had winter clothing on for padding. The left footrest was comfortable also.
The center-mounted instrument cluster took a little getting used to. I had to constantly remind myself to look right to check speed. I think I could adapt to it eventually, but it's a little harder for me as I am blind in my right eye. I did miss not having a tachometer, but compensated by shifting by speed. Eventually I would learn to shift by engine note (see below).
The controls were well-placed. The stalks were typically Toyota-silky, and the dials for climate control were easy to use but did not have the same smooth feel as the stalks. I tried the optional radio for a minute, and it sounded fine but would likely not please audiophiles (what do you expect in a $13,000 car?).
There were numerous nooks and crannies to store stuff, including a large glove box, two cubbies straddling the center of the instrument panel, and map pockets molded into the front doors. No center console, however.
Quality of interior materials seemed good for an inexpensive car. A few cost-cutting details I noticed were a vinyl headliner (instead of cloth) and flimsy-looking vinyl flip-doors over the vanity mirrors. The cloth upholstery (light grey) had a pleasing pattern but was not on the plush side.
Rear seat room (with driver's seat set for 5'10" driver) was remarkable for a such a small car, with plenty of room for two 6' adults or three small children. My knees did not touch the front seatback. The rear seatback was comfortable. As in front, I wished for a little more thigh support. But toe space was good. My hair just brushed the headliner. The arm rest was uncomfortable; it seemed to be positioned too far forward and was too narrow.
The trunk was shallow but tall, and was expandable with the split fold-down seats. This car did not have a cargo net but one is available.
Exterior fit and finish looked fine from what I could tell--the car was not that clean and had some snow on it. The panel gaps were even, but the door gaps looked wider than on other cars and for the other panel gaps on this car. But this was not a sample flaw since all the ECHOs I saw looked the same. The doors closed easily, but not with the Lexus-like "thunk" that you get on some small cars with thicker doors.
The first thing I noticed when starting out was the short throws of the shifter and light clutch action. If the shifter had been a little less sticky, it would have been one of the best I've ever used. (Maybe it will loosen up over time.) The next thing I noticed was considerable engine noise when accelerating. It wasn't unacceptable for a small inexpensive car, but I guess I was expecting a quieter engine based I what I have read on all the posts about the ECHO. It also was not an unpleasant sound for me; I don't mind the hum of an engine winding when accelerating.
Acceleration was good, although I drove it only at 9/10ths during the test since it was brand new and I would probably not be buying it myself. At highway cruising speed (60-65 mph), the engine noise was quite noticeable but not excessive for a small car (the radio was off). There was significant wind noise from amidships; winds were calm during the test. The engine was quiet at idle, and there was no engine vibration through the shifter or steering wheel.
We drove down a bumpy city street (too many potholes patched way too many times) and the ride was firm, bordering on harsh. However, there were no squeaks or rattles. On the highway (smooth asphalt), the ride was much better with only small movements. Steering was accurate and the car tracked well. The car handled very well in turns, including cloverleafs; it was nimble and seemed like it would be fun to toss around (which I did not do since the salesman was with me). We drove through a good-sized dip with no drama (there were scrapes on the road from other cars that did not fare as well). Braking was smooth, easy to modulate. I did not try any hard stops.
The test drive took me back a quarter-century to the first car I ever owned, a '76 Toyota Corolla Deluxe 2-door sedan, price $3650. In many ways the ECHO reminded me of that car: few features, firm ride, good fit and finish, raucous engine when revved but quiet at idle, nimble handling. The ECHO was of course much roomier and I'm sure much safer, with dual air bags, side door beams and other modern safety features--in many respects a better car. But nothing can take the place of your first car.
Dec 08, 2001 (8:05 pm)
You're not the "over-rhetoricker". And by the way, I do like your review.
#1303 of 3871 Anybody favor Suzuki automobiles?
Dec 09, 2001 (10:10 am)
Here's a spyshot of one of their's scheduled for 2003 release in the U.S.
It kinda looks like a cross between a Kia Spectra sedan and a Toyota Echo, eh? Are we getting lots more choices or what? This looks all right though I haven't seen the back of it, yet. The car makers seem to dig the foglights or at least a big round opening for one down below in the front now on new cars. Looks good as to me as it gives them more design balance in front. Kinda takes a cue from the round turn signals evident in small sports cars of the past. In my view a positive.
#1304 of 3871 Re new Suzuki
Dec 09, 2001 (10:20 am)
Good to see another choice in the low-end market. To me, it doesn't have enough bulges to look like an ECHO, and not round enough to look like a Spectra--it looks more like a 4/5ths scale Camry. The grille is odd--looks like "lips" on a face to me.
Dec 09, 2001 (1:05 pm)
It is funny that Iluv calls the surveys on initial quality, "anti-Kia statistics." This implies that the surveys were conducted among people who merely looked at a Kia, but did not purchase one.
The fact is that both the Consumer Reports survey and the JD Powers survey are conducted among owners.
Dec 09, 2001 (1:06 pm)
I was reminded more of the Focus than the Echo.
Dec 09, 2001 (2:38 pm)
Backy, I did not even know that the headliner on the Echo was vinyl until you said something. The texturing fooled me into thinking it was some kind of cloth. Sure does not feel the same as the vinyl covering the vanity mirror.
I wonder if the headliner will be more durable than a cloth headliner.
I thought you did an excellent review and much better than the reviews I did of the Spectra and the Rio.
You sure you don't moonlight as an auto reviewer? ; )
#1308 of 3871 Vinyl headliners
Dec 09, 2001 (2:57 pm)
I guess I noticed the vinyl headliner because the '96-'00 Elantra has a similar headliner, and one of the mags, maybe it was Car and Driver but I'm not sure, singled it out as a negative feature of the car. So I guess if the professional reviewers think it's so terrible, it must be, right? Anyway, I'm sure that one review drove Hyundai put a cloth headliner into the '01 Elantra--you know the power of the press! Although the cloth does look a little more upscale, vinyl is easier to clean. Several small cars I've owned, including some Corollas and Civics, had a simliar type of headliner.
Thanks for the compliment on the review. I tried to be as objective as I could (e.g., no comments about the styling). No, I do not moonlight as a car reviewer, but I think the people who drive cars and write about them for a living have just about the best job in the world.
Dec 09, 2001 (4:22 pm)
Isn't too bad looking. It's reminiscient of a Prius/Civic crossbreed.
Dec 09, 2001 (5:49 pm)
Looks horrible. Period.
I wouldn't even look at it.