Toyota has long been associated with a wide-range of amazing automobiles. From this Japanese manufacturing giant comes anything from affordable yet reliable economy cars to the highest-class, super-expensive luxury vehicles. The Toyota Echo falls in the former category. In the nearly one decade that the Echo has been in the market, it has sold well in the North American market. This is mostly due to the fact that it is an extremely affordable option for those on a tighter budget--even at its much lower price point; it is still quite the performer.
1999-2005: The alternative
The first generation of the Toyota Echo came out in North America in 1999 in both coupe and hatchback variants. From the get-go, consumers were afraid that the "budget" Toyota would prove to be a cop off that would never be a match for a true Toyota. The truth was that it was a pretty amazing ride overall. Its most powerful engine option was a 1.5-liter 1NZ-FE inline-4 engine capable of a modest output of 107 horsepower. This was an acceptable balance between performance and fuel economy.
Appearance-wise, the Echo was not something to be scoffed at. It bore strong similarity to a lot of Toyota's higher-end models. Adding to its appeal was that the Echo benefitted from fully digital gauges--giving it a very premium look and feel.
2005-2010: Subtle changes, big impact
In 2005, Toyota responded to several negative comments regarding the original Echo's appearance and did a total redesign of the budget car--with regard to both its coupe and hatchback variants. The result was new vehicle a slightly improved front grille, less-prominent yet pronounced curved lines, and a classier look over all. Additionally, the engine was boosted to a 1.8-liter 2ZR-FE inline-4 which was DOHC and VVT equipped and capable of over 134 horsepower. Even better, for a budget car, the newest iteration of the echo boasted an impressive safety record from no less than three major testing groups.
2011-present: An enduring legacy
One of the most glaring changes of this generation was that the Echo was offered only as a hatchback. Once again, the grille and body was reshaped and remolded so that the Echo could achieve the classier look of its costlier contemporaries without changing the price point that made it famous to begin with. This version of the Echo was equipped with a 1.5-liter 1NZ-FE inline-4 which was capable of putting out a modest 107 horsepower. While it did seem like a step back from the more powerful output of the previous generation, the lighter frame of the latest Echo meant that there was no loss in speed and performance! The Echo got over the initial gripes about it to ultimately prove itself a tough contender with a low price tag.