By on February 6, 2017

2000 Toyota Echo in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Toyota Echo, known as the Platz in its homeland (the hatchback was named Vitz), was available in the United States for the 2000 through 2005 model years. It was an inoffensive and reliable little commuter appliance, but something about its proportions seemed wrong to American car shoppers and few signed on the line that is dotted.

These days, even a Daewoo Lanos is easier to find than an Echo, but I was able to find this forlorn silver ’00 in a Denver-area self-service yard.

Part of the Echo’s image problem stemmed from its use as the car driven by the skin-crawlingly creepy character played by Robin Williams in the 2002 film, “One Hour Photo.” Echo sales, already low, crashed completely.

2000 Toyota Echo in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Under the hood, a 1.5-liter four-cylinder making 108 horsepower, which made the 2,035-pound Echo reasonably quick. Not that anyone cared.

2000 Toyota Echo in Colorado wrecking yard, instrument cluster - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Echo was supposed to be a hit with young Americans, which (sort of) happened when the Scion xA and xB were put on the same platform. The Yaris is descended from the Echo as well.

2000 Toyota Echo in Colorado wrecking yard, owner manuals - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The digital odometer meant that I couldn’t get a mileage figure for this car, but the interior looks damn near new and much of the body damage looks like junkyard-forklift-inflicted stuff. Was it some family’s seldom-used extra car? Owned by an elderly driver who drove only to church on Sundays? We’ll never know.

Note how the youthful-and-athletic Echo owner literally shakes his butt in the faces of some Detroit Iron-driving old farts. This ad makes me embarrassed for Toyota.

In Japan … well, maybe a Japanese speaker can explain what’s going on in this Platz ad.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

83 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2000 Toyota Echo...”


  • avatar
    RangerM

    I’ve never driven one of these, but I rented a Yaris on a couple of occasions. The Yaris was truly decrepit.

    The only reason it wasn’t the biggest P.O.S. I’ve ever driven, was because it was so much smaller.

    If the Yaris was an improvement, the Echo must have really sucked.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Why do I waste my time commenting on this car? Better yet, MM, why did you waste YOUR time writing up this car?

    Must have really been a slow news day! These cars were as “blobby” as a blob could get. Reliable or not, who would have wanted one? Obviously, few did.

    The car that comes to mind as a rough equivalent as to desirability would have to be the Nissan Versa hatch. Odd proportions, indeed!

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “who would have wanted one”

      Phuq, I did! But I was finishing late-life grad school when they came around and already had vehicles.

      So greenhouse! So clean!

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    The Japanese ad is just a jokey visual metaphor; something you thought was polluting turns out not to be because the guy’s not smoking and the Platz prioritizes (taisetsu ni) clean air (kuuki-o).

  • avatar
    B_C_R

    The Toyota Echo is the perfect example of function over form. Introduce a tall cabin onto a sub-compact car platform, and people balk at its awkward dimensions, even though there is lots of headroom for tall drivers.

    For no frills wheels, the Echo/Yaris/xA/xB stablemates are fantastic vehicles. I’d opt for one over a Corolla, as costs for ownership of these cars is unbelievably cheap. You might not like all that headroom though.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      This.

      As a Nippophile large and hardened enough to drive Dorky this should have been the car for me.

      Granted, I would love to have snapped that butt-shaker’s scrawny arms just on general principles.

    • 0 avatar
      mik101

      I test drove a used one while still in highschool. It remains one of the easiest manuals to drive, that I have ever driven to this very day. Push the shifter with one finger and it flowed smoothly into the next gear. No hunting or guessing whatsoever. Unlike countless GM/Ford/Mazda/FCA vehicles I’ve driven. Only my Hondas have matched it, with my Fiesta being a close runner up after putting in solid shifter bushings and shortening the shifter. Plus that mileage. I do know someone that was tboned in an Echo though, and that sure wasn’t pretty.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I always thought that Toyota’s styling inspiration on this car was a circus clown car.

  • avatar
    deanst

    This thing was about the ugliest car available at the time, but it had absurdly large amounts of room for its size and the visibility it afforded would shame pretty much anything on the market today. With its light weight, short length and unrefined ride it was a blast to drive even at sub-legal speed.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This car was pretty revolutionary when it debuted in 98/99; it (well, the hatchback) won European car of the year. People who bought them tended to love them, and I think it would have done better in North America had Toyota lead with the hatchback instead of the sedan.

    It’s very well-packaged, efficient and, unlike a lot of cars in this class, rock-reliable.

    I’ve had two for use as winter beaters: the first one was a hand-me-down that rusted out at twelve years and 450,000km of highly salted southern Ontario travel. It got only casual regular maintenance and nothing, not one component outside of brakes, belts, batteries and tires, ever failed. The second was bought—with 230,000km—at a BHPH lot to serve an immediate need. It was cheap, and it was also clear that the prior owner had been very, very, very hard on the transmission. I sold it to someone, who used it as a parts car, and he’d informed me that, after pulling the transmission, it looked as if the prior owner had only a casual understanding of how to use a clutch. I probably would have kept that car had I not lucked into something nicer.

    Both cars were incredibly economical to drive, especially in-city, and,unlike the Honda Fit I had just before, they didn’t do 4000 rpm at highway speeds. The Fit drove better and had much more space, but the Echo rode better and got better mileage.

    They’re not that bad to drive, by the standards of the class, but they’re also classic Toyota in the sense that they aren’t pleasant, either, and the interior materials and mechanical characteristics were chosen with a eye to “will this still work ten years and a half-million kilometers from now”.

    They sold much better in Canada than in the US (we got the hatchback earlier, too) but I can see why they don’t end up in junkyards: they just don’t die.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yep, and the Fit is STILL a buzz-bomb on the highway.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Psar gets it. This was an excellent vehicle if you are judging it by utilitarian standards.

      The Yaris sedan that came after this in 2007 added some more conventional exterior proportions and some better interior styling, but retained the core virtue of the Echo. That’s a hated car too, even though it was cheaper to buy, quieter on the highway, and had a more compliant ride than the brilliantly packaged Fit.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        That’s because the Yaris sucked to drive.

        And the Yaris iA is far better than the homegrown Yaris OR the Fit to drive. No one can beat the Fit’s packaging, though. It the thing hadn’t been so damn loud on the highway (amazing given that it even has a six-speed manual), I might have gotten one.

        • 0 avatar
          quaquaqua

          Yes, the Echo sucked to drive, as does the current regular Yaris. But doesn’t everyone love to point out that the Mirage (which probably drives worse than any of the above) still “fills a need” for a certain type of buyer? My friend’s BF, who doesn’t give a crap about handling or ride quality, owned a 2005 Focus and a 2000 Echo at the same time. Guess which one he still has – and has over 300k miles on it.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          “That’s because the Yaris sucked to drive”

          No, it didn’t. Not by 2007 b-segment standards. The Fit was more communicative and had a flatter cornering attitude, but it was every bit as slow and it had a harsher ride and far worse road noise. That stuff matters, depending on your usage and the road conditions. The original Fit’s driving position was pretty bad too. I think a more accurate statement is “the Fit was better to autocross”.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            +1, 30-mile fetch. It probably helped that XP90 Yaris buyers were smart enough not to scoff at 185/60-15 tires. Toyota did a good job of striking a nimbleness/comfort balance on these, and they handle bad roads better than do a fair share of larger and more expensive vehicles.

            I believe buyers in Mexico actually could option a 175/65-14 set-up for locales with particularly bad roads.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      +1.

      My 05 xB1 (and yours) was the better version of the Echo, because it was so roomy.

    • 0 avatar
      scrubnick

      The Echo hatch was a giveaway that Psych was filmed in Canada and not in California.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Tall, ugly and dorky is no way to go through life, son…

    Seriously, there were far better looking compacts out there at the time. And then there was the unfortunate early-2000s flirtation with center-mounted instrumentation. Aside from Scions, I can’t think of a single vehicle that had this feature that didn’t bomb.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      It’s fun to say dorky!

    • 0 avatar
      B_C_R

      Mini Coopers have all featured a center mounted instrumentation. While, they’re not a volume brand like Toyota, they did quite well for what they were.

      A few other noteworthy center mounted instrument clusters would be the Saturn ION, which did bomb.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      This was a subcompact, though. There weren’t many choices. Hyundai Accent comes to mind, but there’s no way I’d pick a late-90s Hyundai over a late-90s Toyota even if it was more conventionally styled.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The centre-mount instruments serve two purposes:
      1. It makes it very cheap to sell this vehicle in LHD and RHD markets. When you consider how cheap this car is while still being a “rea” car, it makes some sense
      2. It allows you to maximize passenger space: you can shrink the dash and the wheel, making more space for the driver.

      I, personally, liked this implementation of centre-mount gauges. It actually makes for a shorter “look-away” from the road, and keeps the gauges and the road in the same focal plane. We’ve discussed this on TTAC before: see thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/vellum-venom-vignette-center-gauge-cluster/

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        It’s not like the speed could get away from you on these cars.

        The gauges in the middle thing was unconventional but really not a big deal when actually driving the car.

        • 0 avatar
          lemko

          Older Jeeps and 1940 Willys cars used central instrumentation.

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            Central gauges aren’t necessary for quick right-to-left drive changes–

            PT Cruiser does it like the Land Rover Discovery did it; with a gauge mask that uses the same opening as the airbag cover, and with a non-canted center stack. All’s the cars need is a different knee bolster/airbag and gauge mask.

            Rode in Mamaw’s Saturn Ion this week and tried to find anything redeeming about this feature. Couldn’t do it. There is nothing to like about a Saturn Ion– nothing to like about center-mounted gauges. Yuck.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Methinks that some of the B&B should actually go out into the world so that they can see what the auto landscape truly looks like.

    The Echo was a relatively good seller in Canada and you still see many on the roads. It also sold well in other markets like Europe. It had a stellar reputation for reliability.

    Think of it as a slightly improved replacement for the Tercel.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’m surprised to see one of these scrapped, they’re not great cars in anyway but they have hardy engine’s.

    Otherwise they’re for people who think the Corollas too fancy.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The contemporary Corolla was a much worse car: it had ass-on-the-floor seating, less trunk space and was much less fun to drive. About it’s only virtues were styling (if you could call it that) and slightly nicer interior materials.

      I cross-shopped both (and bought a used Protege) but the Echo sedan was better than the Corolla in almost every way.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Do you mean the ’95-2000 Corolla or the generation that gave us the Matrix?

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          The 91-02 Corolla; I think it’s chassis code E100 and/or E110. I found that to be a pretty unpleasant car: basically, the Echo, but without the Echo’s virtues.

          The 03+ inherited something like the Echo/Yaris’ seating position and roominess. It still isn’t a great-driving car, but it was easier to live with.

  • avatar
    MLS

    I always found the odd proportions pretty offensive.

  • avatar

    Rented one. I thought it was a great car for what it was.

  • avatar
    tsoden

    My wife bought one of these used in 2002. It was a 2000 model, black with no AC…which sucked during the summer. Honestly though, mechanically this car was an absolute gem. It was quite zippy, and super practical (able to haul more in its trunk than my 2000 Camry). Gas mileage was an absolute plus too.

    Rust was the biggest issue with this car… especially around the rocker panel and on the fenders. Also, finding a replacement battery meant ordering one from Toyota since no one carried it. Lastly, this car may have been great as a city runabout, but horrible on the highway – cross winds would toss this car around like a rag doll.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @tsoden is correct they were quite ‘twitchy’ in crosswinds. However the skinny tires allowed them to be little beasts in the snow.

    • 0 avatar
      aoeui

      Our dealership sales guy told us they didn’t make them without a/c! the scoundrel!

      No rust on ours (it’s still in the family) despite frequent exposure to salt spray and very infrequent washing. Batteries on the self at costco.

      But yah crosswinds were an issue… but since the car is so skinny you have plenty of time to compensate.

      it was a replacement for an 85 tercel that was on its last legs so the echo actually had a longer lifespan!

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        One good way to deal with crosswinds is to roll both front windows down an inch or two. That is enough to break the sail effect.

      • 0 avatar
        Ostrich67

        I took a ride in a coworker’s Echo. Not only did it not have AC, it had a delete plate where a radio would go and no carpet either, just a rubber mat on the floor. I marveled at the fact that you could still get a car that stripped in the US.

  • avatar
    MerlinV12

    The Echo always made me think of wheelchairs.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    The chassis on this looks so solid, you wonder why it didn’t get some down home bodywork and back on the road? Looks perfect for delivering pizzas or newspaper route.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I wonder how one of these would go if you shoved a Camry V6 behind the front seats driving the rear wheels.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Oh, so that’s what the vanity cover looks like.

    I bought an ’01 Echo about a year ago as a cheap DD. Fixed up a few things on it (brakes, idle valve, coil packs) and it runs just fine. The ~45 mpg doesn’t hurt either.

    With minor modifications, the engine is still used in the Prius c and Yaris hatch today.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    The SHO Miata of shopping carts.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    The proportions on this car were definitely wrong, like it was from a cartoon or something a clown would drive.

    Just because a car is inexpensive and economical, it doesn’t mean it has to be ugly.

    It was almost like Toyota purposely sabotaged the look so it wouldn’t cannibalize higher profit Prius sales.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Naah, the first-gen Prius wasn’t much more than a science project back then. Highway mileage wasn’t much better, either.

      The odd proportions come from designing the hatch first, then cribbing that into a “tall trunk stuck on the back” coupe and sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      If you want purposefully ugly just look at the Tercel sedan that came before this.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    I rented one of these in 2004. It was what I expected- utilitarian A to B transportation. I wouldn’t want to take it on a long, fast highway trip, but anyhoo…

    The good headroom and odd exterior proportions make these “little big cars.” Remember, cars like the Geo Metro also had good front seat room for tall people. That’s actually a good selling feature. People who buy “little big cars” don’t buy them to go cruising for chicks.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    A car for people who hate cars. These things looked like a shrunken ’51 Chevy. Ugly as sin. Life is too short to drive something like this.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @RedRocket: A car for people who hate cars.

      I disagree. Having actually driven one with a manual, it was a lot of fun on twisty back roads. Sure, it was ugly, but at the same time fun to drive and cheap to own.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Seems like most of the 21st century junkyard finds lately have fit into the “big in Canada” category.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I knew someone with one of these. He also had a short RWD Tacoma. His wife liked the Echo and drove it quite often too.

  • avatar
    thunderjet

    Well it’s still ugly, perhaps more so as the styling hasn’t aged well.

    At least they are reliable, cheap, transportation.

  • avatar
    geo

    Toyota probably paid to have their car featured in a Robin Williams movie — ha! There are quite a few in Canada, and the Tercel it replaced was far nicer.

    When it came out I, as a young fella who knew little, thought this was Toyota’s new hybrid. The “Echo” name, in my mind, was supposed to reflect the fact that the propulsion bounced back and forth between a battery and a gas engine.

  • avatar
    luisg92

    “These days, even a Daewoo Lanos is easier to find than an Echo”.

    That’s because most Echos have been exported to Costa Rica. Everywhere you see, there’s at least 2 of those. Every day, a few more arrive to the country. There are thousands of those ugly miserable cars in the road and hundreds available for sale. People in Costa Rica love them and prices reflect it, the base price is around $5000 for 2 door models.

    That’s insane.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Regardless of what anyone thought of the the Toyota Echo, it seems a waste to have a running (see window sticker), presumably driveable car in a wrecking yard. It makes me wonder if someone could have used this for transportation. The car looks pretty clean, actually, other than the front damage and the missing (presumably after the car entered the yard) wheels, airbag and rear bumper.

  • avatar
    davew833

    This is an IAAI insurance auction car and it’s got 202k miles on it. It’s on the window sticker and also written on the left side of the windshield. The high miles coupled with the front damage are why it was totaled and ended up in the junkyard. The window sticker also says “parts only” which means it may have a non-rebuildable title. I’ve watched insurance auctions for a long time and it’s a mystery to me why some cars that are clearly fixable get non-rebuildable titles and some don’t, which allows them to be repaired and put back on the road.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I don’t recall who came up with it, but the best description I’ve heard of the styling is “pregnant baboon”.

    I remember a conversation at a party back in university about how I wouldn’t even consider dating any girl who drove one of these. No matter how good she looked, I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate seeing her car on a regular basis. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a strongly negative opinion about any other stock vehicle. The hatch looks fine though.

    In hindsight, I shouldn’t have cared. But it was irrelevant as I’ve never known anybody who owned the sedan version.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    I don’t care what the jocks say, Echo; I’ll always love you.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Echos are mechanically rock solid/simple cars, with very good packaging. Timing chain motor that goes the distance, durable automatic and manual transmissions, unkillable and simple to repair mac-strut front ends and beam rear axles. Superior ride (at a cost of slightly wallowy/tippy handling) to many/most subcompact (and even compact) cars of its era. Upright ‘chair’ seating front and rear that made it very roomy and comfortable, likewise the very upright trunk had a lot of space. Spartan hard plastic but well assembled and extremely durable interior.

    There was a lot of these in Costa Rica, where I just returned from. Their durability, reasonable ground clearance coupled with a compliant ride, efficiency (gas is about $4/gal there), and relative roominess are all very appreciated things there.

  • avatar
    Nasmir

    The Echo has done very well as a used car especially the 2003-2005 models.

  • avatar
    THEjeffSmif

    My sister bought a brand-new red Echo 4-door in Jan 2000 & drove it for 10 years. By the time she traded it in for a Scion xB, the Echo was well worn out with over 200k & was beat to hell; but the car held up & only died on her once so while they were extremely ugly & awkward-looking, the overall reliability of the car was impressive.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Walking through a university parking lot in Southern Ontario this afternoon I counted 3 Echo sedans without even specifically looking for them.

    Just a hardy, reliable, functional vehicle. That type that helped build the Toyota mystique.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Why couldn’t they just continue the Tercel style and just update it?

  • avatar
    mor2bz

    Funny how the heavier boxier slower Xb is thought to be a brilliant car
    but the little Echo, which has the same heart and skeleton, is regarded
    as a shitbox.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Seth Parks, United States
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Kyree Williams, United States