The Truth About Cars » Echo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 02 Sep 2015 22:11:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Echo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com No Fixed Abode: A Vestigial Tale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/no-fixed-abode-vestigial-tale/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/no-fixed-abode-vestigial-tale/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 12:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1060538 I woke up yesterday to see that my friend W. Christian “Mental” Ward had taken advantage of me while I was drunk. My first thought was to make a porn movie in which I played myself, kind of like that nice young lady who recently graduated from Columbia did. (They call her “Mattress Girl”, by […]

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evolution

I woke up yesterday to see that my friend W. Christian “Mental” Ward had taken advantage of me while I was drunk.

My first thought was to make a porn movie in which I played myself, kind of like that nice young lady who recently graduated from Columbia did. (They call her “Mattress Girl”, by the way.) But then I realized that Mental’s violations had been limited to using the column title “No Fixed Abode” for his own opinions. So I calmed down. But then I wondered: what if I just let people use the title for columns of which I particularly approved, either drunk or sober? Eventually I wouldn’t even need to approve them myself. I could use an algorithm, or a Millennial. Perhaps, after fifty or seventy-five years of this, the phrase “no fixed abode” would become brandless, like “kleenex” or “band-aid.”

I can imagine some kid in the year 2210 waxing nostalgic about his steam-powered Kamakiri biosphere-mobile (the first person to get the reference wins the Internet) and saying to his friends, “Man, I’m going to hook up the ‘trodes and bang out a nofixedabode about the time I saw my Daddy mowing the lawn and I was like, ‘Come on Daddy, get in, let’s go!'” At that point, the original reason for the column title, to say nothing of its decidedly nonfamous originator, would be long lost to history.

Which brings us, of course, to the Prius.

echoint

But not yet.

Speaking of Mattress Girl and her ilk, maybe the above photo should have a trigger warning preceding it. Only the most traumatized of you will recognize the interior for what it is: the first-generation Toyota “Echo”, known as “Yaris” overseas. I would expect that all of you will recognize that is has a center-dash layout in which the instrument panel is mounted in the middle of the vehicle. Some of you will do better than that and recognize that the two sides of the instrument panel are essentially interchangeable. You could use the same pieces to make a left-hand-drive car or a right-hand-drive car. It’s just a matter of swapping the modules out.

This is a brilliant way to make a cheap car for a truly global market. It simplifies parts inventories, allows you to get some volume-based savings that you wouldn’t have if you had to make two different kinds of dashboards, and it probably makes assembly easier as well. I don’t know just how much money this layout saves, but I’d say that it’s nontrivial. In any event, it’s worth making the driver look over at the center instrument panel. Most of the people who are driving these things barely look at the dashboard anyway, and very few of them are driving quickly enough to need to have the instrument panel right in front of them.

echo2

No surprise, then, that the next-generation Yaris that replaced the Echo/Yaris had the same modular layout. You see how it’s still possible to make the same car two different ways here, relatively easily?

yaris1

And here’s the current car. Better materials, classier design, and (let’s face it) a more flattering photo, but the same concept remains in place. Interchangeable dashes. You can easily see how both sides are identical, right down to the way the glovebox and knee bolster have pretty much the same dimensions on both sides of the console. Toyota’s far from the only company to do this, although most of its competitors don’t do an actual center display but prefer instead to have an instrument panel unit that can live on either side of a symmetrical dashboard.

You get the idea. Let’s look at the first-generation Prius.

prius1

The bones of the first Prius probably had a lot to do with the original Echo/Yaris. They were developed around the same time, they shared some dimensions. No wonder that the Prius has the same kind of symmetrical swap-out dashboard. It saves money and it’s part of the Toyota cheap-car DNA at the time. It would have been notable had Toyota not chosen to do this, frankly. Keep in mind that nobody knew how successful the Prius would eventually become. Saving money in design, materials, and production was a nontrivial goal, no matter how much THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT CHIPPED IN ON IT.

I just capitalized the last half of the sentence to give my predecessor at TTAC, Herr Schmitt, heart palpitations. Were he still around, he would no doubt explain to you that Toyota did not need the Japanese government to make the Prius and that he knows more about it than Jim Press does.

Where were we? Oh yes. Cheap car, cheap to make, modular dash. Next photo, please.

priius2

And here’s the second Prius we had in this country, the one that made the car famous to people besides Larry David and your local comparative-literature professor. This dashboard is proudly symmetrical and interchangeable. It continues to have a center dash display. Nothing too surprising. Alright, let’s see the last slide in the carousel.

prius3

Well, I will be Gosh-damned. This is in no way a cheapo Toyota mirror-image dash, is it? It’s from the current Prius, which is going to replaced in the near future, and which I used to run a few laps around New Jersey Motorsports Park a couple of months back. Looks like the Prius has finally come correct, all the better to match its hugely upscale consumer base and public image. The Tupperware simplicity is gone, replaced by something that looks kind of like what you get in an Avalon.

Except for that center dash display.

This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night, by the by. Why does the Prius retain a center display when the reason for it — interchangeability between RHD and LHD variants — is gone? After all, you don’t get a center dash in a Camry, or an Avalon, or an LS600hl. Only cheapo Toyotas get a center dash. The Prius is no longer particularly cheap, and Toyota finally cottoned to the fact that many of its buyers don’t give a fig for its purchase or operating costs, so it has a proper interior. But it still has the center dash?

It took me a while to figure out the answer, but here it is: The consumer cannot sense intent. What I mean by that is this: You, the manufacturer, might have all sorts of reasons for doing something, but unless you state those reasons on the front page of the Huffington Post, Fox News, and Reddit’s “Gone Wild” section every day for a year, as well as paying for “in-game placement” in World of Warcraft and Call of Duty, nobody will know what those reasons are. Instead, the consumers will guess at your reasons, and their guesses will be wrong far more often than they are right.

There are more examples of this in the world than there are atoms with which to electronically transmit their descriptions. The Chevy “Pro-Tec” plastic optional pickup box that vastly outperformed steel in all but the coldest conditions? Customers thought it was there to save money and rip them off. The three-piece necks on Gibson guitars of the Seventies? The factory did it to prevent warping and reduce warranty claims. Musicians thought the purpose was to save money and ruin their sound. The unbuttoned lower button on the Duke of Windsor’s suit coat? It was because he had a potbelly. Fashionable men around the world with flat stomachs dutifully unbuttoned the moment they saw a picture of their aristocratic better doing it.

It stands to reason, therefore, that the reason the Prius has a center dash is because people think that is part of the “Prius brand DNA”. What makes that funny is that it reinforces the fact that Prius buyers never shopped any other cheap Toyotas, or any cheap cars, period. If they did, they’d quickly realize that center display means “cheap”. But since they only saw the center dash in the Prius, it says “hybrid” to them. Therefore, the Prius must continue to have a center dash forever and ever, Amen, because any other arrangement would be un-Prius-like.

You are now free to imagine a scene in which natives of a desert island worship a Coke bottle. Or something like that. It’s the same idea. Viewed without context, the Prius dash layout takes on a whole new meaning and therefore it must be retained.

And if you think only stupid-ass Prius buyers feel that way, ask yourself why the Corvette had quad round taillights until last year, just like a ’62 Biscayne. Or why the BMW i8 has twin chrome ovals surrounding black glossy plastic. Or, perhaps, why your automatic-transmission car has a console shift.

What’s the moral of the story? Only this: that despite the best efforts of everybody from Joan Claybrook (look it up, kids) to “Mad Men”, people continue to have a genuine and unashamed emotional investment in their vehicles. It’s 2015, and we were supposed to have flying cars by now, but we’re more than happy to settle for what we’ve got. We all want our cars to reinforce our self-images, confirm our prejudices, reassure our pathetic senses of aesthetic sensibility. Even the buyers of the most rational car money can buy want to know that they’re sitting in a real-deal Prius.

So let’s all agree to keep the existence of the Toyota Echo a secret from them, just to be nice. To do anything else would be like buying someone shots of Tito’s all night and asking them if they mind if you write a nofixedabode.

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Review: 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/review-2012-toyota-yaris-3-door/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/review-2012-toyota-yaris-3-door/#comments Mon, 26 Mar 2012 15:29:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=435601 The 2012 Yaris! It’s a car! That might sound like the strangest marketing claim for a new car ever, but if you dig deeper it is Toyota’s attempt at saying “OK, we get it.” Why? Because Toyota, like most manufacturers, has had trouble staying on message with basic transportation. Need proof? Look no further than […]

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The 2012 Yaris! It’s a car! That might sound like the strangest marketing claim for a new car ever, but if you dig deeper it is Toyota’s attempt at saying “OK, we get it.” Why? Because Toyota, like most manufacturers, has had trouble staying on message with basic transportation. Need proof? Look no further than the Corolla. The Corolla was a small, cheap and cheerful vehicle that has since grown into a 15-foot long sedan that weighs almost 3,000lbs and can reach $20,000 with options. No matter how nice a Corolla might be, cheap to buy it isn’t.

It’s a hatchback!

Part of getting back on message with the Yaris was simplifying the lineup by ditching the sedan leaving the 5-door Michael Karesh snagged back in February, and the cheapest Toyota in America: the 3-door hatchback I had for a week. Why no sedan? Toyota tells us it accounted for less than 30% of sales so it had to be euthanized in the name of progress. Further simplifying things, there just two trims for the 3-door hatch (L and LE) and three for the 5-door (L, LE and SE) reducing the possible number of configurations from 25 in 2011 to 9. Yep, 9. In addition, there are essentially no options on the Yaris, you pick the number of doors, manual or automatic, select from 8 available paint colors, cruise control and away you go for $14,115 to $17,960. Never before has buying a Toyota been this simple.

It has a steering wheel!

There may be a color palate to choose from on the outside, but inside all 3-door Yaris models get the same grey-on-black interior thanks to Toyota’s streamlining. Plastics are as hard as you would expect in a car that starts under 15-grand, but the doors and dash do get a thin coating of squishy soft-touch plastics (it’s the grey part in the picture). Compared to the outgoing Yaris, the 2012 is positively normal with the instrument cluster returning to a normal position in-front of the driver. Keeping costs in check, the only model that sports a tachometer is the “sporty” 5-door SE model Michael reviewed. Our tester, as with the rest of the lineup gets a round blank spot that illuminates at night to remind you that you didn’t pop for the SE. Our LE tester had the only two options going: cruise control for $250 (available only on 3-door LE models with the automatic) and floor mats for $180. So what’s the difference between the L and LE? The LE buys you a standard automatic transmission, body colored mirrors, a better radio (L and LE both have standard USB/iPod jacks), a driver’s seat with 2 more directions of motion, a 60/40 folding rear seat (the L’s rear seat folds flat as one unit), audio controls on the steering wheel, chrome door handles, Bluetooth speakerphone, power windows and remote keyless entry. The price for these jewels? $1,510.

Click here to view the embedded video.

It moves!

The Yaris has an engine! The 3-door and 5-door Yaris share the same thoroughly modern 1.5L four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. The 106HP come to the boil at 6,000 RPM but despite this, it isn’t as “peaky” as many small engines. Torque is rated at 103 lb-ft at a lower 4,200 RPM. I’d like to say this makes the Yaris quick off the line, but the lack of a tach really hampered my fun with the 5-speed manual. Adding insult to injury, our LE tester mates the modern engine with an ancient 4-speed automatic. The lack of cogs is the most likely reason the Yaris misses the 40MPG mark with the 5-speed manual posting 30MPG city and 38MPG highway and the automatic dropping to a ho-hum 30MPG city and 35MPG highway according to the EPA. I experienced an average of 31MPG on my daily commute. If these numbers bother you, then you’re missing the point of the Yaris which strangely enough isn’t to be the most efficient small Toyota, but the cheapest to buy.

It Turns!

Out on the road the Yaris’s short 98.8-inch wheelbase, light curb weight of 2,300lbs and somewhat stiff springs combine to make for a choppy ride on washboard pavement. All 3-door Yaris models come with 10-inch vented discs up front, drum brakes out back and 175 width, 65 series tires on steel wheels. Despite being shod with tall all-season rubber, the lightweight Yaris handles surprisingly well with a well-balanced chassis, direct (albeit numb) steering and a tight 30-foot turning radius. Thanks to the fairly wide stance and “wheels in the corners” design, the 3-door is actually a willing companion when the going gets twisty. Because the chassis is a willing dance partner on windy mountain roads, the budget nature of the braking system becomes more obvious than in the previous generation with smoke and fade following a session of aggressive corner carving. While I doubt many shoppers will feel the need to push their subcompact to the limits, beware that the chassis writes checks the brakes can’t cash.

There’s competition!

While many Toyota shoppers are brand monogamists who won’t so much as look at another woman car, the Yaris is positioned as an entry-level vehicle hoping to attract the younger generation and train them to be a lifelong Toyota customer. While it’s easy to compare the 5-door Yaris to the slick 5-door Hyundai Accent with its refined interior and more efficient and powerful drivetrain, it has a few too many doors. Indeed, all the competition save the Fiat 500 and Golf have too many doors. Compared to the Golf (starting at $17,995) the Yaris’ cheaper interior and old-school cog swapper can be forgiven because of the low sticker price, and compared to the Fiat, the Yaris is simply more car. In many ways the Yaris’ fiercest competitor is in the family: the all-new Prius c. Based loosely on the unholy marriage of a Yaris and a Prius to begin with, the baby Prius starts at $18,950 and with a solid 50MPG average (as tested by TTAC) vs the Yaris’ 30MPG average (as tested by TTAC), it wouldn’t take long to save the $3,325 difference in MSRP.

I started scratching my head about the Yaris at the release event for the Prius c a few months ago and after spending a week in the Yaris I’m more confused then when I started. It’s not the Yaris’ fault. It’s a cheap car that fulfills the mission of cheap and cheerful transportation with a totally unexpected dose of fun and simplicity. The problem is Toyota makes a much better car; the Prius c. With 50 MPG on tap and $4.40 gasoline in Northern California it would only take 55,500 miles to break even. If you’re worried about a loss of fun, despite the 200lb heavier curb weight of the Prius c, it handles almost as well as the Yaris and the hybrid drivetrain actually helps solve the braking complaints. If you’re in the market for a compact car, it seems the Yaris is really only a good option if you really want a new car but can’t stretch yourself to the Prius c or one of the other more premium subcompact options.

Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.05 seconds

0-60: 9.0 seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.02 seconds @ 79.5MPH

Average economy: 30.5MPG over 689 miles

 

2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Engine, 1.5L 106HP, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Engine, 1.5L 106HP, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Interior, instrument cluster, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, front , Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Interior, driver's side dash, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Interior, dashboard, radio, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Yaris 3-Door, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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