15 August 2019

More than an old car #114: Toyota Echo

For every exotic/striking old car out there, there are a lot more workhorses that don't get the love it deserves. Such an example would be this 1999 Toyota Echo that may not have struck you as a classic car...

The Toyota Echo, or more commonly known as the Vitz/Yaris, was first conceived in 1998 by Toyota in Europe, and unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Show in 1999. "Vitz" is a coined word that combines "vivid" and "Witz" ('witness' in German) and "Yaris" was derived from Charis, the Greek god of beauty. JDM versions were called Vitz as it was easier to pronounce compared to Yaris, and units sold in the Australasia region were branded as an Echo.

Its main selling point was its cost and appeal as a small family car, and innovative features such as decent interior space and collision safety performance greatly appealed to customers. This sparked off a boom in 5-door compact cars such as the perennial Honda Fit/Jazz and Nissan March for instance. Some time in 2001, the Echo received a facelift where the black rubber bumper was noticeably removed. It was powered by a 998 cc 1SZ-FE i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 155 km/h, with an acceleration of 13.6 seconds. It was 3609 mm long and weighed only 855 kg, with a decent fuel consumption of 6.9 litres per 100 km.

Production of the Echo ended in 2005, where all the subsequent 2nd-generation units were renamed to Yaris. This unit still sports its original registration number and I believe the owner has intention to keep it for the long run. The Echo was first sold in Singapore in 1999 by Borneo Motors, our local Toyota dealer at a rather pricey S$90,000 inclusive of COE [S$120,202 in today's money]. However, not many still remain as owners proceeded to upgrade to better cars over the years. I found it by accident when passing by; it's definitely a car that is unlikely to attract any attention because of how ordinary it looks. However, now that you've known about this, maybe you'll get to see others on the road too!

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