Toyotas are renowned for their reliability and owners have few troubles with their Echo.
The best way to cut fuel bills right now is to downsize to a small car with a small petrol engine, such as the Toyota Echo.
Debate is raging over the relative merits of diesels and hybrids, and while both are considered an economical choice, they also have their drawbacks. Hybrids, such as Toyota's Prius cost more to buy and the fuel savings are not necessarily that great.
The Echo replaced the Starlet as the smallest model in the Toyota range in 1999. It was a trendy little car and brought a touch of style and class that had generally been lacking in small cars, particularly the bland Starlet.
There were three models in the range: a three-door hatch; a more practical five-door model that would better suit a small family looking at downsizing; and a four-door sedan.
Compared with other small cars, the Echo was fairly sparse when it came to standard features. South Korean rivals had standard airconditioning, a CD player and power steering, but you had to pay extra for them in the Echo.
Build quality was something that didn't cost any extra and for many that made up for the lack of frills. Power steering was added to the standard features late in 2002, and airconditioning came in 2003. Despite its size, the Echo is quite a big car inside, at least given its external dimensions. It has a short but tall stature, and Toyota was able to conjure up some useful interior space.
The upright seating is comfortable, provides good legroom and makes it easy to get in and out.
Toyota offered the choice of two engines, a 1.3-litre in the hatch and a 1.5-litre in the sedan and sporty Sportivo hatch. The 1.3-litre pushed out 63kW at 6000 revs and 122Nm at 4400 revs. Its larger cousin had 80kW at 6000 revs and 142Nm at 4000 revs.
Though the small engine gave adequate performance and was the most economical, the 1.5-litre is the better engine all round. A five-speed manual was the standard gearbox on offer, but there was also a four-speed auto.
Toyotas have good resale value, so it's always important to shop around and bargain hard. The three-door hatch can be had for $5,000-$6,000 for the 1999-2003 model or $6,000-$7,500 for the later model. A five-door hatch will cost $1,000-$1,500 more. The sedan goes for $6,500-$8,500 for those before 2003, and $7,500-$9,500 for the later ones. For the sportier drive of the Sportivo, expect to pay $6500-$11,000.
Toyotas are renowned for their reliability and owners have few troubles with their Echo. Some report a few squeaks and rattles that seem to come from the body. They're not necessarily a big deal, but can be annoying. Check for clicking sounds while making turns. It could signal trouble from the CV joints.
If you want to save money at the bowser, here's one way of doing it.