Sunday, December 13, 2009

Toyota Echo

There are few car designs that I view as truly, truly ugly. Sure, there are plenty of cars that are somewhat unattractive, but to be "ugly" an automobile has to really hurt your eyes when you look at it.

The Toyota Echo is one of those cars.

Whenever I happen to gaze upon one of these little buggers in traffic (not often, thankfully) I can faintly hear the cries of my retinas begging for mercy. Why? The Echo is a small car. Certainly nothing wrong with in and of itself. The predecessor the Echo, the Toyota Tercel, was quite a small car too. Yet the Tercel was pleasant to look at. Boring yes, very boring in fact... but pleasant. Somehow Toyota managed to design a replacement that was the complete opposite.

The problem with the Echo is that it is a small car that wants to be a big car. The Echo is very short in length. Well duh... it's a subcompact. Thing is, it is also very tall. Very tall. This makes the Echo's appearance similar to that of a five-year-old clomping around in her mommy's high-heels. Sorry Toyota, that's not an attractive look. I'm sure the design affords scads of headroom and a better view of the road but... but... ugh. Adding insult to injury Toyota felt it necessary to tack on Pontiac Aztek-style gray plastic cladding along the rocker panels and wheel wells. I don't think anything more needs to be said about that detail. Then of course, there are the rear quarter panels. Larger cars can handle the now universal "low hood, high deck" profile with some amount of grace, but the Echo's abbreviated economy car dimensions cause the horizontal area to be too scrunched up. To be fair, this is an issue with all modern cars in Echo's size class, the Chevrolet Aveo being a good example. Another unfortunate effect of the gargantuan rear fenders is that it gives the impression that the rear wheels are six inches too small (maybe it just needs some DUBs?).

But there's something about the Echo that makes it far more offensive than the Aveo, or any other subcompact econocar. Maybe it's those comically over sized flower petal headlights. Maybe it's those inexplicably awkward teardrop points coming together in the center of the grille. Or maybe it's the fact that I can't see, but KNOW that there's that dreadful center-mounted instrument cluster sitting there in the middle of the dashboard. Whatever it is, I don't think my opinion of the Echo could get any lower than it is now. Generally, most economy cars become virtually extinct about 25 years or so after the final ones are produced. Here's hoping the Echo will not be an exception.


Anonymous said...

Nice for your first one. I agree, such a boring car


nlpnt said...

Having owned a last-model Tercel and a Yaris, I can point out that the Tercel was incredibly compromised for its' looks - I still occasionally banged my head on the door frame on cold mornings around the time I sold it after 5 years - while the Yaris has the same tall thing and center dash as the Echo but at least gives you three(!) glove compartments for it (at least the hatchback does), along with an enormous front passenger compartment.

IMO very few of the modern tall subcompacts carry off a sedan body style well, and the Echo along with the early Aveo sedans are the poster children for this.