Downside: An ugly duckling if ever there was one.
Upside: A very reliable ugly duckling. The Echo has been so dependable and trouble-free over its past two years of brutal service, we feel morally obligated to keep it in the family.
Head-turning quotient: Not!
Ride, acceleration and handling: Decent small-car ride. Acceleration is competent up to 60 miles per hour, meaning that you can enter highway traffic without first filing an application. Don't push it much past 65 miles per hour. Handling is decent; but keep in mind that the Echo comes with small, 14-inch diameter tires and a 93.3-inch wheelbase -- which is short. The car is not designed for high-performance maneuvers.
Changes since 2003: Virtually none. The Echo remains the Echo.
Body style/layout: The Echo is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive, subcompact, four-door sedan. It is also available as a two-door coupe.
Engine/transmission: The Echo comes with a 1.5-liter, in-line four-cylinder, 16-valve engine that develops 108 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 105 foot-pounds of torque at 4,200 rpm. The engine is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.
Cargo and fuel capacities: The Echo has seating for five people. Luggage capacity is 13.6 cubic feet. Fuel capacity is 11.9 gallons of recommended regular unleaded gasoline.
Mileage: We usually get 36 miles per gallon on the highway in our Echo. We've gotten 40 miles per gallon running at posted highway speeds without cargo and without the use of the air conditioner or heater.
Safety: It's a small car with basic small-car protection, including federally mandated front air bags. You won't win any crash contests with larger vehicles. Wear your seat belts and drive safely.
Pricing: Two years ago, we paid $10,695 for a base Toyota Echo, including taxes, fees and transportation charges. The practically identical 2005 model has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $11,076. Price as tested for the base 2005 model is $12,325, including a $540 destination charge. Prices sourced from Toyota, Edmunds.com and Cars.com, a Washington Post affiliate.
Purse-strings note: The Echo is a competent, dependable economy car surrounded by better-looking competition. But it offers much more than a pretty face. Compare with the Chevrolet Aveo, Hyundai Accent, Suzuki Reno and Kia Rio.