The new millennium is almost upon us, and we’re surprised at the number of lame sales pitches pushing stale carryover products in year 2000 guise. But at Toyota, the 2000 model year really does mean new cars and trucks. Now we’ve already seen the new Tundra full size pickup truck. And as for cars, well, the trendy Celica sport coupe has been rebuilt from the ground up, while at the other end of their line sits the all-new, youthful Echo subcompact. It does look like this new millennium could mean something new for everyone from Toyota!
The market for sport coupes is clearly one focused on performance. But, a successful sport coupe must not only deliver driving performance, it also has to make a high performance styling statement. That’s very important to the younger buyers that are the core of the sport coupe market.
No wonder Toyota made the all-new and revitalized 2000 Celica a real looker. Wrapped in striking sharp-edged lines that bear little resemblance to previous round Celicas, the 2000 model is shorter overall, but rides on almost 2-inches more wheelbase.
Now front-wheel-drive only, Celica driving performance starts with a brace of all-new 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engines. The base GT engine generates 140 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. While the more powerful GT-S powerplant uses variable-valve-timing to pump out 180 horsepower and 133 pound-feet of torque.
Transmission choices are a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic on the GT. While the GT-S offers a 6-speed manual, or a trick 4-speed automatic, called E-shift, which can be shifted manually by way of steering wheel mounted switchgear.
Our first drive in a 4-speed GT-S along twisting California roads showed the engine to be a bit flat on the bottom end, but its performance became potent in the upper rev band.
The E-shift system was crisp and responsive. While the chassis’s lighter weight, combined with a finely tuned MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension, provides the sharp, flat cornering that matches well with the car’s visual appeal. We look forward to really putting it through its paces back home.
And we certainly felt at home in the Celica’s all-new interior. The look is pure performance. With a stylish but no-nonsense dash, that’s more open than the wrap-around design of last year.
Seating is by way of surprisingly plush buckets, which are engineered to reduce whiplash injuries in rear-end collisions and can be equipped with optional side-impact airbags. The folding rear seat is typically coupe tight, best for kids or extra luggage. While the trunk itself expands by half-a-foot, to a usable 16.9 cubic-feet.
Prices, however, we understand are going to be reduced for the 2000 model year. Base price for the Celica GT is expected to start just under $20,000, while the GT-S sticker will start around $22,000. So, you can add affordable pricing to the Celica’s list of performance attributes.
Performance in styling, behind the wheel, and inside the check book too, makes the 2000 Toyota Celica sport coupe a standout among standouts.
Now it’s one thing to get noticed as a cutting edge sport coupe. Raising the eyebrows as an economy car is much harder. That’s the mission of Toyota’s all-new 2000 Echo subcompact sedan.
Available in both two-and-four-door body styles, the Echo is aimed primarily at the youngest drivers, looking for a trendy, but very insurable, first new car.
Riding on a 93.3-inch wheelbase, nearly 4-inches shorter than Corolla, the Echo uses a cab-forward design to maximize interior space while keeping overall length down to 163.2-inches. That’s only about 13 feet.
And the interior is roomy, offering 88-cubic-feet of passenger and cargo space and a rather unique dash treatment, with its European-flavor, center-mounted instrument cluster. Toyota says placing gauges at a distance reduces eye-strain on long trips. Still, a bit hard to get used to for us.
We quickly got used to the high front seating position that allows you to see all the big sport-utes better. The seats also feature Toyota’s new whiplash-reducing frames.
Echo offers a wide selection of stereos that will appeal to youthful buyers. Though we doubt they’ll like the sub-basement dash location. Interior storage is, however, minivan class, with large pockets flanking the center dash, and a unique two-section glove box.
The rear seat offers more head and leg room than the larger Corolla and optional 60/40 split folding seatbacks. While the trunk has 13.6-cubic-feet of cargo space. Almost as much as a Camry!
It’s all motivated by a new 1.5-liter, dual-overhead-cam 4-cylinder with variable valve timing, a rare feature on an entry level car. Output is 108 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices are a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic, with Uphill Shift Logic, which reduces gear hunting on long hills. Combined with a maximum weight of only 2,080-pounds, this drivetrain gives the Echo an estimated fuel economy of 38 miles per gallon in the city, and 52 on the highway.
We got familiar with the Echo at its California press debut, and were impressed with its city and highway manners. The small 1.5-liter four felt stronger than we expected it to, especially during highway passing. And the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension provide nimble and secure handling, with a pleasant ride befitting a larger car.
All for prices that we estimate will start at $10,500 for the Echo 2-Door, and $11,500 for the Echo 4-door.
This promising combination of a trim exterior, generous interior, high economy, low price, plus Toyota’s reputation for quality, should give the 2000 Toyota Echo a tire up on its subcompact competition.
But whether you’re a first time buyer looking for the most car for the buck, or a sport-coupe buff looking for well rounded performance, Toyota has you covered in 2000. So, despite all the Y2K hype and scares, Toyota is giving young car buyers lots to look forward to in the new millennium.
Engine: 3.0-Liter Sohc V6
Torque: 205 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.6 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 90 MPH
60-0 MPH: 134 Feet (w/out Abs)
EPA Mileage: 20 MPG City 28 MPG Highway