Pros: Many features included in this standard model that aren't included in other basic model cars.
Cons: Road noise and bumpy ride on less than perfect roads.
I waited eight months to write a review on my "new" car to give that first blush of love time to run its course. Now that winter has ended and the car is covered in road dust and the inside mats are caked with mud, I feel ready to provide a less biased review.
My first choice was a Toyota Echo that boasted almost 60 miles to the gallon, since I started a new job and the driving distance is significant. I also wanted to align my purchase with my values, which includes a concern for the environment. The Echo model that I considered was a bare bones model that included nothing but an AM/FM radio. Air conditioning was an "extra", as was rear window defrost and other things I've become accustomed to having (like a digital clock on the dash). Because of my limited budget, I also checked out Hyundai, Saturn, Kia and the Ford Focus before deciding on the Corolla.
The dealer could only locate two Echos in the entire state of Massachusetts at the time, and I sensed that she was less than enthusiastic about having to share her commission with another salesperson. She convinced me to purchase the Corolla CE by offering it to me at the same price as the Echo, which netted me much more car for the money. Everything the Echo considered "luxury" was standard with the Corolla -- a/c, rear defrost, and CD player. My pocketbook won the battle and my values went out the window.
First the PROS:
- For a compact car, the 4-door Toyota Corolla has a very roomy and comfortable backseat area for adult passengers.
- For a low-end car, it's attractive, especially from the front and back (the look of the lights and grill). Silly, but true.
- Great acceleration. Before you know it, you're over the speed limit and won't notice you are going so fast until someone points it out.
- Great gas mileage. I average about 33 miles to the gallon, compared to my husband's older Mercury wagon, which seems to get only 18 mpg's. I drive 60 miles to/from work both highway and city, so it seems very good to me.
- Typical with many new cars, the headlights are always on when driving and always shut off automatically when you turn off the car. For someone who often used to run down a battery by leaving the parking lights on, this is huge. One less thing to worry about. Also, when it gets dark for any reason -- driving in a tunnel, rain clouds overhead, or dusk, the interior dash lights go on automatically after about 10-15 seconds, so you can see the speedometer, time, etc.
Little niceties that are standard with this car:
- CD Player/Radio -- love it! Easy to use with a compartment to store a few CD's (out of the case) right underneath.
- Outside Temp display
- Digital clock on dash
- Low gas warning light
- Seatbelts that adjust for tall/short people by sliding up or down the interior wall -- no more choking for us shorties.
- Flip down compartments to hold change or whatever (one under the CD Player is angled and I've found it is perfect for storing sunglasses for easy access.
- Two cup holder spaces with another compartment (to store CD's, larger items, etc. and another small rectangle space that is just right for my cell phone. Also two cup holders in the back seat that slide out of a little closed compartment when needed.
- Roomy trunk -- currently holding 3 huge square bags of peat moss, plus other odds and ends.
- Corolla car mats stay in place with grommet and hook.
- Lighted mirror with flip cover on driver's side visor.
- Adjustable tilt steering wheel.
Now some CONS:
- Road noise (highway driving) -- difficult to hear when speaking on a cell phone (soon might be outlawed anyway) or trying to listen to radio/CD.
- Feel every bump, pothole, dip in the road. I sometimes feel like I'm in a commercial for bad shock absorbers. It can literally make the driver motion sick if the roads are bad enough, which they can be after winter and rain season or when there is construction.
- Mirror on passenger side visor is not lighted, nor covered. If the sun is in your eyes and you put down the visor, you must look at yourself or the passing cars. It is distracting.
- Small change compartment on driver's left side is at knee level. If left open (while at the drive-thru), you can bang into on the way out, and it's not pleasant.
- Head room for short drivers lacking. Because I'm short and have to pull my seat (no automatic adjust by the way) way up to the pedals, I would often bang my head getting out of the car -- the door frame was right there all the time. The same can be said when I'm bending in the passenger side from standing outside the car to pick trash off the floor -- I bang my head as it is coming out. It might just be me, because my husband doesn't have this problem as is 5'11''. I'm only 4'11'
- Front bucket seats uncomfortable at first. Like a new pair of shoes, it took awhile for me to feel comfortable in these bucket seats, but now it is not an issue. One thing that helped is that I turned the head rests around to face the other way. Being short, it seemed to force the top of my head forward. Once they were turned around, the problem ceased.
Overall, I do not regret my purchase and am extremely happy with my 2005 Toyota Corolla. For the price ($16,000+ after taxes and additional remote start package cost), nothing from other makers compared to it's gas mileage, quality, and extra features. In 8 months, I've driven it 13,000 miles (3 oil changes -- they are recommended every 4,500 miles on this model)and it's been a joy to drive and own -- except for those really bumpy roads!
*This review originally stated that the Echo was a hybrid, which is incorrect. When I researched hybrid vehicles before purchase, the Echo was often noted as an economical alternative that has less impact on the environment than the average car. Also, I corrected the price, which was listed originally as $18,000 after taxes and extra package, but it was actually only $16,000+.
Newest Update: February 6, 2011
It's been almost 6 years since I wrote this review, and my little Toyota is still one of our best purchases. I have now driven it 94,800 miles (!) with nothing more than oil changes, oil filter changes, radiator flush, and a set of new tires. I found out early on that the standard tires weren't made for the type of yearly mileage I drove at that time and had to replace them for heavier duty tires two years in. For the past three years my mileage has been cut to a third of what it used to be, so I expect my Toyota to last for a long time.
My opinion has not changed on this car; although the bumps are no longer an issue as a driver. As a passenger, however, they are very noticeable. Since this was my work transportation, I was often alone in the car. On the rare occasion that my husband drives and I sit in the passenger seat, I really feel every bump and imperfection in the road.
One thing that I continue to love is the cd player and speakers that came standard with this car. I enjoy listening to music in the car more than any other location -- it sound so great!