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2004 Toyota Echo Hatchback

My plan for an adventure in the Canada-only 2004 Toyota Echo Hatchback was killer: take Wayne Gretzky to Canadian Tire and buy some hockey gear. Since the stuff was already on sale, it was going to be perfect.

My plan for an adventure in the Canada-only 2004 Toyota Echo Hatchback was killer: take Wayne Gretzky to Canadian Tire and buy some hockey gear. Since the stuff was already on sale, it was going to be perfect.

So I headed down to Wayne Gretzky's on Blue Jays Way to see if he was home. Turns out he doesn't even live there. Apparently, he has a house in L.A.

When I informed the people at the restaurant that: a) I knew he was there and b) this was an important newspaper article, they became quite rude and said something like, "You and your little car had better get out of here before we call the cops."

"Fine," I said. "I'll just take my imaginary Wayne with me."

"You do that."

So off we went.

Wayne thinks the Echo looks way better without the trunk.

"The Echo sedan is such a dorkmobile, but this trunk-echtomy has turned it into a hip little ride. And I gotta say, this 1.5 litre, 108 hp engine is very smooth and pulls with authority.

"How much do these cost?" he wondered.

"The base three-door starts at $12,995 and the five-door is another $1,605. This one has the RS Package and air con, so the bottom line is $18,801," I replied.

"Did you know that this car is called the Yaris in Europe and the Vitz in Japan, and it is not sold in the U.S.?"

"No, Pete, I didn't. This interior is pretty cool, and I really don't mind the centrally mounted instrument pod. And headroom! You could highstick for days in here. There's loads of handy storage cubbies, too. What's this thingy on the door?"

"It's called a window crank. This is an entry level car, after all. But ABS is standard, and you have to admit, dynamically, it is very impressive."

"Yes, it is surprisingly refined. Granted the limits are low, but the fun factor is high, and it goes about its business with a cheeky irreverence, not unlike its exterior countenance."

"Well put, Wayne."

We cruised serenely along the Gardiner, zipping through the traffic. "Wow! The gas gauge doesn't budge."

"Yeah, Canada's EnerGuide rates this car the most frugal of 2004 economy hatchbacks with a combined fuel economy of 6.0 litres per 100 kilomtres.

"Did you know the aluminum, 16-valve engine has variable-valve timing and puts out 105 pound-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm?"

"No, Pete, I didn't."

When we got to Canadian Tire, Wayne went nuts. He just about bought the place out. "This is great! I wish they had that bridal gift registry thing when me and Janet got hitched. I woulda cleaned up."

Luckily, the Echo Hatchback can swallow a tonne of stuff when the back seats are folded forward, although Wayne did have to leave the ironing board in the parking lot.

We drove in silence for a while, each appreciating the little car's stability and relaxed engine note at highway speeds.

Because there was no tachometer, Wayne made up a game called "Guess the RPM." The guy's a riot.

Then he blurted, "You gotta hand it to Toyota for going to the trouble of bringing the Echo Hatchback to our market. The way the world is going, the more small, fuel-efficient vehicles we can get on the roads, the better. With this car, Toyota has proven that driving an entry-level car doesn't have to be like sitting in a penalty box."

"Something you'd know about, eh Wayne?"

"Whatever."

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