Home » Home For The Holidays: 2006 BMW 330i vs 2004 Toyota Echo

Home For The Holidays: 2006 BMW 330i vs 2004 Toyota Echo

330i Vs Echo

Today, I’m going home both literally and figuratively as we look at cheap cars from my life in and around my home, Toronto. First, let’s see how our battle of replacement horses went.

Mustang Vs Probe Final

Ah, you see, that’s not nearly as close as I expected, especially given the Probe’s fuel economy. Kudos to the Mustang for getting an easy win over the Probe, proving history right. Anyway, let’s talk about home. It’s the day after Christmas and due to storms, pandemic, and a litany of other reasons, many of us weren’t able to spend it with the ones we love. In my neck of the woods, flights are mostly canceled and the drive to see my parents is best measured using a calendar. So, let’s redefine home, with two cars similar to artifacts from my past and present, both located in the city I call home. Let’s get on with it.

2006 BMW 330i – $2,500 Canadian

2006 330i 1

Engine/drivetrain: Three-liter inline-six engine, six-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel-drive.

Location: Toronto, Canada

Odometer reading: 220,000 kilometers.

Runs/drives? Yes.

Let’s start with the here and now, an E90 BMW 3-Series. I’ve adored these cars for a long, long time, so much that I waited for the right spec and bought my own in 2020. Believe it or not, my 325i has been the cheapest car to run on a yearly basis of any car I’ve owned. Fuel economy’s been fantastic, maintenance requirements have been reasonably light, and insurance costs aren’t a kick in the teeth either. The 3-Series we have today is my car’s big brother, the 2006 330i, a bit of a forgotten gem in the North American market.

2006 330i 2

 

This rare one-year-only special is powered by the same three-liter N52B30 inline-six as my 325i with one key difference – 330i models got a three-stage variable-length intake manifold good for more power. How much more power? How does a 40-horsepower bump to 255 ponies sound? What’s more, this 330i puts its power down the proper way, to the rear tires, although the six-speed automatic gearbox in this one certainly doesn’t offer the engagement of a manual. The seller says they’ve done the lion’s share of typical maintenance for a 330i of this age including a new starter, a new radiator, and a new battery.

2006 330i 3

On the outside, this 330i appears to be in great shape. The plastic headlight lenses are nice and clear, the black paint shimmers in the sun, and even the wheels look to be in great condition. It’s the sort of shape I’m eventually working towards for my 325i. Mind you, there does appear to be a scuff on the rear bumper, although I wager it’ll buff out.

2006 330i 4

Mind you, this 330i doesn’t appear to be a high-spec model. For starters, it’s missing the sport pack, which includes substantially starchier suspension, staggered wheels, a sports steering wheel, and a phenomenal set of sports seats. There’s also no Logic 7 audio system, no rear roller blind, and no ultrasonic parking sensors. On the plus side, low-spec means no iDrive, so at least you get a clean dashboard. As for interior warts, the driver’s seat is torn quite badly, plus there’s some typical soft-touch plastic wear.

2004 Toyota Echo – $3,500 Canadian

Echo Hatchback 1

Engine/drivetrain: 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel-drive.

Location: Toronto, Canada.

Odometer reading: 196,123 kilometers.

Runs/drives? Of course it does.

If we take things back to the absolute beginning, there was a Dodge Colt. Unfortunately, Dodge Colts have nearly vanished over the past few decades, so let’s skip ahead to the second car my dad owned when I was young – a red Echo. This humble little Toyota may have only had 108 horsepower and fewer of those made their way to the ground by virtue of the automatic gearbox, but my dad made sure he got his money’s worth out of them. After countless road trips and several sets of control arm bushings due to enthusiastic driving, its final act before being sold was to teach me how to drive.

Echo Hatchback 2

Indeed, this Echo also sports a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 108 horsepower, although it features a five-speed manual gearbox to really show what those ponies can do. While not exactly quick cars, the manual examples weren’t slow for the era. Car And Driver clocked a five-speed Echo to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, an extremely reasonable number even by today’s standards.

Echo Hatchback 3

Of course, this Echo is also a bit different because it’s something America never got. For two years only, Toyota sold a hatchback version of the Echo in Canada. It lost the sedan’s middle rear seat but gained a bit more practicality in the process, plus Toyota marketed it using a truly bizarre advertising campaign. Click this link at your own discretion. This particular Echo hatchback looks to be in great shape, although it is missing its hubcaps. Still, any excuse to splash out on alloys, right?

Echo Hatchback 4

On the inside, this Echo looks equally well-kept. There’s a bit of rippling on the driver’s outer seat bolster, but that could be fabric coming away from the cushion instead of a tear. We had that happen. Otherwise, it’s bone-stock down to the factory head unit, likely a sign of mature owners who didn’t feel the need for phone connectivity.

So there we are, two cars that are reasonably close to artifacts from my automotive history. Normally I’d say choose wisely, but in this case, vote with your heart. After all, I’ve already voted with my wallet. Happy holidays, everyone.

(Photo credits: Kijiji sellers)

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26 Responses

  1. Nah, the echo is too expensive and the BMW is ridiculously cheap.I’d be sorely tempted ,even with it’s terrible reputation for relibility.
    Of course this just theory to me as no worthwhile BMW sells that cheap in my country

    1. Nope! 😛

      The Echo is manual and actually kind of fun to drive and peppy. It actually got good reviews on the driving shit when it was new, at least the manual anyway.

      I really really wish they had sold the Echo hatch down here

      1. I currently own one here in australia.
        IMO it handles well with subtle oversteer,and that’s in both low and high grip situations.
        However the suspension let’s it lean a lot! By the time the tyres are sliding it feels a bit ridiculous haha

    1. … we’ve found where all the vowels for company names disappeared to! Canada needs to give at least some of those back, because I have no fucking idea how to pronounce “DRVN.”

  2. Much as I want a silky N52 in my life, I voted for the more expensive hatchback I didn’t know existed. Mostly due to the anvil-like reliability of a buddy’s similar-era Echo sedan and my unwillingness to deal with plastic cooling bits and vanos system in an automatic.

    1. If you’re taking your new purchase to western Canada, you have quite the dilemma:

      You’re faced with the long, sparsely traveled highways of Northern Ontario in winter. Do you take the 16 year old untested BMW and travel in comfort with heated seats, or do you play it safer and take the Toyota econobox?

  3. The Echo is a great car to have in reserve, literally put it in a box labeled “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass.” It will always run, use virtually no gas and those control arms you mentioned are something like $100 for the pair. BMW, “Bring My Wrenches.” Every part is precious and in my own experience a fairly un-reliable car. Besides, do you really want to be in the BMW driving crowd? You know, darting about in cars with pristine, unused turn signal stalks. Or gracing the rear of a flatbed? The BMW’s were great up unit the 325 replaced the 320, what a POS and it just got worse from there. My mom got a 720i and I think it meant 720 trips to the service department.

  4. I would take the Echo if it was appropriately priced, let’s say $1000-$1300 freedom bucks. But at $3500CAD (~$2600US), it’s waay overpriced. I’d rather pay less for the BMW and enjoy it until the repairs get too much.

    1. As a Yaris owner, I would’ve voted for the Echo if its asking price was swapped with the BMW’s, but the BMW actually appears to be a good deal, and I miss RWD this time of year.

  5. The BMW in a heartbeat! Autopian is about the sheer joy of driving and doing whatever possible to enhance it. Maintenance issues aside I am certain that I can find that joy a lot quicker with a BMW over a Toyota Echo. My son owned one of these torture boxes. He is a true gearhead and hated every living moment of his ownership. After driving it I couldn’t believe that Toyota could build such a tinny little shitbox!

    Ironically, I really prefer Mercedes (the car) over BMW and obviously was extremely satisfied with all three of my 911’s.

  6. I’m surprised the vote is as close as it is. I’m not a BMW fan and I appreciate a bullet proof econobox like the Echo, but these cars aren’t even comparable. The BMW is fun to drive, looks to be in decent condition, and is $1000 cheaper. Why is this not a blowout in favor of the 330i???

  7. Echo hatchback? HELL YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    FUCK the Echo haterz yo

    Red is a cool color, but it was also available in a really cool blue as well as gold. Those are even more awesome 😀

    Too bad we never got the Echo hatch down here, though they can probably be brought here with little or no issue.

    1. Maybe people are just voting for the BMW to spite Toyota for not selling the Echo hatch down here. That has to be the reason. Yeah, I’ll go with that 😉

      Perhaps a better match-up might have been the B-Class or the diesel smart car we didn’t get, if you wanted the other to be a luxury car.

      For something more similar, there’s the also-Canada-only Micra.

  8. Sorry, Bimmer lovers, but I have to vote Echo. I am sure that the BMW is a more exciting car to drive, and is a ‘better’ enthusiast car in many ways. But at 121k miles / 196k kms, it’s just now broken in. And I know from experience they are easy to work on and parts are cheap. Not that I’ve had to work on much in the 365k miles we put on it.

  9. Since I know nothing about the mechanical condition and maintenance/repair history of the 330 and I remember why my brother got out of his; I’ll teach my kid how to drive stick in the Echo. I’m afraid the 330 would teach her to not like cars.

  10. Less than $1900 Freedom Bucks for a 250 hp BMW? Drive it ’til it blows and it’s still a screaming deal. The Echo is a decent deal, and likely the smarter buy…but we are here to hoon.

  11. Voted for the red Echo just for the reason of being able to name it the Strawberry to complement the Blueberry and the Cranberry à la Psych.

  12. Easily the 330i. My sister has an E90 330i and it’s honestly a great car. I’ve had to road trip it a few times and I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s comfy, it’s pretty fast, it’s engaging, and it still feels modern despite its age. I’m a big 3 series fan in general…if you want a good driving, useful car at a reasonable price you really can’t go wrong because even the base ones are pleasant to drive. I’ve also driven the current 330i and it’s amazing for what it is.

    Her car also hasn’t had all that many issues other than the run of the mill German electronic gremlins, and as much as I love her she hasn’t exactly taken great care of the thing. It’s been in the family for 7 or 8 years at this point too. They’re good cars. There’s a reason why the 3 series is iconic. BMW has the small sports sedan formula down.

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