Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown, I love you. Today, we’re looking for virtue in Sin City as we take to Las Vegas in search of some sensible cars. Before we get into that, let’s check in on how our family-friendly battle from yesterday went.
And the V70 has smashed it out of the park in a rare victory for unreliable European tin over sensible transportation. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Volvo as much as anyone, but those Rondos have a good track record. Plus, it’s a car that sort-of shares a name with my favorite Ontario Provincial Park. Anyway, on to today’s event, two very sensible cars from a city that isn’t sensible at all. Let’s see what we’re working with.
2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser – $2,600
Engine/drivetrain: 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, four-speed automatic gearbox, front-wheel-drive.
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Odometer reading: 108,862 miles
If you need a reasonably economical car with a lot of interior room for not a lot of money anywhere in America, it’s hard to do better than a PT Cruiser. These things may represent the ugly side of postmodernism from a styling perspective, but they’re reasonably reliable, cheap to fix, and incredibly practical.
Under the hood sits a 2.4-liter Tritec engine making 150 horsepower, a perfectly cromulent number for a vehicle this size. Granted, the four-speed automatic isn’t the most inspiring choice in the world, but that’s often the path cheap cars take. Still, this one appears to have no engine-related lights on the dashboard, generally a good sign in a cheap car.
The styling of the PT Cruiser is often mocked, although whether rightly so or not depends on perspective. For better or worse, it’s a generational statement. What’s old became new, only to become old again. Most retro cars are in a perpetual state of aging, and the PT Cruiser is no exception. Still, let’s focus on condition rather than design here. This PT Cruiser does have its fair share of dents, but it looks fairly solid thanks to a life in dry, sunny Nevada.
On the inside is where the PT Cruiser impresses, with a level of forethought and pragmatism uncommon in compact cars of the time. The rear seats could fold, flip, or lift out completely, while the cargo cover doubles as a table. Sure, this PT Cruiser is missing a knob for the fader, but its interior seems fairly tidy otherwise.
2001 Toyota Echo – $2,600
Engine/drivetrain: 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, four-speed automatic gearbox, front-wheel-drive.
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Odometer reading: 180,000 miles
Runs/drives? You bet.
Welcome to what might be the best best entry-level car Toyota’s ever made. That’s a controversial statement, but the Echo has the stuff to back it up. It emerged at a time where cars were arguably at their most reliable, with a great balance of durability and simplicity. It also adopted a radical form that’s now seen in every subcompact car today: The Echo got tall. More on that in a bit.
Powering the Echo is Toyota’s bombproof 1NZ-FE 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, good for 108 rampaging horsepower. It’s not a huge number, but it’ll stand until the end of time. Although the four-speed automatic gearbox does its best to dampen the Echo’s pace, it’s also quite reliable.
As for styling, the Echo is positively adorkable. Once described by Car And Driver as “a hippo in roller skates,” its tall styling and mischievous grin has aged well when you considering how pretty much every subcompact car since has adopted its tall form factor. Granted, I think this particular Echo was sideswiped at some point, judging by the massive dent in the right rear door and the passenger-side mirror from a completely different car, so maybe this example hasn’t aged the best.
That tall form factor pays dividends on the inside of the Echo, where you find space galore. Not only is there plenty of headroom and legroom on tap, this little car offers an incredible array of storage cubbies. Dual gloveboxes, bins on either side of the center stack, a shelf under the steering column, just so many places to put stuff. While I’m suspicious of the condition of the front seats under those covers, this looks like a reasonable place to spend some time upon first glance.
So there we are, two fairly economical cars in the city of sin. One offers Japanese reliability, the other features immense cargo flexibility. As ever, choose carefully.
(Photo credits: Craigslist sellers)
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I’ve had to work on a pt before. Give me the toy.
If you’re going to drive a penalty box, might as well pick one you don’t have to work on. Echo all the way!
I once had a PT Loser as a rental car. No. Just no.
PT Cruiser was also the basis for what’s probably the best RCR review. Which is also the source for everything I know about post modernism vs. modernism.
I drove a PT Cruiser for a month a decade ago. It was a terrible car. Front-heavy and lots of blind spots. I’ll take the Echo. You guys really have nailed this feature . . . it’s like the Giant Douche v. Shit Sandwich episode of “South Park,” but with wheels.
Both are horrendously bad. I wouldn’t drive either in anything but an emergency, so it would be a backup/loaner and the Echo would take up less space and likely be happier with that role.
Honestly, never had been a PT Cruiser hater. I gave the Echo a fair look-over before hovering the mouse over the PT Cruiser for a quick click.
This was on account of the seat covers in the Toyota honestly. I could smell the crayon plastic evaporate into the melted plastic cabin that I would never want to sit in again. Meanwhile, the Chrysler is pretty cut and dry. You see the honesty in the cosmetic imperfections and the reasonably clean interior.
I tempt myself into thinking about a third car as a daily to put less miles on the other newer cars. Either a late-year Buick LeSabre from like 2005 or a PT Cruiser 2.4-liter Turbo.
Can’t go wrong with a LeSabre on that generation. They had those so sorted out it wasn’t even funny.
My only experience with a PT Cruiser was on a business trip early in my career. The coworkers I was traveling with turned down the Malibu or Impala we were assigned at the rental car counter and requested the PT Cruiser instead because it “looks bigger”. It was not bigger. Four grown men were forced to cram into it shoulder-to-shoulder with some needing to hold their bags on their laps because they didn’t all fit in the cargo area. As the low man on the totem pole, I had the misfortune of being the designated driver most of the time, and the experience was awful.
I thought that that would make me a “Never PT Cruiserer” but today’s matchup has me questioning that position. The Cruiser has 80k fewer miles than the ‘yota and looks to be in better shape. Although, taking a closer look at the additional pictures in the Cruiser’s ad, it seems to have quite a few dings and dents as well. The seats are nicer than the garbage bag seat covers in the Echo, but that’s really the biggest cosmetic difference. I’d rather get a fresh pair of seat covers (maybe nice sheepskin like they put in airplane cockpits) than suffer the indignity of tooling around town in a PT Cruiser.
I’ll reluctantly take the Echo.
The Echo always reminds me of this stupid youtube video someone did a long time ago. It was an episode of “Full House” dubbed over to comedic effect, and they even ran a fake commercial for the Echo halfway through, talking about how blah it was. “Fuller House”, maybe?
I owned a PT similar to this, a low mileage 2003. It drove like a new car and treated me well! Terrible gas mileage, but not boring.
Anyone voting for the Echo must have never driven one. They were the “avoid at all costs” shitbox at Hertz when new and I can’t imagine they got better. When a Versa is a significant upgrade you know it’s bad.
I don’t think the choice is even close!
Funny part is the PT Cruiser was Maverick Level unobtainium when they first came out. Which make me wonder if the Millennials with Molestaches, that are lusting after those modern El Caminos, will at some point want these PT Cruisers later in life as well? At any rate the 2.4 was a relatively reliable workhorse and I do agree the PT is pain to wrench on, but I just can’t in good conscience take a VVTi motor with nearly 200K on the clock seriously for a reliable daily. I suppose receipts and maintenance record for each vehicle might say me if they were present, but I suppose I would want the PT, both are ugly as sin to me.
The PT was another car I HATED way back when, but have softened on given its practicality. My wife (then-girlfriend) had one as a college car years back, and I helped convince her to get rid of it. If you could get past the looks, it was fine to drive, had a ton of space, and got OK mileage. The front bumper on this example looks a little off to me. However, that Echo looks like it was used as a bumper car, so I will take the PT (can’t believe I am typing those words).
I’ve never driven an Echo, but I have driven an XP90 Belta (Yaris sedan) and an XP130 Vitz (Yaris hatch), both powered by the same 1NZ-FE/4-speed auto combo. With the exception of the 2nd-gen Renault Symbol/Thalia 1.2, those were probably the only cars in my life that I have actively hated driving. I’ve driven cars with far less power – hell, less than *half* the power – and sure, they were objectively slower, but goddamn, the Yaris *feels* like it cannot get out of its own way. It’s an angry, buzzing, LOUD penalty box that will yell at you when you stomp the throttle without ever actually accelerating. Both the Belta and the Vitz also felt like even the slightest wind would blow them off the road, and I don’t see the Platz/Echo being much different. Sure, it’ll run until the end of time, but I’d rather have it break so I have an excuse to get something that doesn’t make me miserable and question my love of cars. The PT for me, please.
I’ve driven both. The PT is such a hateful penalty box, you’ll want to take a hot shower afterwards to forget you ever sat in it. Chrysler virtually eliminated the sense that it ever shared any DNA with the Neon, ever. In my opinion, it was a crass cash grab intended to play the EPA’s CAFE criteria.
The Echo on the other hand, while still somewhat of penalty box itself, resides on the line closer towards “cheap and cheerful,” which these days, is primarily colonized by the Nissan Sentra. It simultaneously feels cheap and budget-oriented, but it still has a whisper of that Toyota magic at the convergence of quality and a bean counter’s wet dreams.
Easy win for the Echo…easy win for the Echo…..easy win for the Echo……easy win for the Echo……..
I’m with yoooo yooo yoo y…
You’d have to pay me to take the PT Cruiser, a friend had one and it was one of the least reliable, most annoying to work on cars I’ve ever encountered.
So I tried to break it down by region, rust belt vs. not. However, both are in Nevada, so not worried about rust. I’m sure the Echo will be more reliable but I feel the PT Cruiser would be more practical. So yeah, I went with that.
I went with the PT. IMO, the echo is just plan and ugly. At least you can put quirky in from of ugly with the PT
Not a big fan of the Neon station wagon, but it has lower miles and is in better cosmetic condition. Of course if may very well blow up 5 minutes after a buy it. The Echo may reverberate until the heat death of the universe, but is is not in the best shape cosmetically. How many vinylsaurus’ were killed to make those ghastly seat covers?
The last time I drove a PT Cruiser, I felt like I had to turn in my man card. 🙂
Granted for the price of a runner it is not bad, the Echo wins because it is drive it until it breaks money.
If I had to, the PT would be a choice, I would have a disguise on when driving it.
Nothing revokes a man card quicker in my eyes than being scared to touch things in case someone thinks you got the girl-cooties, that is little kid shit.
PT cruiser all the way. Incredible interior space, the interior has a pretty cool layout, decent if not underwhelming powertrain. They really blew it on the refreshed PT but when it came out, nothing matched its versatility, looks, and fans. I remember as a kid going to six flags great America for PT fest or something similarly named. If you had a PT you got in for free. What a wild time for people to be that hyped about a hatchback.
Normally, I’d pick the Toyo any day, but in this case I must dissent. The styling is positively horrid, much like the first Prius. The seats are trashed. It’s been sideswiped. And I refuse to drive any car that puts the gauges in a place that isn’t directly in front of the driver.
The PT, on the other hand, is not the best car to start with. But this one is in really good shape- Vegas, so no rust, very clean interior, and only 108k.
I’d flip if it was a Yaris, but an Echo? No dice.
Picking a PT Cruiser over a Toyota as basic transportation should trigger an immediate referral to a psychiatrist
If it were a decent toyota, sure, but the echo is literally a penalty box. Plus the PT is more useful for hauling mountain bikes and car parts.
“Picking a PT Cruiser over a Toyota as basic transportation should trigger an immediate referral to a psychiatrist”
I dunno. That Echo has not been treated well. 180,000 miles vs 108,000? 108hp vs 150? Those flacid seat covers versus a nice condition interior? I think I’m in the PT boat today. What does the Echo have besides a Toyota badge and a clean engine compartment? (Seriously, as a Midwesterner, these western car engine bays look amazing!)
It’s pronounced Etch-Oh 😉
I don’t hate the PT Cruiser as much as I used to. It still ugly, but in a functional way. The Echo is just…ugly. Granted, the Echo has “classic Toyota reliability” going for it, but the PT isn’t exactly know to be bad in that area either. I’m going with PT Cruiser.
Landed in the same place for the same reasons. Plus, the PT just looks more loved to me. That Echo looks like it was used as a bumper car.
I was thinking what you were thinking, then I saw that Toyota’s engine bay. How the *fuck* is it that clean?
The Echo, duh!
Toyota makes the best cars, and the Echo is no exception. People hate on these for NO reason at all! They look cool and have a reliable engine and transmission that will last a long long time with no problems, and they get great gas mileage.
The only bad thing to say about the Echo is that we didn’t get the hatchback version, though Canada did.
They look cool? Really?
Yeah! They look awesome 🙂
Here’s the problem with any of Toyota’s lowest offerings. They do the job. They are fairly reliable, but they aren’t the godsend everyone makes them out to be. The worst thing for any type of automotive enthusiast, is they are a driving appliance. They have no zip, pizazz, or any other type of reward for driving other than getting you to your destination.
The manual Echo is actually fun and peppy. The automatic a little less so, but still not bad.
The Echo is easily better than ANY of its competition at the time, and better than most small cars today/