The Toyota Vitz and Platz are the current models of a small subcompact car in Japan produced and marketed by Toyota Motor Corporation. Vitz is the name used there for 3- and 5-door hatchbacks, Platz for sedans and Funcargo for a small minivan. Elsewhere, the hatchback version is sold as the Yaris and the minivan as the Yaris Verso. In the United-States, the Yaris will be available starting in the Spring of 2006 (curently, a similar but different Scion car is sold). The sedan versions are sold as the Echo in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The sedan version will soon be replaced.
The Yaris went on sale in Europe early in 1999, and migrated to North America first in 2000 under the name of Echo and available only as sedan with 2 or 4 doors. However, after the design of the European Yaris hatchback was slightly refreshed in February 2003, its slightly modified version went on sale in Canada for the 2004 model year as the Echo Hatchback, but was not sold in the United States. The Yaris was voted European Car of the Year for 2000.
Instead of conventional instruments, the hatchback models Yaris and Echo utilize digital instruments which are mounted in the center of the dashboard. The US and Canadian Echo (and the Yaris T Sport) have a conventional speedometer but it is still mounted in the center of the dashboard.
The European Yaris was initially available with two gasoline-powered 4-cylinder 1.0 L and 1.3 L engines with Toyota's VVT-i technology, but after the 2003 facelift, a 1.4 L D4-D diesel engine offering 75bhp was included into the lineup. This diesel engine is also licensed to BMW for use in their MINI One D model, but was later replaced by PSA's 1.6 HDI engine, also seen in the Peugeot 407, Ford Focus and Volvo S40 .
The European Yaris T Sport (Vitz RS in Japan) version was introduced in 2001 and is powered by a 1.5 L engine, which also powers the North American Echo models and the Asian Vios models, as well as the Scion xA. The 1.5 litre T Sport is marketed as more fun to drive than the base models because of a sportier suspension and extra power compared to the 1.3 L model.
New to the Yaris range in 2000 was the Yaris Verso, a small minivan which used the same running gear as the conventional hatchback, but was designed to have an even more practical interior. In Japan, the model bears, to English ears, the unusual name of Funcargo.
The running gear is shared with the Toyota bB and Ist, sold in the United States as the Scion xA and xB, and with the Japan-only Toyota Will Vi. The same CP platform is the base for Probox and Succeed Japan-only wagons.
In Asia (excluding Hong Kong and Japan), the Vitz is sold as a sedan under the name Vios.
Toyota has recently released a second generation Vitz in Japan. (The Platz in Japan has yet to be updated, and will be renamed to Toyota Belta; Funcargo's second generation, renamed to Ractis, was presented 03-Oct-2005.) The European, Australian and New Zealand markets should see the second generation Yaris/Echo towards the end of 2005. In the Australian market the car is sold for the first time as "Yaris". The new generation Yaris was made available in Europe in December 2005,(Canada in October 2005, US in spring 2006) The 4 cylinder 1.0 VVT-i engine was replaced by the 3 cylinder engine which can also be found in the Toyota Aygo and Daihatsu Sirion. The 1.3 litre was revised to offer slightly more power, and the 1.4 D-4D got a 15bhp boost to 90bhp. The Yaris became the first car in it's sector to offer 9 airbags.
In the United States the Echo has been a rare flop for Toyota. The initial year of almost 50,000 sales was promising, but after the Echo sold just half that many in 2003, the product was no longer stocked at dealerships.
The Echo sold in very high volumes in Canada, where smaller cars are much more popular than in the USA. Sales were so high that Toyota introduced the 3 and 5-door hatchback models to the Canadian Toyota lineup for the 2004 model year. They are sold as the Echo Hatchback and visually almost identical to the European Yaris, but with a larger bumper to meet Canadian safety standards.
2000 - 48,876
2001 - 42,464
2002 - 30,859
2003 - 26,167
2004 - 3,593 (until November)
Taken from http://www.toyota-yaris.org/history/