The Toyota Belta sedan, which replaced the Toyota Platz, shares underpinnings with the Vitz. However, while the Vitz was designed at Toyota's European design studios, the Belta was designed at Toyota's Japanese design studios – two completely different design projects for similar cars marketed toward different demographics. While the outgoing Vitz and Platz models look and feel virtually alike (the only things the cars don't share is the front clip, lights, rear doors, and bodies from behind the B-pillar), the new Vitz and Belta are much more subtly related. Sharing a similar but different dashboard, they do not employ the same components. The cars share only a frame and the drivetrain options. The sheet metal is completely different.
The Toyota Yaris went on sale in Europe early in 1999. After the launch of the European Yaris hatchback in February 1999, a slightly modified version went on sale in Canada for the 2004 model year as the Echo hatchback, but not in the United States, where the Toyota Echo sedan and coupe were the lone models. The Toyota Yaris was voted European Car of the Year in 2000, defeating the innovative Fiat Multipla by a narrow margin.
Instead of conventional instruments, the Yaris and Echo hatchbacks utilized digital instruments which were mounted in a "pod" in the center of the dashboard. The Canadian Echo hatchback (and the Yaris T Sport) had a conventional speedometer but it was still mounted in the center of the dashboard.
The European Yaris was initially available with petrol-powered 4-cylinder 1.0L or 1.3L engines with Toyota's VVT-i technology, with the warm hatch 1.5L T Sport following in 2001. After the 2003 facelift, a 1.4L D4-D diesel engine offering 75hp (56kW) was also included in the lineup. This diesel engine is also licensed to BMW for use in their MINI One D model. The use of sophisticated engine management systems was said to give the equivalent of 1.4 litre performance from a 1.0 litre engine while maintaining low fuel consumption and emissions.