2003 Toyota Matrix XR 2wd 1.8 VVT-i (1zz-fe)
Does everything you might want
The small container located below the gearshift lever popped open randomly (a common problem, see the forum at www.matrixowners.com). I fixed it with a little piece of foam and some tape.
This great looking little car does everything right and then some more.
Handling is very good for a car this tall. Under serious lateral acceleration it rolls a bit, but it always feels safe, never "on the edge".
Low-end acceleration is good, although not impressive; there's a band between 40 and 90 km/h where it feels really agile, and above 120km/h it feels "just barely right". Then again, I care about petrol consumption, so I don't usually go over that.
The transmission does a very good job of keeping the engine almost perpetually under 3000 RPM (good for economy, I get 11km/liter over a week of city driving in some of the most crowded streets on earth), and cruising at a freeway speed of 110 km/h is achieved at a very relaxed 2400 RPM in overdrive. If you disable the overdrive, the engine immediately revs up and you have no trouble accelerating to overtake nearly anyone.
Where this little car really shines is unpaved roads: even the forward-drive version is very capable. I don't mean to say this is an off-roader, just that it handles really well in dirt/mud roads, either uphill or (especially) downhill.
Comfort and Space:
Absolutely huge. It's the only sub-minivan vehicle I've seen where I can comfortably sit behind someone my size. I'm not too tall, just 1.76 m, yet in most cars I cannot sit in the back seat with my legs stretched. Four adults and a child will ride with room to spare. However, if you put three adults in the back seat, they'll be rubbing shoulders with each other. Cargo space is very good, but when you fold down the seats you can carry matrimonial mattresses without a problem, and with absolutely no obstructions to your rearward view. The rear window itself could be a bit deeper, though.
The brakes. Oh, the brakes! Don't be fooled by the rear drums, they're really good: strong and reliable, with a very nice, progressive feel.
The car's interior flexibility is commendable.
Sound system is great. Some people complain that the controls are somewhat complicated, but I find them logical.
Its looks are stunning.
The driver's seating position is very, very difficult to adjust: it took me a full two months to find a comfortable driving position, and then again, I think I might have adjusted to it rather than adjusting it. Maybe it's my proportions, but it seems that if the seat and seat back are forward enough for me to reach the steering wheel, either my shoulders or shin muscles tire out. I think this could be solved by making the bottom cushion a little bit longer and adding a telescoping steering column (which the Matrix sorely lacks).
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 17th April, 2004
21st Nov 2005, 23:17
I'm the original writer of this review, and after almost two years and 35000km more, there are a few things I think I should add.
-Toyota service in Mexico is absolutely fantastic. I had an emergency one day while my Matrix was in service, and when I told them, they sped up, had the car ready in less than a half hour and let me drive it out without any paperwork. While in strict legal terms that was wrong, it shows that as a company, they're genuinely convinced that their mission is looking after you. I'll be eternally thankful to them; they saved my family from a very dangerous situation. Being nice to service reps and mechanics pays!
-Toyota reputation for reliability is well deserved, as the Matrix is basically indestructible. It absorbs an enormous amount of punishment without a hitch: adulterated gas, 20cm deep potholes at 60km/h twice every single day, air conditioning perpetually turned on, completely soaking everything in the engine compartment in sewage while running (happened twice already, this is Mexico you know), huge rocks hitting the underside, etc., etc. Not a single problem.
-Tires: Factory Bridgestone Turanzas are great, and take serious abuse just as well.
-Structurally unimpressive. That is, after two years of continuous use, chassis deformation is starting to show. Not only in the form of gaps and squeaks, but in the driving sensations too (tail slides out a very tiny bit when pushed). Not noticeable for most folks, but not good from an aeronautical engineer's point of view.
-Uninspiring. It may look pretty, and it certainly sounds very pretty too, but if you're looking for an exciting vehicle this is definitely not the car to buy. That's probably Toyota's only problem: satisfying, but forgettable.
I like my Matrix, and I am extremely satisfied with the whole ownership experience. However, unless Toyota comes up with more exciting vehicles by the time I trade it, I'll probably be buying a similarly practical yet more exciting car from another Japanese automaker. Read: Suzuki Swift Sport, or Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.