2003 Toyota Matrix Base 1.8 130hp from North America


Reliable, but cheap car


Two window runners deformed - replaced under warranty.

Drive belts squeaking during winter - warranty.

Radio stopped working - warranty.

General Comments:

Handling - The handling score I'll give this car is average. Obviously, Toyota put little engineering effort to make this car sporty. The tail tends to roll a lot during cornering. The handling works, but by no means very enjoyable. On the plus side, the front-rear balance feels pretty good.

Seats quality are pretty low end. The rear seats get deformed from repeated laying flat and carrying stuffs in the trunk. The rear seatbelts latch fell through the gap in the seats and never see the light of day since.

Rear trunk is covered in plastic. No other cars have this "cheapness" as far as I know. All hatch backs have cloth covering. Plastic cleans easily, but no help if it scratches up quickly.

Sound proofing is also quite bad, noisy when driving on the freeway. The engine is well-admitted as more noisy than the rest.

I test drove the Corolla, and my opinion is Corolla is overall better made than Matrix.

Reliability is great.

Amongst all these complaints, I am satisfied because I paid 13.5k for base, 5spd, power. I will feel bad for those who paid upper of 15k for this car.

I may consider buying used Mazda3 next. If their reliability holds up.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 27th October, 2005

19th Aug 2006, 16:55

I test drove the Matrix and was not at all impressed. Very cheaply built, no power and grossly overpriced. There are a lot better values out there. The Chevy HHR is a much better vehicle at several grand less, as is the new Dodge Caliber.

11th Oct 2006, 10:36

Yes, but those are newer models still with an unproven record. Arguably, Dodge and Chevy have not shared the same reliability record as Toyota.

I've had my 2006 Matrix for six months now. It replaced my "money pit" 1999 Ford Escort. I wanted something brand new and not too expensive. It had to be high tech looking, somewhat sporty, reliable and good on gas. My silver Matrix FWD 5 speed base model with air conditiong and 16" aluminum wheels fits the bill just fine. Feels and looks much more upscale and comfortable than my mother's 2003 Corolla which cost only marginally less.

No car is perfect. My Matrix has a few small quirks, like the location of the shifter attached to the dash (in the way of my knee if I wish to stretch legs outwards), a drivers seat that creaks sometimes and small compartment door in the dash below the radio that doesn't quite open all the way, but nothing to make me wish I hadn't got this car.

11th Oct 2006, 17:31

To 16:55. You think that the Matrix is cheaply built and that an HHR is a better vehicle? WHAT!? When I see an HHR on the road, after I quit laughing, I get as far away from it as I can, because I know that the person behind the wheel does not have good judgement about too many things.

2003 Toyota Matrix XR 2wd 1.8 VVT-i (1zz-fe) from Mexico


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.

General Comments:

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.