2004 Matrix New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Matrix is part car, part wagon, part minivan, part SUV. Toyota even calls it a CUV for compact utility vehicle. We're not sure whether the acronym will catch on, but the Matrix appears to have caught on. Matrix was introduced in 2002 as a 2003 model, and Toyota sold nearly 30,000 of the compact wagons in the first half of the 2003 calendar year. Matrix is based on the Toyota Corolla and is built in California at a plant jointly owned with General Motors.
Matrix is targeted at younger buyers who want a vehicle with a sporty image and high functionality. Toyota claims the Matrix combines the style and performance of a sports car with the functionality of an SUV and the affordability of a compact sedan. It does, indeed, accomplish all of those objectives, if not to the degree that sports cars, SUVs, and compact sedans accomplish their respective missions.
We found the Matrix offers peppy acceleration, particularly around town. It corners nicely yet offers a smooth, comfortable ride. Matrix is practical, with a big cargo area that can be expanded by folding down the rear seats. And it's certainly stylish.
While the high-performance XRS model has drawn some attention with its high-revving 180-horsepower engine, we preferred the 130-horsepower models for their more relaxed, more pleasant demeanor.
Toyota Matrix is available in three trim lines: the standard Matrix, XR, and XRS. Two engines are available. Front-wheel-drive (2WD) and all-wheel-drive (4WD) versions are available.
Matrix and Matrix XR are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 130 horsepower with two-wheel drive and 123 horsepower with four-wheel drive.
The base Matrix ($14,670) comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission and plenty of features, including air conditioning and an AM/FM radio with CD player. (Destination fee of $485 is not included in these manufacturer's suggested retail prices.) A Power Package ($480) adds power windows, power door locks, and remote keyless entry.
Side-impact airbags ($250) and anti-lock brakes with elecronic brake-force distribution ($300) are optional, but we recommend them highly for their ability to save lives.
Matrix XR ($16,180) adds ABS with EBD, power door locks, power windows, and the remote key fob as well as a rear window wiper. A wider range of optional equipment is available for the XR as well. Extra Value Package 1 ($270) includes cruise control, fog lamps, and front and rear spoilers. To this, Extra Value Package 2 ($880) adds 16-inch alloy wheels and power moonroof.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard on Matrix and Matrix XR. An automatic transmission and four-wheel drive are options, but only for the base and XR models. (Automatic transmission adds $800, while 4WD adds another $1,465 to the retail price.)
Matrix XRS ($18,750) is a high-performance model powered by a 180-hp version of the 1.8-liter engine. XRS is available only with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission. It comes with 16-inch alloy wheels and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution. XRS gets four-wheel disc brakes, preferable to the rear drum brakes found on the other models.