Toyota introduced its youth-focused Matrix as an early 2003 model. Described as a crossover utility vehicle, the Matrix was said to combine the functionality of a sport utility vehicle with the image and performance of a sports car. That's no longer the case, as the 2007 model year sees the end of its high-performance XRS variant and optional all-wheel-drive system. Pontiac markets a related Vibe model.
High headroom and flexible seating positions are among the Matrix's remaining notable attributes. Two trim levels are available: base and step-up XR. A special-edition M-Theory package attempts to restore some of the XRS' luster with upgraded wheels, paint and brakes — though it's more show than go, as Toyota's high-performance 1.8-liter inline-four is gone from the picture. Toyota will limit M-Theory production to 2,500 units.
An electronic stability system and six-CD stereo are among the notable options.
The Matrix hatchback is built on a platform similar to the one used for Toyota's popular Corolla sedan. Measuring 171.3 inches long overall, the Matrix has a 102.4-inch wheelbase and stands 61.6 inches tall. Base wheels measure 16 inches in diameter. The M-Theory edition adds 17-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel-disc brakes, a rear spoiler and a strut tower brace under the hood for reduced body roll.
The Matrix seats up to five people. With the rear seats folded, cargo capacity measures 53.2 cubic feet. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, intermittent wipers, a CD player and a tilt steering wheel. The XR adds remote keyless entry, a sport steering wheel, driver's seat height adjustment, and power windows, locks and mirrors.
Under the Hood
The 1.8-liter four-cylinder produces 126 horsepower. Either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission can be installed.
Side-impact and side curtain airbags are optional. Optional antilock brakes are disc/drum on base and XR models, and all-disc with the M-Theory. An electronic stability system is also optional.
The Matrix is stylish, well-built and nicely designed, but it's somewhat noisy. It's quiet enough when cruising, but the engine may growl and whine during acceleration. Road noise is also noticeable. The engine teamed with the automatic transmission doesn't have much oomph, either. Automatic-transmission gear changes are noticeable but not bothersome.
Stability is good, and it's easy to keep the Matrix on course. It steers with more precision and less wheel vibration than the Corolla, but still falls short of stimulating.