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. 2008 marks the last year for the first-generation Matrix; a redesigned second generation will debut for 2009. The 2008 model is unchanged from the 2007 version.
High headroom and flexible seating positions are among the Matrix's notable attributes. Two trim levels are available: base and step-up XR. 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 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, 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. 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.