Designed as a youth attracter, the Toyota Matrix XR has done its job and then some. While Toyota was already popular among racing youths with its small engine cars, the Matrix XR has raised the ante.
The Matrix XR offers four-wheel drive, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, Keyless entry, cruise control, alloy wheels with locks, and a 1.8 L four-cylinder engine. Additional features are air filtration, cargo cover and wipers, and a maximized cargo area of 53 cubic feet.
The Matrix XR can seat four comfortably and five if a few of the passengers are willing to be slightly uncomfortable. To appeal to some of the older generation, the Matrix XR has room enough to haul an eight-foot object.
Reviews have been for the most part positive. Consumers have found the Matrix XR to have plenty of power, room and be quite economical in the gas mileage area. The style is bringing car and SUV fans to the Toyota dealerships in search of the Matrix XR.
The Toyota Matrix XRS is not all that different from the XR model. While the Matrix XRS features the same four-cylinder, 180 hp engine, it is only available in front-wheel drive. A 6-speed manual transmission, rear disc brakes, and front side airbags make the Matrix XRS a fully loaded machine. Like the XR model, it has widespread appeal to both young and old.
The Canadian-built Matrix is mechanically similar to the Pontiac Vibe, which has different styling and is made in California. Both are based on the revamped 2003 Toyota Corolla, which also has gone on sale. And both are aimed at the under-40 crowd that Toyota and Pontiac have been having a hard time attracting lately.
But that's not to say that the Matrix can't appeal to older, young-at-heart motorists, who should appreciate such things as its roomy interior, economical operation, easy entry and exit and generally fun-to-drive personality.
Base prices range from $14,670 to $19,330, which makes the Matrix affordable to many younger buyers. Such folks tend to want a sporty, versatile, affordable vehicle, and Toyota (and Pontiac) thus have hit the nail on the head with this one. It even looks easy to modify, which is another selling point to some young drivers.
The seating position is a little higher than normal because many potential Matrix buyers grew up in minivans and sport-utility vehicles, which have high seating.
The Matrix is a subcompact, but there's room for four tall adults in the interior, which lets in a fair amount of engine and road noise. There's also good storage space. The front passenger and split-folding rear seat fold utterly flat even with headrests in place for a large, although rather high, cargo area.
Even the glove compartment-seemingly an afterthought on many cars and light trucks-is large. A tailgate window pops up if you want to toss in items without opening the tailgate.
Front seats are supportive, but the racy looking dashboard has deeply set analog gauges with oddly placed markings. For example, the 80-mph mark is put where the 60 mph mark would be on a conventional speedometer. The tachometer has similar offbeat placement of markings, which are fine for the race track but annoying for the road.
Moreover, the gauges are almost impossible to read with polarized sunglasses, which "wash out" the markings.
Although best left to car buffs, the XRS streaks to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. But 4-wheel-drive isn't offered for this trim, so it has excessive torque steer (front tires jerk to the left or right) when accelerating hard from a standing start on wet roads.
The other engine is a 1.8-liter Corolla 4-cylinder that produces 123 horsepower in the 4-wheel drive Matrix and 130 horsepower in the front-drive trim. The higher-horsepower rating should be for the 4-wheel-drive version because that version is heavier.