The Toyota Matrix “tall wagon” slips into 2005 with minimal changes: a new grille, remodelled front bumpers and clear taillights, dual-stage airbags, new fabrics, redesigned controls, sliding sun visors and two new exterior colours.

The line-up remains the same as 2004, with front- and four-wheel-drive models offered in base and XR trim lines, and the extra-horsepower, front-wheel-drive XRS.

The base models feature 16-inch steel wheels, CD with four speakers, front bucket seats, 60/40 split rear bench seat, tilt wheel, cargo cover, dual manual-remote mirrors, fixed intermittent front wipers and intermittent rear washer/wiper. Anti-lock brakes are standard on the base 4WD model.

The XR models add air conditioning, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, power mirrors, leather-wrapped wheel, illuminated entry, cruise control, map lights, a tire pressure monitoring system (on 4WD models only), 16-inch alloy wheels, and variable intermittent wipers.

The XRS model includes all of the XR features, plus four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, six-disc CD player with four speakers, 115-volt accessory outlet, 17-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps, skirt package, and power sunroof.

The Ontario-built, Corolla-based Matrix is a sister car to the California-built Pontiac Vibe. It’s incredibly versatile, offering loads of storage space and a configuration that makes it almost a small minivan. It rides and handles well, although its seating position isn’t always comfortable for taller drivers. The 170 hp XRS is a fun and muscular ride. Chrysler PT Cruiser’s newly-reduced $15,998 base price undercuts the base Matrix by $1,052; although the PT has more horsepower, its heavier curb weight results in performance that feels about the same, and the Toyota’s build quality is better.

The Matrix is built in Cambridge, Ontario.

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