2007 Toyota Matrix
2007 Toyota Matrix. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Bob McHugh

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The Toyota Matrix is one of those tall-bodied vehicles that doesn’t conveniently fit into a conventional auto category. You might call it a small wagon, a hatchback or even cross-utility-vehicle. Despite its unconventional shape, the Matrix has been a huge sales success since its introduction in 2003, and it has earned an enviable track record for reliability and excellent resale value retention.

Based on the Toyota Corolla, the Matrix is built at a Toyota plant in Cambridge, Ontario. It also has much in common with the Pontiac Vibe, which is built at another Toyota plant in California.
The ’07 Matrix comes only in two front-drive versions, base and XR trim levels. Gone are the sporty XRS and all-wheel-drive versions. Why, you ask? Well, this is probably the final year of this generation of Matrix, assuming Toyota sticks with its usual four-year product cycle.

The base Matrix is pretty basic, but does come with a CD player, a tilt steering wheel, a rear wiper/washer and a flip-open rear hatch glass. A move up to XR adds power windows and locks, keyless entry and cruise control.

In Canada, a “TRD Special Edition” package is also available. This adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a 200-watt audio system, fog lamps, a rear spoiler and more.

My test Matrix was a base version that came with an automatic transmission ($1,000) and the optional ‘B’ package ($2,750). This package added 16-inch alloy wheels, power locks and air conditioning.

It’s been a while since I last test drove a vehicle with manually-adjustable outside mirrors and crank handles to wind the windows up and down. The trend now is to incorporate more power features as standard, even on lower-priced economy cars than the Matrix.

2007 Toyota Matrix
2007 Toyota Matrix. Click image to enlarge

Compared to a Corolla, the Matrix is taller by 8 cm (3-in.) and shorter in length. It has the same wheelbase but its track is a little wider. The two vehicles look so different that most people are surprised to learn they actually share the same chassis.

The Matrix looks good, but its speeding-bullet like side profile is a little deceptive. Although the roof does sloop-down at the back, a rising belt-line and progressively shorter glass to the rear enhances the tapered body illusion.

An SUV-like feature is the frameless flip-open window in the rear liftgate. This is very handy for quick access to the cargo area, and it can be opened remotely with the key fob.


Interior impressions

Inside, it’s a straightforward and utility-focused interior with a dash that’s beginning to look a little dated. The fake brushed-aluminum trim looks, well, fake – and the sporty pod-style instrument panel is out of character with the rest of the vehicle.

2007 Toyota Matrix
2007 Toyota Matrix
2007 Toyota Matrix. Click image to enlarge

Although not as high as an SUV, the raised, upright seating gives a better view of the road ahead and all around. That said, I can’t say that I was completely satisfied with the driving position and a low-slung steering wheel that only had a tilt adjustment. A large left-foot dead pedal was appreciated.

The rear seat is split 60/40 and it folds down to provide a flat cargo floor that’s finished in a durable plastic for easy cleaning. The front passenger seat also folds down flat to provide another flat surface and room for longer items. Rail slots in the cargo floor have movable hooks and there are additional tie-downs along the sides.

Although the Matrix has tested well in frontal crash tests, side impacts results could be better. It doesn’t come with side curtain air bags or seat mounted side air bags and they are not offered as an option. An anti-lock brake system, however, is an option on the XR trim.

For child seats, the rear seat top tether anchors (located on the cargo floor) are a little hard to reach. And the centre rear seat does not have UAS anchors for a child seat.


Driving impressions

Although the styling promises more than the Matrix can actually deliver in terms of power, it’s still a peppy and reasonably fun vehicle to drive. The 1.8-litre engine is responsive and highly fuel efficient.

2007 Toyota Matrix
2007 Toyota Matrix. Click image to enlarge

In addition to the upright seating position Matrix also has a high-mounted shift lever in a centre stack that’s part of the dash. My tester came with the optional four-speed automatic. Although smooth and reliable, I’d put money on a five-speed automatic replacement in the next generation Matrix.

Around town, the Matrix is fine, but at highway speeds you have to pick your passing opportunities with care, especially if you’ve got some passengers on board or if it’s on a grade. Although tall it’s also a fairly light vehicle, so handling can be influenced by strong side winds.

The steering has a precise feel and it cornered with less body lean than I expected. In fact, it felt remarkably stable on the road, considering its high centre of gravity design.


Verdict

Do you buy now or wait for the next generation Toyota Matrix which will probably have more power, better safety features and a more modern interior – and cost more! Thankfully it doesn’t matter; this is the can’t-go-wrong auto purchase.


Pricing: 2007 Toyota Matrix


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications


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  • Test Drive: 2005 Toyota Matrix XR


Competitors

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Dodge Caliber
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Chevrolet HHR
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Jeep Compass
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Kia Spectra
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Mazda3
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Pontiac Vibe


Crash test results


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