2003 Toyota Matrix XRS
2003 Toyota Matrix XRS
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by Harry Pegg

Montreal, Quebec – Toyota is making a play for a younger audience with a new vehicle they call a crossover utility vehicle (CUV). The Matrix, built on the new Corolla platform, is sort of a car, sort of sport ute, sort of a station wagon. And sorta fun.

Call it what you will, it actually it marks the return of the station Wagon, with a few new tricks, to the Toyota lineup. Styling of the new ‘5-door’ should have an appeal for younger buyers, but it’s too bad the people who chose the colours didn’t have the courage of the engineers and designers. White, red, black, blue, silver…not exactly the snappy palate you’d expect to see with a snappy new vehicle looking for a young audience.

2003 Toyota Matrix 2WD
2003 Toyota Matrix 2WD
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That aside, there seems to be a Matrix for every taste and wallet, ranging from a pretty well-equipped FWD base vehicle at $16,645 to the top-of-the-line XRS at $24,540. In between are Matrix 4WD and the XR, which is available in either 4WD or FWD.

Toyota Canada’s vice-president of vehicle sales and marketing, Tony Wearing, says Matrix “isn’t competing in an existing category, it’s starting a brand new one.” The exterior has a strong appearance which runs from a low hood through to a high tail with two-piece rear hatch. The design has a Euro-feel thanks to 16 inch wheels which fill the wheel wells and a rear-mounted roof antenna (which could get in the way if you’re putting stuff on the available roof rack system).

There’s a choice of two four-cylinder engines which provide power to either a front-wheel drive system, or Toyota’s V-Flex 4WD setup. Matrix and Matrix XR models use the same engine as the 2003 Corolla with front wheel models offering either five-speed manual or four-speed automatic shifting with uphill and downhill shift logic. The 4WD models come only with automatic.

2003 Toyota Matrix  4WD
2003 Toyota Matrix 4WD
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In the front wheel drive version the 1.8 litre engine with variable valve timing turns out 130 horsepower and 125 lb. ft. of torque. The output drops to 123 horsepower on 4WD models due to complex exhaust routing and weight of the 4WD system.

For the performance oriented XRS, which comes only in front-wheel-drive, power is from a 1.8 litre DOHC four cylinder with variable valve timing and lift which opens up some terrific response above 6,000 rpm up to the 8,400 rpm redline. Standard shifting is through a 6-speed manual transmission with four-speed automatic on the option list. The 6-speed is in a slightly off-centre position and takes a little getting used to, but it moves through the gears easily.

The test route for the vehicles ran from Montreal to Mont Tremblant and back with a stop at the PMG performance testing facility at Blainville. Weather was perfect. We ran into clear skies and bare roads which turned into sloppy salt-treated surfaces with icy patches as we ran north. When we left Mont Tremblant the next day, snow was falling, at times heavily, and the highway was snow covered and slippery. The conditions didn’t present any problems to the Matrix, either FWD or 4WD.

2003 Toyota Matrix XRS
2003 Toyota Matrix XRS
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Handling is linear and quick and the vehicle isn’t afraid of hard going as we found out in handling and collision avoidance exercises at the PMG facility which gave us surfaces varying from merely wet to four inches of snow over ice. The 4WD system shows a lot of confidence on snow-covered ice, tracking though the pylons much more tightly than the line necessary to keep the front wheel drive Matrix on course. On the road, Matrix doesn’t allow much road or wind noise to become evident and crosswinds don’t have much effect on directional stability.

Brakes in Matrix and XR are front disc rear drums while XRS gets four-wheel discs with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. All 4WD models have standard ABS.

2003 Toyota Matrix XRS
2003 Toyota Matrix XRS
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Matrix interiors, even in the base model, are terrific. You might have to roll your own windows or adjust mirrors by hand, but you get a CD stereo system, full gauges (including outside temperature reading), split folding rear seats, and rear cargo cover, just to name a few. The front passenger seat folds flat and its hard back comes into play as a work table. To keep cargo from shifting around, eight steel tie-down rings are bolted directly to the body shell with more hooks on the load floor. A sliding track system is integrated into the cargo floor for greater utility.


Toyota Matrix, At A Glance

MSRP range $16,645 – $24,110
Body 4-door wagon CUV
Configuration Front engine, front drive, 4WD
Engine 1.8-L 4-cyl with VVT-i
  1.8-L 4 cyl with VFTL-i(XRS)
Horsepower 130 at 6000 rpm (front wheel drive)
  123 at 6000 rpm (four-wheel drive)
  180 at 7600 rpm (XRS)
Torque (lb. ft.) 125 at 4200 rpm
  120 at 6800 rpm (XRS)
Transmission 5-speed manual/ 4-speed automatic/ 6-speed manual (XRS
Curb weight 1211 – 1290 kg
Wheelbase (in/mm) 102.4 / 2600
Length (in/mm) 171.3 / 4350
Width (in/mm) 69.9 / 1775
Height (in/mm) 60.6 / 1540 (Matrix and XR) 61.0 / 1550 (XRS)
Ground clearance (in/mm) 5.9/150.5 (Matrix and XR); 6.2/157.6 (XRS)
Brakes front disc, rear drum (Matrix and XR)
  4-wheel disc with ABS (XRS)
Fuel consumption (city/highway) 7.7/6.0 l/100 km (Matrix/ RS manual)
  8.3/6.5 l/100 km (Matrix/ RS automatic)
  9.3/7.1 l/100 km (XRS manual)
  9.1/7.2 l/100 km (XRS automatic)


Standard equipment


2003 Toyota Matrix 2WD
2003 Toyota Matrix 2WD

2003 Toyota Matrix 4WD
2003 Toyota Matrix 4WD

2003 Toyota Matrix XRS
2003 Toyota Matrix XRS
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Matrix FWD: 1.8 litre four-cylinder 16-valve engine with VVT-i, 5-speed manual transmission, power assisted front disc, rear drum brakes, dual front airbags, power assisted rack and pinion steering, 16-inch steel wheels, anchor points for child restraint seats, front bucket seats with recline adjustment and headrest vertical adjustment, 60/40 split folding rear bench seats, full instrumentation including outside temperature reading, fabric door trim, dual vanity mirrors, metallic dash accents, 3-spoke tilt steering wheel, tonneau cover, cargo lamp, accessory power outlets, door map pockets, cargo area tied-down rings, rear shopping bag hooks, cargo area side storage compartments, under-floor cargo area storage compartments, flip-up rear hatch glass, electric rear window defroster, dual exterior manual remote control mirrors, intermittent windshield wipers, rear window wiper/washer, reflector style halogen headlamps, four-speaker AM/FM stereo with CD player and roof antenna.

Matrix XR adds: air conditioning, cushion height adjustment for driver seat, leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob (with automatic transmission), cruise control, power mirrors, power windows, power locks variable intermittent wipers, keyless entry, 16-inch alloy wheels, map lights, coloured bumpers, door handles, side skirts and splash guards.

Matrix XR 4WD adds: four-speed automatic transmission, V-Flex 4WD, power assisted front disc/rear drum brakes with ABS, power locks.

Matrix XRS adds: 1.8-L DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine with VVTL-i, 6-speed manual transmission, four wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution, 6-speaker audio system with CD and cassette, leather wrapped shift knob, anti-theft system, fog lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels and full skirt package.

Matrix FWD option packages will add 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning with clean air filter, power locks, keyless entry and illuminated entry.

Matrix 4WD option packages will add 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning with clean air filter, cruise control, coloured mirrors, power remote mirrors, and keyless entry.

More info can be found at Toyota Canada’s consumer web-site, www.toyota.ca.

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