History/Description: Toyota’s Canadian-built Matrix was built to answer the call of shoppers after fuel efficiency, safety, and the ability to adapt readily to any trip or task, and a generous space-to-price ratio, all wrapped up in a sporty-looking, easy-to-drive package. Offered in numerous configurations, with various option packages and backed by a wide range of lifestyle-specific accessories, Matrix can be tailored easily to any need or budget. Canadians caught onto this, and bought the flexible five-door model in large volumes.
Feature content included steering wheel audio controls, tilt steering, MP3 audio capability, and a full suite of safety systems. Leather-wrapped accents, Bluetooth, a sunroof, satellite radio and premium audio systems could all be specified, too. Newer models, from 2013 and on, got improved interiors and connectivity features as standard on all models. From 2011 and on, Toyota added their Star Safety System as standard on all models as well, fitting Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), an Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA) for more sure-footed handling and stopping.
Engines/Trim: Look for a 1.8L four-cylinder engine on most models with horsepower in the 130 range, and a 2.4L unit on selected models, with around 160. All-wheel drive was available on select models, and manual or automatic transmissions could be fitted, depending on the model in question.
2014 Toyota Matrix, 2009 Matrix XR, 2009 Matrix XRS. Click image to enlarge
What Owners Like: Owners typically rave about the on-board space, sporty looks, good fuel mileage, and overall blend of performance, efficiency and utility. The words “perfect size” come up fairly frequently, too. A lengthy list of standard safety systems and generous headroom appealed strongly to some shoppers, too.
What Owners Dislike: Common gripes include larger-than-expected blind-spots, fussy iPod integration, and not quite enough standard power output for hilly terrain, especially with the automatic.
Check out some owner reviews.
The Test Drive: The boss makes me fill a used car feature to about 1,000 words, which is a touch tricky when dealing with the Toyota Matrix, since it’s based on the Toyota Corolla, which is one of the most reliable used-car buys on the road.
So, I could start with a poem, or something.
Ahem. “There once was a man from Nantucket…”
2014 Toyota Matrix. Click image to enlarge
But seriously, Matrix looks solid, with mostly minor and easy-to-diagnose issues reported, though it’s still a car made of parts and components that will eventually break down and wear out, so a pre-purchase check up is still advised. Most of that check up can be done on your test-drive.
First up, some owners have reported faster-than-expected wear of consumable parts, like tires and brakes. Though wear of these parts is largely a function of driving habits and locale, shoppers are advised to ensure both are still in good condition ahead of their purchase, and that the seller isn’t trying to pass off a repair.
Other owners have reported issues with premature wear of CV Joint Boots, which keep nasty road stuff out of the Constant Velocity joint at the end of the front driveshaft. This issue might be more common on lowered models, but isn’t a huge deal to fix. Ask a mechanic to check the CV Joint Boots on the model you’re considering if you aren’t sure how.