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Review 2003 Toyota Matrix

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2003 Toyota Matrix XRS

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide

Matrix Redux & Do & Do

by Marc J. Rauch, Exec. Vice President & Co-Publisher

Although they’ve had a bountiful harvest in the higher priced car market with their Lexus line and Avalon and Camry vehicles, Toyota has not let any grass grow under its feet, er… wheels in the lower priced category, either. The corporation has launched an entirely new division called SCION, and there’s the Toyota-badged Matrix.

Based on the Corolla platform (a car that I have had a lot of personal respect for), the Matrix has a radically different look to it. Described as an SPUV, Street Performance Utility Vehicle, it’s a combination car, wagon, minivan, and SUV, and will certainly be a hit. Why? Well because it’s priced right, it drives great (like virtually all Toyotas), and because of its kinship with the Corolla, it will probably be just as reliable. Toyota sort of hit all the right buttons with the Matrix. It is zippy and sporty, and yet it has a SUV-like command position that provides good road visibility for the driver and passengers.

That’s not to say that everyone will like the Matrix’ design, but my guess is that enough of the market will, especially younger buyers. And when you take into account Toyota’s impressive dealer distribution throughout the country, they’ll probably easily sell out their entire allotment. Interestingly, Toyota teamed with GM to develop the Matrix, and the Pontiac Vibe is very similar. In fact, Vibe and Matrix have identical interiors. The rear seat is split 60/40 and folds down easily to provide a completely flat floor. A hard ribbed plastic covering provides a rugged surface. It comes with four slots with movable hooks that make securing “stuff” easy. There are also several other tie-downs positioned along the sides. Storage compartments and cargo nets offer additional utility. All of this makes the interior as versatile as any station wagon and better than most SUVs. Moreover, the front passenger seat folds down to provide another flat surface for storage.

Matrix is available in three trim packages: standard, XR and XRS. And there are two engines available. The base and XR models will be powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 130 horsepower with two-wheel drive, and 123 horsepower with four-wheel drive. The XRS comes with a 180-horsepower version of the same 1.8-liter engine. The base Matrix comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission and plenty of features, such as air conditioning and an AM/FM radio with CD player. The base retail price is $14,670. XR starts at $16,180 with a manual transmission, and includes power door locks, power windows, remote key fob, and rear window wiper

Automatic transmission and four-wheel drive are available on the base and XR models only. Automatic transmission costs an additional $800, while 4WD adds another $1,465 to the bottom line.

The XRS is a high-performance model. It starts at $18,750 and is only available with front-drive and a six-speed manual transmission. The XRS includes the same features as the XR plus 16-inch alloy wheels and anti-lock brakes.