Toyota Matrix 2003 - 2008 review

Overall rating:5 Star Rating: Recommended
Updated: August 12, 2013
Toyota Matrix
2005 Toyota Matrix.   Photo: Toyota

If you are looking for a reliable, fuel efficient used car with good cargo space and comfortable ride, Toyota Matrix is probably your best bet. It's also a good choice for tall drivers, as it offers plenty of headroom in the front and back.
Toyota Matrix is a tall compact wagon based on the popular Toyota Corolla. The interior is practical, but materials are modest. The high driving position makes for great visibility. Rear seats fold down flat, offering 53.2 cu. ft. of cargo space covered with a durable plastic with built-in attachments for tie-downs. The front passenger seat back flips forward, if you want to haul long items. The rear hatch window opens separately for easy access. A 115V power outlet is among available options.

Toyota Matrix
Toyota Matrix interior
Toyota Matrix
Toyota Matrix 2005.   Photo: Toyota Canada

Mechanical: The 2003-2008 Matrix comes with front- or all-wheel drive, manual or automatic transmission. The base 1.8-liter 4-cylinder 1ZZ-FE DOHC engine is the same as in the Corolla. This engine uses a maintenance-free timing chain; there is no timing belt. The sporty Matrix XRS has a 180-hp 1.8L 2ZZ-GE motor borrowed from Toyota Celica mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Both engines are very reliable and inexpensive to maintain. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are optional (standard on XRS).

Fuel Economy: The 2008 1.8L Toyota Matrix is rated at 25/31 mpg or 9.4/7.6 liters per hundred kilometers city/highway. This means you can travel up to 321 miles (516 km) on one 13.2-gallon (50-liter) tank of gas.

Handling and ride: Toyota Matrix offers sharper handling and firmer ride than the Corolla. The base 1.8L engine is not very quick, but works fine in day to day driving.

Safety: In the NHTSA frontal crash tests, the 2003-2004 Toyota Matrix received five stars for both the driver and the front passenger. The 2005-2008 models scored five stars for the driver and four stars for the front passenger in the same tests.

Pros: Practical, reliable, holds value well, good on gas, easy to maintain, flat cargo space with attachments for tie-downs, liftgate glass opens separately.

Cons: Interior materials, outdated interior styling, sensitive to crosswinds, engine noise on acceleration, not the best car in the snow.

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Overall: If you are looking for a fuel-efficient practical car with good cargo space, you can't go wrong with the Matrix. If you find a used well-maintained Toyota Matrix in good condition, it can easily last you for a few more years without major issues. Pontiac Vibe is a mechanical twin of Toyota Matrix and can be also considered. Honda Fit, although it's smaller is another good choice for a fuel-efficient car with decent cargo space. The Fit is also reliable, but it rides firmly and is not very quiet. Read about Toyota Matrix common problems and maintenance on the next page.