2003 Toyota Matrix 4WD (412)


This week I drove the 2003 Toyota Matrix 4WD mid size “Crossover” vehicle. This is the natural evolution created by consumer demands in the cars they have been choosing for one hundred years. In other countries where gas is $4 a gallon small economical cars were an obvious necessity. Here in the US where gas has always been subsidized, we’ve been spoiled and large gas-guzzlers were relatively affordable, especially with our love affair for the motorcar.

Most recently, say in the past 20 years, consumers have been buying smaller, more economical cars, mini-vans and the love of SUV’s, in spite of their terrible gas numbers, have driven manufacturers to meld them all together. The result in the 21st Century is the joint venture between Japan and the U.S. to develop this Toyota Matrix (built in Canada) and its sister car the Pontiac Vibe (built in California).

Remember when the Pontiac Aztek came out? It was considered ugly, but no one could deny it was a very new and different design, and the first of the Crossover versatile vehicles to be built. In the past couple of years the Chevrolet Avalanche and the Cadillac Escalade have provided SUV/Pickup crossovers.

Some consider them ugly, but I chose to think of these new designs as being futuristic. The Cadillac CTS is a luxury passenger car example of new space age styling that I believe will become more popular as the next generation begin to buy cars.  All you need to do is look at the toys our children have been playing with and the television they’ve been watching.

 Cad CTS.

Handling & Performance:

This mid size economy car leaves a little to be desired in the performance area because it is a bit underpowered for my taste. But all things considered this is, after all, a combination SUV, Mini-Van, Wagon and passenger car. It does so much so well. It corners better than the typical SUV with a lower center of gravity and even though it is an all wheel drive car, it doesn’t burn near as much gas as the average SUV. On the whole it is a fun car to drive.


Forward thinking design that is becoming more popular every day.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.


Great value for this versatile vehicle.

Consumer Recommendation:

Can we talk? as Joan Rivers would say. This is a great young family car. It is economical, easier to get in and out of for little ones and old as well. It also has that sought after qualities of an SUV. You’ve simply got to drive one of these well priced nice looking family vehicles. While you’re test-driving the Matrix, go over to Pontiac to drive the Vibe. Slight styling difference but essentially the same car.

The Competition: * (in order of ranking)
(1) Mazda Protégé 5 $16,000, (2) Toyota Matrix $14,670, (3) Ford Focus $17,000, (4) Volkswagen Jetta Wagon $18-27,000, (5) Chrysler PT Cruiser $17-26,000, (6) Subaru Impreza Wagon $17-23,000.

* – Ranking is based on a formula using cost, cu ft, number of features, warranty and gas mileage.

Good News:

New, different, great utility and versatility while being economical.

Bad News:

Small but with space for 4 tall adults it is more thin skinned which gives rise to higher levels of road noise, marginally low power.

Standard Equipment:

1.8 liter 130 hp 4-cylinder engine, 4-speed auto transmission, full time 4-wheel drive, power steering, power front disc ABS brakes, dual airbags, child safety rear locks, halogen headlights, daytime running lights, rear intermittent wiper, air conditioning, outside temp gauge, tachometer, leather wrapped tilt steering wheel, power windows and door locks, flat folding front passenger and 60/40 split folding rear seat, AM/FM radio with CD player, 2-12 volt and 1- 115volt outlets.

Gas Stats:

26 City and 31 Highway MPG.


MSRP $18,445.
Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2002 – An Automotive Love Affair

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