A quick reminder in case you had forgotten: yes, Toyota still builds the Matrix. But maybe not for long.
The word on the street is that the Corolla-based five-door hatch may not be long for this world, according to Carbuzz (who wonderfully said "Toyota reportedly weighing whether to give its Corolla-based hatchback the blue pill or the red pill") and other sources. Autoguide says the car may soldier on in Canada.
It makes a lot of sense. A new Corolla is on the way, most likely a watered down version of the impressive-looking Toyota Furia concept, and Matrix sales have been lagging in recent years to the point where Toyota can no longer justify building a hatch version.
The thing is — and I may catch some hell for this — I like the Matrix. Actually, I liked the first-generation Matrix that debuted for the 2002 model year with the Pontiac Vibe, its sibling from the old NUMMI plant in California.
While it wasn't a performance car by any means, it was probably the best-looking car in Toyota's lineup at the time behind the last Celica, and the top models had the decent-for-its-day engine from the Celica GT-S. It even had a six-speed manual!
Also, the Matrix came out during that period in the early 2000s when SUVs were kind of at their peak. There wasn't much of a market for small hatches and wagons like we've seen in recent years. The only ones I can think of back then were the Mazda Protege and Subaru Impreza wagons, maybe a couple others. You had to applaud Toyota for trying something a little different. And the car is unique because while it was Toyota, it has one of the highest concentrations of American parts on the market.
But like the Matrix sequels, later versions of the car were largely disappointing. (See also Scion, except for the FR-S.) The current second-gen Matrix is a bland, anonymous, cheap plastic-filled hatch that barely makes for a better rental car experience than the standard Corolla. There are scores of superior small wagons and hatches on the market these days. Would anyone honestly buy this over a Mazda3? If you know someone who would say yes, tell them to seek therapy.
So while I can't say I'm sad to see the Matrix go, I am sad Toyota never helped it live up to its full potential.
One question though: if they get rid of the Matrix, how are they going to make the Pontiac Vibe?
Oh, wait. Nevermind.