The Toyota Matrix May Not Be Able To Dodge This Bullet

Illustration for article titled The Toyota Matrix May Not Be Able To Dodge This Bullet

A quick reminder in case you had forgotten: yes, Toyota still builds the Matrix. But maybe not for long.

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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.

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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.

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One question though: if they get rid of the Matrix, how are they going to make the Pontiac Vibe?

Oh, wait. Nevermind.

DISCUSSION

JidM
Jid M

I owned an '03 Matrix XR (the mid-range model), and my mom still owns an '04 Matrix XRS (the "high-end" model with the 2ZZ-FE engine out of the Celica GTS that you spoke about). I loved my car. I loved it. It fit me. It was dark blue, I lowered it, I put tint on it, I had the dash custom painted, and I even put a TRD front torsion bar on it (not the sway bar... I honestly can't remember the correct name for it at the moment).

But man did I get a lemon. MANUAL transmission: last 76,000 (no, I was not rough on my car, and I knew how to drive a stick before getting mine). Engine: got a refirb'd at 120,000. Replaced a CV Joint, 4 Clutches (they wore out stupidly fast, and again, not being pompous, but this was not user error), the exhaust manifold, my cat-converter, headers, gaskets... pretty much everything underneath the damn car. It really was a lemon.

My mom's though? The one with the 6-speed, more powerful engine that revs up to 9,000 (almost)? Still running great, and I drive it more than she does!

I drove the new one a few years ago as a rental car when my father and I took a trip up to Washington / Idaho / Montana. HATED it. I really hated it.

It's no wonder it's on it's death bed. I'm also sad to see it go, in a way, but at the same time I'm not.

Also, I now own a 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS. I love my car.