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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Toyota Matrix Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Toyota Matrix Overview

Toyota Regains Its Hip-Car Image

The new Matrix is supposed to appeal to young, hip car buyers. It's designed for a generation whose active lifestyle requires the room and comfort of an SUV, but not the thirsty engine and clumsy handling that comes along with it. The Matrix is part station wagon, part sport coupe and part economy car. As such, it has a broad appeal that reaches well beyond hip young Americans. During our test drive, we were questioned by everyone from young surfers to middle-aged businessmen to well-to-do retirees; all of them loved the look, versatility and price of the new Matrix.

The Matrix is built from the new Corolla platform. It borrows the engine and drivetrain from the Celica GT and GTS and includes both front and four-wheel-drive platforms. The Matrix also shares much of its design work with the Pontiac Vibe, as the two are assembled at the GM/Toyota joint facility in Fremont, California. There are three trim levels available on the Matrix; base, XR and XRS. The Matrix and Matrix XR are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that uses Toyota's VVTi (variable valve) technology. This engine produces 130 horsepower and can be ordered with either a 5-speed-manual or 4-speed-automatic transmission. The all-wheel drive models are available with the same engine, but with slightly less horsepower and torque; four-wheel drive is only available on the base and XR trim levels.

The performance-oriented XRS offers the most fun and the best performance of the three models. It uses an upgraded version of the 1.8-liter engine that produces 180 horsepower, though most of that power and torque are not available until you move the tachometer past the 3500 mark; a six-speed-manual transmission is also standard on the XRS as are 16-inch alloy wheels and special ground effects. You'll like the way the XRS sounds when you step on the gas, and you will love its ability to dart in and around traffic. You'll also like the position of the shift lever, which resides in a bin protruding from the center dash where it falls easily into your hand without having to reach down.

The Matrix interior is clearly designed with multiple tasks in mind. With the seats upright, the Matrix can comfortably carry four adults and their cargo. It has an incredible reserve of headroom, thanks to the high roofline and low-slung seats. We found the front sport seats in our XRS well suited to the task of providing both comfort and support during our more spirited drives. The rear seats do not offer the same side support, but we didn't hear much complaining from the aft passengers, even after 3 hours on the road. When they are not occupied, those same seats can fold completely flush (including the front passenger seat) to form a nice flat floor, perfect for loading cargo, mountain bikes or snowboards.

The dash design is anything but common place and is comprised of four deeply-recessed binacles that house the speedometer, tachometer fuel and temperature gauges; the gauges are permanently backlit in a deep red glow and each is decorated with a chrome trim ring. Chrome trim pieces also outline the center dash and console while a satin silver paint is used to cover the console face. The large rotary heating and ventilation controls are easily reached and simple to use, as are the cool round dash vents that use a ratchet-like mechanism as they rotate in their housing. Another feature not found on many cars is the 115-volt outlet located in the front center console. With this outlet, you can directly plug in any appliance from your home, be it a computer, video game, blender or hair dryer.

Our test vehicle also came equipped with the optional onboard navigation system. The unit uses a bright LCD screen that replaces the standard audio unit. Though we found the navigational abilities of the system to be very accurate, we found ourselves wishing for a system that did not incorporate the radio and CD functions into the navigation screen. Procedures that usually take little more than a tactile turn of a knob now require the driver to look away from the road, scroll though menus and screens and then tap a variety of tiny buttons to make adjustments.

Standard equipment on the Matrix includes air conditioning, intermittent wipers, Halogen headlamps, color-keyed bumpers and two 12-volt outlets. The XR adds power windows and door locks, keyless entry, a 115-volt outlet and vertical seat height adjusters. The XRS adds 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, ABS and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo. Options include a power sunroof, side-impact airbags, upgraded wheels and tires and the onboard navigation unit.

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