Anyone driven or own a Toyota Matrix?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Charles J P, Apr 23, 2002.

  1. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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    Well, I'm still doing research on new vehicles. I'm going to be making a purchase mid fall this year. I started out looking at SUVs, then decided that there were too many trade offs. I like driving spiritedly and there is no sport in most all SUVs. So, now I'm looking at sport wagons. My choices so far are:

    1) Subaru Impreza WRX Wagon - the most sporty of the lot, but also the most expensive. It has real verve, but I worry about reliability. There is a 14 page (or so) thread on i-club (one of the subaru forums) about first gear syncro problems and there are also complaints of check enging light problems and people say the paint is very brittle.

    2) Toyota Matrix - actually this car, the Subaru and the other car I'm considering, the Mazda Protege 5 were all in a round up in Car and Driver or MotorTrend this month. I like this car so far, and it has the most space of the three. It is much bigger than it looks on paper. Kind of looks like a pimped out, dropped mini van. Any way, the engine specs are there on paper, but I've heard its doesnt quite live up to it in the real world. Its peak torque and horsepower figures are at over 6000 rpms which due to the "tuner" inspired exhaust can be quite loud. And even then, it only makes 130 lb/ft of torque.

    3) Mazda Protege 5 - Well, this car is the smallest and most underpowered of all the wagons. Only has 130 HP. However, if I could roll all the refinement, build quality, and grown-up-edness of this car into one of the other two, I think I would have my car. This is the only car with leather available and doesnt have the 16 year old inspired interior.

    So, the middle of the pack in price, and performance may end up winning the race, but I'm wondering if anyone has test driven the Matrix, specifically the XRS 180hp version, and if they thought it was quick or bogged down?
     
  2. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    I haven't driven any of the cars you mention, but two reviewers of the Toyota Matrix (sorry, no links - I didn't know I'd be referencing them later) said to skip the 180hp engine and stick with the smaller engine. According to the reviewers, the difference in torque between the two engines is not that great, and the 180hp engine peaks at such a high RPM (8200, I think - man, that's high!) that its extra power is completely unusable under normal driving conditions. According to both reviewers, the smaller engine with its flatter power curve and lower power peak was much more responsive and even more fun to drive in city traffic than the bigger engine with its difficult-to-take-advantage-of power spike.
    One reviewer confessed, however, that on the track, the bigger engine would definitely rule. But how many of us take our cars on the track?
    Hopefully, Steve Schaffer will step in here and keep me honest. [​IMG] I suspect he knows more about Toyotas than anybody else on the forum.
     
  3. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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    Dang the auto manufacturers are making this hard on me. I really love my fiance's Honda accord, but it needs 20-30 more horsepower (she has the 4 cyl auto) and a 5 speed. The engine is quite up to 3500 RPMs and it cruises at 65-70 at only about 2500 RPMs. The cabin is quite in general, and the fit and finish is top notch.
    No one really has the complete package of what I want out there for less than $30K (which I guess thats why its $30K, maybe thats what it costs to put together the "total package"). I acutally would like the Lexus IS 300 wagon but my budget is about 21,000 out the door (not including tax, tags, etc.)
    I think the Matrix and the Protege 5 are both going to be underpowered for my liking. My current car is an 88 acura Legend and is supposed to have 160 hp. Its an automatic, but its very torquey. Cruises at a low RPM and is obviously built well enough to last 14 years and 180,000 miles.
    What do you all think of the VW turbos? I have heard some say they are fun to drive but kind of unrefined as far as engine noise, but all the torque is available at a really low RPM. The Jetta wagon is also not nearly as sporty as the wagons I'm currently looking at (damn you VW for taking away the 1.8T option from the golf... does anyone know if thats going to be a future option again?). It would also be at the top of my price range up there with the WRX.
    If anyone has any suggestions, basically what I'm looking for is
    1) at least four doors, if not a wagon
    2) torquey off the line for good city driving but a high enough final gear ratio to be quiet on the highway
    3) good build quality and reliabilty record a must
    4) within a couple grand of $20,000
    So basically I'm looking for the ultimate sport wagon on a shoestring budget. [​IMG]
    Later
     
  4. John Tillman

    John Tillman Supporting Actor

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    The wife & I bought a 2001 V6 2wd Highlander for 26k that fits your needs, but is a few $ higher than your budget.

    At 3400 lbs it's a lightweight SUV but with the V6 it does perform. We've got 11k miles on it and I'm impressed with it thus far.
     
  5. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the info. The budget is pretty fixed since we're still paying on my fiances car and just bought a new house. We wouldnt even be considering another car except some things on the acura have finally started to crap out, of course all at the same time. I considered the 4 cyl highlander which would be more in my price range, but decided it wouldnt be much better than a CR-V or Rav4 except that maybe its a little less soccer mom-ish (pardon my stereo type, but my grandmother, mother, and aunt all own CR-Vs). My problem is, when I get interested in a car, I read all the reviews on it. Since I'm still six months out from the purchase, I would feel a bit silly pestering dealers for test drives.
    The problem with readin lots of reviews is, every vehicle is disliked by someone. In general, according to most professional reviewers...
    1) nothing has enough horsepower and torque
    2) if it does have enough power, it probably isnt available in a manual transmission
    3) if it is, something else will inevitably be wrong... the cupholders suck, the fit and finish is bad, reliability issues, not a BMW [​IMG] etc,
    4) if all of the above do work out, the vehicle costs $60,000 (and is probably a BMW). [​IMG]
     
  6. Derek Williams

    Derek Williams Stunt Coordinator

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    I’m in the same situation as you. I need a second car to haul stuff. My wife drives a IS300 and the head gasket blew on my 86 GLHS. We looked at the WRX, Matrix, IS300 sportcross and, Jetta Wagon (1.8T & 1.9 TDi).

    WRX fast good all-weather handling. Great choice if you need a single car to do everything. IS300 is great I took ours up PCB this last week end from LA to the bay area = 2+ hours of the greatest twisting turning road ever with a beautiful view. The IS300 has a very smooth power band. Matrix/Vibe I drove one and liked it. You need to stay high in the revs by down shifting to get the power, the VVT-i make the car feel like the WRX when the turbo suddenly start to make boost. The jetta wagon were both great the TDi has torque everywhere and you never need to down shift but it only revs to around 4800 RPM. The 1.8T is like the IS300 with a very broad power band but the handling needs some work. A 1.8T with aftermarket suspension would be a nice choice.

    I need something with good power, great handling or great power, good handling that can haul stuff from home depot. I found out you can get a Toyota Tacoma S-Runner which is a V6(190 HP) extra-cab 2x4 with a manuel transmission. In addition it is lowed on 16” rims, with performance shock and tires for around $18,000. The good thing about this is you can add a TRD Supercharger that adds 65 HP $3000 = 255 hp truck. There is other stuff you can get from TRD that brings the power to around 285-290 hp range. You could end up spending $24,000 for a very fast truck.
     
  7. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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    Yeah Derek, I've run the whole gambit of vehicle types from regular sedans, to wagons to "cute utes" to picup trucks (ranging from small nissans and toyotas to chevy silverado) and back, and I still dont know what I want. Pickup trucks prety much fell of the radar because I need a real person sized back seat, and the mini trucks dont have it and if I had the $32,000 I needed to get a super-crew, I'd buy the IS/300 wagon. The huge disadvantage I'm at right now (and you will all say DUH!!) is that I havent started test driving yet so I dont know if the things that bother the reviewers will bother me or not.

    Also, Derek, you say you liked the Matrix/Vibe when you drove it. What version did you drive (180hp)? Is the engine as unrefined (loud) as they make it sound in some of the reviews? Did you drive the manual? I have heard people call the manual "notchy" but I suppose it depends on what your used to. If you took it out on the highway, how was cabin noise at cruising speed. (I know I could find out by just going and driving one but I feel foolish going into a dealer and saying "I want to buy a car in October, wanna go for a test drive")
     
  8. Derek Williams

    Derek Williams Stunt Coordinator

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    I had no problem with the shifting. I drove the 180HP 6-speed. There is zero low-end power but when the VVT-i starts to work (5700-8200RPM) it pulls you back in your seat. Remember the magazine tester drives 30+ cars a year so they will notice difference you or I don't.
     
  9. NickSo

    NickSo Producer

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    Though i cant drive, i love the new Pontiac Matrix...

    The 180hp engine im pretty sure redlines at 7,600 RPM...

    The styling is one of the best to come out of Pontiac recently (Lets forget about the Aztek), its got alot of features, and the price too.

    I think that the 130HP will be sufficient enough for the vehicle, but even still, i wonder how the 180HP Celica GTS engine drives...
     
  10. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    According to carpoint.com, the engines are specified as follows:

    Small Engine:

    130 HP @ 6000 RPM

    125 lb-ft @ 4200 RPM

    30/35 MPG with manual transmission

    Large Engine:

    180 HP @ 7600 RPM

    130 lb-ft @ 6800 RPM

    22/29 MPG with manual transmission

    The power doesn’t peak on the more powerful engine as high as I originally stated, but it still looks to me like the lower revving (130 HP) engine will deliver more useable power under normal (non-track) driving conditions. And with a torque difference of only 5 lb-ft, I can see how the less powerful, but lower revving, engine would appear to give a more spirited driving experience in city traffic than the more powerful, higher revving engine.

    Also, for those of us who still care about gas mileage, the smaller engine can’t be beat.

    Of course, I’ve never driven either one, so my opinion is worth exactly what you’re paying for it.
     
  11. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    On anything but a test or race track, the 130 hp Matrix is the better choice.

    In real world traffic it's much lower rpm torque peak is a real advantage.

    I've driven both engines and for normal use would definitely go with the 130hp.

    If most of my driving were carving up twisty mountain roads with little or no traffic, I'd go with the 180, but even at that having to shift constantly to keep it in it's very narrow max power range (literally between about 6500-7000 rpm in actual use) is tiresome and very buzzy.

    The 130 will do just fine, especially with a manual transmission, and the comparably equipped car will run about 2k less.

    3 things about magazine testers:

    Other than a few exotics, they never met a car they didn't think needed more power.

    They never have to pay for the long term maintenance of the cars they test or for repairs once they're out of warranty.

    Their magazine's income is derived from advertising the vehicles they test, just as Home Theater Magazine derives it's income from advertising the gear they "test".

    Among Japanese makers, there are actually several different tiers as far as reliability. Toyota, Honda and Nissan are tops, Mazda and Subaru are a bit lower, and Mitsubishi a big notch lower. This is from my experience with the used cars we get traded in at the Toyota store I work for.
     
  12. Graham Perks

    Graham Perks Second Unit

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    I wouldn't worry about Subaru reliability. Consumer Reports (they have their 2002 Cars issue still on newsstands I think) found Subaru to be the joint most reliable brand (with Toyota I think). The Impreza line (of which the WRX is one model) has been very very reliable. The Impreza is top-ranked for safety too.

    I'm looking for a sporty wagon myself, too. Haven't found one I like yet. If I had to buy today, I'd plunk for the 1.8T Passat wagon. It doesn't really light my fires, but it does everything pretty well. Good mpg, decent performance (I'd get the manual), good safety. Reliability? Well avoid the '98 models :) I preferred it to the WRX as I'm looking for something a bit quieter for my next car. The WRX is a lovely car but I'm looking for a little more luxury this time around.

    My wife and I are both fairly tall, and we felt a little cramped in the Jetta wagon.

    PT-Cruiser - very bad crash test results.

    There's some great cars coming. The Infiniti G35 Coupe. Beautiful, and the sedan is getting great reviews right now. But it's two doors so not easy to deal with a baby in the back seat. I don't care for a sedan; we have one already and I love the cargo capacity of a hatchback or wagon (I have an Integra today; fold down the seats and that's a lot of acreage back there! I can fit 9 1/2ft planks of wood in it and shut the hatch!)

    The Mazda RX-8. 4 doors and great performance. It looks like a hatchback but yesterday I read a preview that said the trunk has room for two golf bags! Doh! So, no folding back seats then :)

    The Acura TL Type-S was great to drive and to sit in. However from the outside it looks just like my wife's Accord! My Integra has been great so Acura gets my thumbs-up. But they don't make a car that comes even close to my requirements. :-(

    Will have to look at the Matrix/Vibe. The question is, as they're made in the same factory, will the Vibe have Toyota quality, or will the Matrix have Pontiac reliability? :)

    I might end up doing a full circle and returning to the WRX!
     
  13. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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    I am also looking at something a little more refined. I ended up deciding that rather than getting a plus sized sub-compact with all its faults (smaller interior, cheaper trim, small unrefined engine, etc.) I would go for a midsize. For example, a 4 cyl Accord is going to be much more refined than a 4 cyl civic. So, even though I probably wont be able to spring for the v-6, the 4 cyl in midsized cars are usually quiter, smoother, and more powerful. So, in my newly-restarted research I found something interesting. The 2003 Mazda 6. Its the much needed replacement for the 626 which had lackluster styling (IMHO) and pretty much the worst specs in its class although it was cheaper than an Accord or Camry, in fact a V-6 626 could be had for about the same as a 4 cly accord or camry. This thing looks hot, and its available in a 4 door hatch (which may or may not make it to the USA). It has a new 4 cyl and V-6 engine (from the Ford Taurus unfortunatly but tuned for higher output) and supposedly handles very well from the early reports. You can check it out at Mazda under vehicles --> future vehicls or something like that. Or, do a google for 2003 Mazda 6.

    Also, the 03 accord is going to get a restyle and the 4 cyl out of the CR-V which will be tuned to 160-180hp depending on who you believe. They also might be getting a new 6 speed manual and or 5 speed "manumatic" but this is mostly rumors. So actually, I'm a lot happier about my prospects right now since I have decided to ditch the subcompact segement in favor of something from the feircely competatvie family sedan segment.
     
  14. Graham Perks

    Graham Perks Second Unit

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    Charles, my wife and I did not like the 4-cyl Accord when matched with the automatic. It really struggled to move along.

    However, tie the 4-cyl to the manual and that's what we bought! It's quite a peppy car and we've been really happy with it!

    Will check out the Mazda 6; did not realize there was a coupe model at all! Thanks!
     
  15. Shawn C

    Shawn C Screenwriter

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    If I had to choose between the Matrix and it's twin the Vibe, I would go for the Vibe. It just has a cleaner look to it. They are the exact same car.

    Also, isn't AWD available only with the 130HP engine. I think I remember reading that somewhere. I really like the 110V acc. plug in the front. That might come in handy for a lot of people.
     
  16. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I work right across the freeway from where they assemble both the Vibe and the Matrix. I would have to say Vibe also. The Matrix just looks ugly to me.

    Cons for both:

    1) Live rear axle.

    If you want independant rear suspension, you have to get the AWD version - that's good.

    If you want the good engine, you cannot get AWD - that's not good.

    I have driven the Celica, which is where the two engines are directly lifted from, and I have to agree that the 180HP version has no more torque, but it is still a better, though high strung, engine. The base engine is not too bad at all.

    Live rear axle should be a thing of the past, but it is still the least expensive way to go. They are, after all, based on the new Corolla chassis.
     
  17. NickSo

    NickSo Producer

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  18. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    There haven't been any Tacoma recalls from the NUMI plant that I know of, so I would say quality should be good. Wait a few months until they get out all the "new line" bugs worked out though, IMO. I usually do not buy a car in it's first year of production.
     
  19. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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    Now, though, that depends on what you mean by first year. Since the car is 75% or more Corolla, it should be a pretty good vehicle.
     
  20. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    The Corolla is a new chassis for this year also...
     

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