First generation (2003–2008)
First generation (2003–2008)
Starting out at $14,670 in 2003, the no-frills base model came with few options. While it did have standard air conditioning, it left out such niceties as color-keyed mirrors and door handles, blacked out window frames, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. Alloy wheels, a body kit, and rear window wiper were also stricken from the options list by Toyota, forcing buyers to go with an XR or XRS model if they wished to have these features, as well as six-way adjustable seats and variable intermittent windshield wipers. However, one option the base model could be had with was AWD for an additional $1465 (although the actual increase was $2445, since AWD only came with an automatic transmission). Adding AWD brought the car’s curb weight of 2,679 lb (1,215 kg) up to 2,943 lb (1,335 kg) and decreased power by 7 hp (5 kW) and 7 lb·ft (9 N·m). In 2004, the price of a base model remained unchanged, but by the last year of production, 2008, it had risen to $15,510.
The Matrix’s mid-grade trim level, the XR was designed to combine the cheapness of the base model with the looks and features of the XRS. By checking this option on the order sheet, customers received standard features like color-matched mirrors and door handles, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a panic button on the key fob. Options now available included a sunroof, body kit, and 16-inch (410 mm) alloy wheels. A 2003 XR started at $16,180 and 2,701 lb (1,225 kg), but when equipped with AWD cost at least $18,445 (only $305 less than an XRS) and weighed in at 2,965 lb (1,345 kg). Like the base model, the XR’s AWD engine was detuned. Again, the car’s price for its sophomore year stayed the same, but in the four years after that, it rose to $16,990.
For $18,750, the top-of-the-line model came standard with four-wheel disc brakes and six speakers (the two extra speakers were tweeters) – extras not available on the other trim levels. Also included on all XRSes were anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, 16-inch alloy wheels, and cruise control. In 2003, 17-inch wheels could be had, but only on cars without a sunroof. An option combining 17-inch (430 mm) wheels and a sunroof became available the second year of production. In 2005, an XRS started out at $18,850, and for its last year, it went for at least $19,250.
The pièce de résistance, however, was Toyota’s high-tech 2ZZ-GE engine – the Matrix’s namesake because of the metal matrix composite (MMC) used to line the cylinder walls. Displacing 1,796 cc (1.796 L; 109.6 cu in), or 109.6 cubic inches, it produced 180 hp (134 kW) and 130 lb·ft (176 N·m) – a rare 100 horsepower-per-liter. While its 11.5:1 compression ratio was a large factor in its performance, what set the engine apart was its ability to alter timing and valve lift through Toyota’s VVTL-i. Because it could manipulate its valvetrain, the 2ZZ was capable of reaching 9000 rpm. Despite the technology, however, the engine’s high compression necessitates “premium” gasoline (91 octane or above in the (R+M)/2 scale). With the exception of an available automatic in 2003, a six-speed manual transmission has been the only option for the XRS A Transitional Low Emission Vehicle (TLEV) its first year of production, the 2ZZ was retrofitted in 2004 with a smog pump and reclassified as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV).
A testament to Toyota’s engineering, the Matrix was able to come to a full stop from 60 mph (97 km/h) in only 114 feet (35 m) On a skidpad, the car achieved .83 g, only .03 g less than the Celica GTS, during testing by Motor Trend and Sport Compact Car. Due to being front wheel drive, the XRS has a weight distribution of 59/41 (front/rear), which may result in understeer when driven hard. It weighs in at a relatively light 2,800 lb (1,300 kg).
Not a trim level, the M-Theory edition was a 2007-only appearance package with an exclusive “Speedway Blue” color. For $1500, a customer got 17-inch Caldina wheels, a chrome exhaust tip, a numbered plaque (1 of 2500), four wheel disc brakes, and a spoiler. To improve handling, a “sport tuned suspension” and strut tower brace were included.
One of the Matrix’s unique design features is its interior, particularly the rear 60/40 seats and cargo area. Made with rigid plastic backs, the rear seats fold flat, creating a 53.2 cu ft (1.51 m3) cargo area. In a practicality test, however, Motor Trend was able to haul more cargo in the Matrix than in a Subaru WRX wagon with 61.1 cu ft (1.73 m3) of space. In addition to the eight tie-downs in the back for attaching the included cargo nets and tonneau cover, the seats and rear floor have integrated rails for installing extra tie-downs.
Up front, the passenger seat also folds flat, accommodating long items like surf boards or allowing drivers to use the tray in its back to hold items like a laptop computer. An electronic device can be charged with the 115 volt/100 watt power inverter. The first year of production (2003), the instrument cluster was completely red. However, the next year, Toyota made the numbers white while keeping the rest of the gauges red. When the car was updated in 2005, a digital clock was added to the radio bezel.