I bought this Matrix about two months ago with 175,000 miles on it for my daily 400 mile courier route and it's been great - so far. Since a 200 mile leg allows me to drive at only 55 mph, I net almost 33 mpg across the entire route - which is better than I expected. The car rides great, runs smooth, and shifts easily so it's been a pleasure to drive.
I like all the little storage compartments, the great gas mileage, and the smooth ride.
I hear an occasional vibration noise or whistling wind. I was surprised that there was no cruise control or electric side mirrors (both standard equipment on my '98 Mazda Protege).
My manual transmission fell apart at 5 mths past warranty in 2007 as have many others since. You'll find plenty of posts on this website under Matrix Transmission Problems. Do not under any circumstances buy a used 2003 or 2004 manual transmission Matrix or you will sadly pay the price at around 60-100,000 miles. The transmission has been proven to have a faulty bearing which of course Toyota will not admit and take responsibility for. I had Toyotas from 1990-2007 and will never own another one in the next 50y.
2003 Toyota Matrix XR Fwd 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl 5M)
I bought this car used with 55k miles on it 5 years ago, now with 107k. The only problems I ever had with it was the AC relay malfunctioning. With a quick jump on the internet reading about similar problems it was easily repaired with very little expense, the occasional wheel shaking and pulling corrected by an alignment. It gets great MPG, I average 29 city and 30-35 hwy. Decent power for a 1.8L. My wife of 4'11" has no difficulty driving or seeing out of. Lots of room, sporty look and feel with a classification code of a wagon(cheaper insurance). Very versatile, extremely reliable, good on long drives. A great all around vehicle. Perfect for first time drivers.
MPG, spacious interior, sporty looks, that cool little 120v outlet, auto lights and of course the reliability.
2003 Toyota Matrix XR AWD 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl 4A)
The Matrix and its sister car, the Pontiac Vibe, are based on the Corolla platform. I'll just summarize by saying that this car, in all trims but the XRS, is tragically underpowered, particularly with the automatic, which is the only transmission available with AWD versions. It's very Japanese. Noise, firm seats, terrible steering wheel angle, and abusive ride are the most noticeable detractions from what could have been a nice car. On the positive side, it fits lots of stuff inside, and sees tolerable fuel numbers. Keep in mind, folks, reliability is a part of quality of life. Consider comfort and usability when considering your next vehicle. Or maybe I'm just getting old.
110v AC outlet in-dash. Eliminates the need for bringing along an inverter. Downside, it's only two-prong. Otherwise, it's very usable.
The XRS makes lots more power, and for the tiny fuel economy difference, is worth the upgrade. AWD in the snow is a little squirrelly when the car is empty, and can be downright unruly when loaded with people and/or gear. Better proportioning would solve that. Steering needs more assist.
Our 2003 Matrix, only 58,454 km. Alternator dead. Car is past the 5 year warranty period. However, alternators - especially on Toyotas - should last longer than 58,454 km. Toyota Canada says replacing alternator not covered, even at this low mileage. Toyota suggested I pay a Toyota dealer to check the system officially, but admitted they likely won't help us out on this anyway. Replace with a rebuilt - not new - alternator is over $500. The fact that we have 5 Toyotas in our family didn't seem to matter: the person on the phone just kept reading from the policy manual.
Both our Matrix cars have terrible traction on snow and ice, even with front wheel drive and brand new Blizzak snow tires. The Matrix spun its wheels and got stuck when other cars could still go with no problem. For this reason I wouldn't buy a Matrix to drive in a Canadian winter.
Toyota seems to have gone the route of American car manufacturers: no pride in their work or products, certainly no standing behind their products when there is a glitch. For sure we won't be buying another Toyota.