2004 Toyota Matrix Review
Practical and affordable, sporty and stylish.
Toyota Matrix is based on the same platform as the Toyota Corolla, although it looks radically different. The Matrix also shares much in common with the Pontiac Vibe. GM and Toyota developed the vehicles jointly, saving money for both companies and allowing each to offer the vehicles at an affordable price. Matrix and Vibe do not look alike, however, as their styling was designed independently by Toyota and Pontiac.
The Matrix is 3 inches taller but 8 inches shorter in length than a Toyota Corolla. It uses the same wheelbase but a wider track. These dimensions give the Matrix a unique stance. It reminds us somewhat of the Ford Focus hatchback, which is slightly smaller. It is also similar in size to the Chrysler PT Cruiser, although the Matrix has slightly less interior storage capacity due to its lower roofline.
And it's mainly the roofline that draws the eye. In a reverse wedge shape, the roof slopes down at the back while the belt line along the lower edge of the side windows slopes up, creating a sleek wedge shape to the windows.
The tailgate opens up just as in an SUV or minivan, and the frameless window can be opened separately for quick access.
The front of the car has a purposeful looking nose with a relatively high hood line accentuated by a big grille. Engine cooling is achieved through a large aperture under the front bumper which features two small foglights.
A wide track, along with generous tires fill the wheel wells nicely, helping give the Matrix an aggressive look. All in all it's a car that looks substantial despite its relatively small size.
Sitting in a Toyota Matrix is somewhat like sitting in an SUV, with upright seating and a commanding view of the road ahead.
The driver will find that the cockpit is unlike that of other Toyota cars. Four pods in front of the steering wheel house deeply set gauges. The gauges glow red at all times, even during the daytime, as insufficient ambient light reaches them. Chrome rims accentuate each pod and fake brushed aluminum trim is used to surround switches on the dashboard and door panels.
The combined radio and CD player sits directly to the right of the instrument pods, while the heating and ventilation controls are immediately below. If the radio buttons and the general un-Toyota appearance of the trim seems familiar that's because the interior is all but identical to the Pontiac Vibe, even down to the American Delco radio.
The shifter is also right there, just a few inches from the steering wheel. It's conveniently located more than a foot off the floor in a position that's become fashionable in high-performance rally cars as well as the Lexus RX, a luxury SUV.
There's 15 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. The rear seat is split 60/40 and pressing a button flips the seat down easily to provide a completely flat floor capable of holding 53 cubic feet of cargo. The cargo floor is finished in a hard ribbed plastic designed to offer easy cleanup. An XR 4WD model we drove came with a carpeted cargo mat ($56) that did a much better job of keeping cargo from sliding around, however. The cargo floor features four slots that contain movable hooks that can be used to tie down goods. There are several other tie-downs positioned along the sides. Storage compartments and cargo nets provide owners with maximum utility. All of this makes the interior as versatile as any station wagon and better than most SUVs. Even the front passenger seat can be folded down to provide another flat surface for storage, albeit at a higher level than the rest of the floor.
With its high roofline, the Matrix offers plenty of headroom for tall drivers and passengers. Shorter passengers sitting in the rear seats might find the view slightly claustrophobic due to the small side windows.
One cool feature is the available 115-volt power outlet located in the front dashboard alongside a regular 12-volt outlet. It's a low-power AC plug suitable for powering a laptop computer, but it isn't capable of running power tools. (Toyota is working on that, however.)
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2004 Toyota Matrix, click here: 2004 Toyota Matrix.