Compact car; Built in Canada
  • 4-door wagon
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $4,800 – $10,500*

2003 Toyota Matrix

2004 Toyota Matrix

2005 Toyota Matrix

Toyota Matrix interior

  • All-wheel drive
  • Cargo room
  • Fuel economy
  • Rear-seat room
  • Engine noise
  • Ride (XRS)

Though slightly tamer than Pontiac’s Vibe in character, the Matrix is an interesting alternative to conventional small wagons and compact SUVs. Utility, fine road manners, available AWD, and Toyota-grade reliability are quite appealing. Those traits must, however, be measured against the needlessly noisy engines and the XRS model’s harsher, high-strung nature.


Toyota targeted a younger audience with its new-for-2003 crossover wagon, based on the redesigned Corolla subcompact sedan. Matrix shared engines and transmissions with the Corolla and Toyota’s Celica sport coupe, but came with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Pontiac’s new Vibe shared the Matrix design and powertrains, but was built in California with different styling.

Matrix came in Standard, XR, and XRS trim levels, with a separate-opening window in a swing-up tailgate. Each used a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. All-wheel drive was optional on Standard and XR models, which had 130 horsepower with front-drive or 123 hp with AWD. Equipped with a 180-horsepower engine, the XRS was offered only with front-drive.

Standard and XR models came with a five-speed manual transmission, but the XRS used only a six-speed manual. A four-speed automatic transmission was optional with front-drive, and included with AWD. Those AWD versions retained the front-drive’s ride height, and were not intended for off-road use.

Antilock braking was standard on XRS and AWD models, and optional for other versions. The XRS also had rear disc brakes. Front side airbags were optional for all models. Curtain side airbags were not offered.

Included in XR and XRS models, and optional on the Standard, was a household-type power outlet. The XRS added aero body trim, and joined the front-drive XR in offering optional 17-inch wheels versus the Matrix’s standard 16s. A navigation system and an in-dash six-disc CD changer were available for all models. Rivals included the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Focus wagon, Subaru Forester, and Volkswagen Jetta wagon.

Yearly Updates

2004 Matrix
Toyota’s compact wagon changed little for 2004. An in-dash CD changer was optional in the XR and XRS, and the available navigation system was exclusive to XRS. During 2004, output of the XRS engine dropped to 170 horsepower.
2005 Matrix
An antiskid system became optional on front-drive versions of the 2005 Matrix, if equipped with an automatic transmission. Head-protecting curtain side airbags were now offered in an option group that also included front torso side airbags. All models exhibited a new front bumper, grille, and clear-lens taillamps. Toyota no longer offered a navigation system in the Matrix.
2006 Matrix
2006 brought no changes for the Matrix.
2007 Matrix
Matrix lost its all-wheel-drive and sporty models for 2007. New for ’07 was an M-Theory option package with 4-wheel disc brakes and special trim.
2008 Matrix
The 2008 Toyota Matrix carried over pending a redesign due in calendar 2008 as a 2009 model.


transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

Standard and XR models held a 1.8-liter, dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder that developed 130 horsepower (123 with AWD) and 125 pound-feet of torque. Either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission may be installed. The Matrix XRS used a 180-horsepower version (later rated at 170) and came only with a six-speed manual transmission.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 123-130
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 125
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic


dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 170-108
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 127-130
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual


With AWD and automatic, the EPA rating of the regular engine is 26/31 mpg.

Road Test

Matrix engines need high rpm to deliver suitable power–especially the XRS. Front-drive 130-hp models feel almost as strong in most driving, producing acceptable acceleration with an automatic transmission and decent pickup with manual shift. AWD models are 260 pounds heavier, and have accelerated to 60 mph in about 11.5 seconds–which isn’t so acceptable. A test XRS reached 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, and is liveliest above 5000 rpm.

Fuel economy is a plus. Test AWD models have averaged 25.4 to 28.4 mpg. Front-drives with 130 hp and automatic averaged 26.6 mpg. Toyota recommends premium-grade fuel for the XRS.

Ride quality varies somewhat, according to model and equipment. Front-drive models are firm yet compliant enough, as their 16-inch tires absorb most bumps. The XRS and others with 17-inch tires are noticeably harsher. They can get jittery over patchy pavement and freeway expansion joints.

These tall wagons are more prone to crosswind wander at highway speeds than lower-built small cars. Even so, they ease though turns with grippy assurance and moderate lean, aided by crisp, direct steering. Optional 17-inch tires make cornering tenacious. ABS-equipped models produce good stopping performance.

Sound levels are disappointing in every model. Engines are noisy and boomy in brisk acceleration, and not that relaxed even during typical highway cruising. Wind rush and coarse-surface tire thrum occur, too.

Gauges are a bit small, set deep into tunnels–thus, they’re not that easy to see in some daytime conditions. Their bright trim rings reflect in the windshield. The control layout is mostly simple and logical, but the optional navigation system absorbs most audio functions, has undersize buttons and a finicky “joystick” control, and is tough to figure out. Cabin finish and materials are sturdy, modern and youthful–in line with Matrix prices but short of Volkswagen-grade.

The excellent driving position is only slightly elevated, but more upright than in a typical compact car. Front head room is fine, even with an optional sunroof. Long-legged adults might desire more stretch-out space. Comfort should be good on long trips, but seats lack adequate lateral support for spirited driving. Visibility is mostly good all around, but slightly cluttered over-the-shoulder.

Rear-seat head and leg space is sufficient for two large adults, but knee clearance gets tight if front seatbacks are reclined. Also, the rear bench is not especially comfortable. Tall doors eliminate most stooping on entry/exit, but they could open wider. Floor-level passageways are fairly narrow.

Cargo space is fine overall for the Matrix’s exterior size. The front passenger seat folds flat for added versatility, as does the split rear seat. Small-items storage is bountiful, including a large glovebox and under-floor spaces around the spare tire.


Model Tested: 2004 XR w/AWD, auto.

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 3
Fuel Economy - 7
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 6
Room/Comfort Front - 6
Room/Comfort Rear - 7
Cargo Room - 7


Value - 10

Total: 60


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.4 171.3 69.9 60.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
53.2 13.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.6 39.8 41.8 36.3
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.4 171.3 69.9 61.0
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
53.2 11.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.6 39.8 41.8 36.3
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2003 Matrix 4-door wagon


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 5

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 4


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The A/C warning light may flash and the compressor clutch may fail to engage due to a faulty clutch relay. (2003-04)
Automatic transmission
Description: The automatic transmission may shift harshly and the check engine light may illuminate requiring a replacement powertrain control module. (2005-07)
Description: Front brakes make rattling or squeaking noises due to excessive clearance at the caliper mounting. (2003-08)
Coolant leak
Description: Coolant leaks from the rear of the 2AZFE 2.4L engine because two rear head bolts stretch. (2003-06)
Engine knock
Description: A squealing or knocking sound from the engine compartment due to bad accessory belt tensioner. (2003-07)
Audio system
Description: The CD player on some early-build vehicles makes a grinding noise during deceleration. (2003)
Suspension noise
Description: A tapping noise that seems to be coming from the dash is actually from the upper suspension mount for the spring on which insulating material must be applied. (2003)
Description: The battery dies because a faulty headlight switch is unable to turn the lights off and an updated switch is available. (2003)
Description: Whenever the battery is too low to start the vehicle, the relay for the daytime running lights (DRL) becomes damaged and a revised relay must be installed. (2003)
Check-engine light
Description: The oil fill nozzles used at some fast lube shops can bend the baffle under the oil fill hole causing engine noise and a possible check engine light. (2003-04)
Check-engine light
Description: The check engine light may come on because of a very small leak in the evaporative emissions system charcoal canister. (2005)
Check-engine light
Description: The check engine light may illuminate due to a faulty air/fuel ratio sensor. (2005-06)
Interior trim
Description: The center console door won’t close or stay closed unless noise deadening felt is installed under the hinges. (2003-04)

Recall History

2002-2004 Matrix
Description: Passenger-side frontal airbag inflator may rupture upon deployment and spray metal fragments at the passenger.
2003-04 Matrix equipped with power windows
Description: The bolts that hold the driver- and front-passenger-door glass may loosen and come off, causing the glass to separate from the window regulator. This may cause the glass to bind and shatter. Dealers will replace the bolts with newly designed bolts.
2003-2004 Matrix
Description: Supplemental restraint system (SRS) is susceptible to shorting, creating an abnormal current and heat that can damage the circuits. Airbags and seatbelt pretensioners may deploy inadvertently.
Description: The engine control module (ECM) for the subject models equipped with the 1ZZ-FE engine and two-wheel drive may have been improperly manufactured. There is a possibility that a crack may develop at certain solder points or on varistors on the circuit board. There are a variety of warnings and consequences associated with the defect. The engine-warning lamp could be illuminated, harsh shifting could result, the engine may not start, or the engine could shut off while the vehicle is being driven. An engine shutoff while the vehicle is being driven increases the risk of a crash. Dealers will inspect the production number of the ECM and replace the ECM if necessary.
2007-2008 Matrix
Description: Power window master switch assemblies may malfunction and overheat due to irregularities in the lubrication process during assembly.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.