The basic idea for this car is aimed at young people, kinda like how old I am, I’m 28 and not married. So the direction that I took the car was to take the idea of import racers with big wheels/lowered cars that are very fender and wheel oriented and inject that sort of personal sports image with the usability of the package(four doors and a hatchback). I just loved those early nineties civic three-doors, still do, and wanted to create a cool hatchback image that isn’t just a utility box or station wagon. So in terms of the styling, the side window line is very raked, a more sports car feeling, with the top of the window line pinching as it goes to the rear of the car. This makes the side window feel more “coupish” rather than station wagon feel, which we were deathly afraid to get too close to! The body sculpture is very fender oriented with both big body lines wrap themselves around the power of the wheels in order to give it more of a performance feel. I wanted to introduce more sculpture as well as some very hard edge lines in the car to give it a unique look for a small car! That in essence is the soul of the Matrix, it didn’t hurt that we had a cool chief engineer that finally put the seventeens and the 180hp with the six speed transmission in the car! I was hounding him to put the whole package together with the all wheel drive but it just didn’t happen, something about part strength.
The Matrix’s sporty look is handsome and radical by Toyota’s standard. The interior was designed by GM’s designer because its sister car, Pontiac Vibe, shares the same interior. There is extensive use of alloy-looking plastic panels, feeling young and sporty. The console-mounted gearshift comes from Lexus RX300. Overall materials and build quality are good, if not as good as the Corolla. Thanks to high roof and higher seating position, both head and legroom are plenty for 5 passengers. The rear seats are 60/40-split, whose backrest can fold down to enable a flat cargo loading area with hard plastic surface. This is the only SUV goody it has. However, many hatchbacks have such versatility now. If you take compact MPV such as Renault Scenic into account, you will find the Matrix relatively less versatile. It does not have individual sliding seats, fold tables, storage trays, big sunroof etc. Therefore it is not yet a mini MPV. It is a cross-over between hatchback and mini MPV at best.
Judging by hatchback standard, you will find its tall-body handling unexciting (maybe dangerously exciting if you insist to corner quickly). More body roll, lower cornering limit despite of good grip, firmer damping … there is no free lunch for having a higher body and SUV-like ride height. The brakes of 180hp model are identical to the hot Celica, but coping with the heavier car means brake fade after continuous hard use. Ease back, drive it in the same way as in Corolla is the best way to enjoy the Matrix. It is equally easy to live with, with more passenger and luggage room to satisfy your occasional needs. Even if you don’t need its extra versatility, you may still prefer it to the Corolla because of its look.