Monday, February 11, 2008

Replacement of Toyota Wish? Toyota Matrix 2009

Before I start picking the Matrix apart, let me start by saying that both it and the Vibe are great cars. They're practical, easy to drive, and comfortable to ride in. My half-day test drive of the Vibe revealed many good points and very few weak points. After living with the Toyota Matrix for a full week, my opinion hasn't changed.

The biggest difference between the two cars is styling. I prefer the Vibe; the Matrix's angles and curves make the car look awkward. It seems that Toyota is trying to present the Matrix a youth-oriented car -- so why not sell it as a Scion, Toyota's youth-oriented brand? One would think that Toyota's more conservative buyer base will find the Matrix a bit silly looking.

Matrix pricing starts $955 higher than the Vibe, and while it does include air conditioning ($950 on the base Vibe), it doesn't include a rear wiper or electronic stability control (ESC), which are standard on the Vibe. The entry-level Matrix Standard gets a 1.8 liter engine, while S and sporty XRS models get a 2.4 liter engine. Like Pontiac, Toyota offers all-wheel-drive as an option on the S model. An optional GPS navigation system is exclusive to the Matrix, but Toyota doesn't offer the Vibe's neat-o cargo management system. And the Matrix's warranty isn't quite as good -- 5 years/60,000 miles of powertrain coverage versus 5 years/100,000 miles for the Vibe.

Of the two cars, I prefer the Vibe -- it's better looking, less expensive, and while the extra-long warranty may never be needed, it's still nice to have. The fact that electronic stability control is an option (albeit a cheap one at $250) is the only real disappointment -- why didn't Toyota put the same emphasis on safety as Pontiac did by making ESC standard? To sum up: The Matrix is good, but the Vibe is better. -- Aaron Gold

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