By on May 31, 2011

No, this is not another installment of Steve Lang’s “Lease, Rent, Sell or Keep?” series. Wards Auto is reporting that Toyota facing a decision over whether to kill its Matrix hatchback when a new version of the Corolla on which it is based debuts sometime “before 2013.” Toyota’s Bob Carter tells Wards that

There’s no change right now on the car, (but) we haven’t made the decision yet

So, what to do? Toyota doesn’t break sales of the Matrix out from the Corolla, but according to Wards:

The hatchback reached its pinnacle in 2002, selling 66,836 units, Ward’s data shows.

Annual deliveries have declined since then, except for 2008, the second-generation model’s first full year.

However, Matrix volume plunged 47.3% to 26,121 in 2009, from 2008’s 49,567, and last year slid 44.5%, with only 14,492 deliveries.

Toyota’s Carter insists that the forthcoming “Prius C” compact hatch “attracts a different type of buyer,”  an argument he’d probably also apply to the Scion xB, another Corolla-based hatchback. So, should Toyota develop a new Matrix along the lines of its predecessors in hopes that the third iteration brings back some magic to the nameplate? Or, would a re-styled xB make a better Toyota than Scion, opening up Scion’s lineup for a version of the Verso-S? Or perhaps Toyota could offer its European Auris as a Hyundai Elantra Touring-style contrast to the very American Corolla. Or, Toyota could look to the Verso for a larger, more utilitarian alternative to a traditional Matrix.

In any case, with so many possible options, it’s no wonder Toyota hasn’t made a decision yet…

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35 Comments on “Keep, Kill Or Replace?: Is Third Time The Charm For Toyota Matrix?...”

  • avatar

    Given that Toyota could barely be bothered to release a 2011 model (much less update the website – it still shows the 2010), is this really a surprise?

    I love my ’03 XRS, but every thing I enjoy about that car was erased with the new model. It’s overpriced, slow, heavy and has terrible seating. Next time around, bring the Auris/Blade with a decent engine or don’t bother showing up.

    • 0 avatar

      The first-generation Pontiac Vibe also looked way better than the second-gen. I don’t see very many Matrices (of either generation).

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        My fiance has a first gen Pontiac Vibe and loves it. Can’t stand to even LOOK at the 2nd gen Vibe. It’s sort of funny she immediately looks away every time she sees one.

    • 0 avatar

      I also had an ’03 XRS and loved it. I’ve heard good things about the 1st gen AWD versions too.
      Also agree that 2nd gen was a FAIL. Performance lagged (even for it’s relatively entry-level standing), and interior became much less useful.
      What I think the first two versions proved is that there is definitely a market for this car, if they do it right. Focus on sporty styling and handling (and enough power to go with it) with practical-minded interior space and design. If they do that, the market will eat-it-up.

      • 0 avatar

        We had an ’03 AWD XR. Really liked it, lots of features in a small package. The AWD saved our bacon a number times in the snowy winters. No interest in the 2nd gen Matrix, got a ’10 Subie Forester to replace it.

      • 0 avatar

        I have an 02 base model. Bought new, now has a shade over 180,000mi on it.

        Completely trouble free. Practical and useful almost to the point of being embarrassing.

        It’s ugly, and the driving experience is classic Toyota – bland.

        But, sometimes you want appliance, and the first generation Matrix was an exceptional application of this concept. It was not a vehicle meant to please through the classic avenues, but rather to earn respect through continuously being what you needed when you needed it. I have used it to haul furniture. I have used it to commute. I have used it to save gas. I have used it to get to far away camping trips with scads of gear in the ass and 3 passengers.

        This vehicle has never done me wrong, and I will keep it for as long as it lets me.

        As for the second generation, it is indicative of everything that changed about Toyota in the mid 2000s. At some point they left their philosophy of practical, engineered vehicles in the dust and became GM II. My 2009 Tacoma is proof of that, especially when you seat it next to a first generation Tacoma and note the small (but telling) differences. The bottom of the bodywork is no longer level with the frame rail. The puffed size. And my favorite – the same rear axle on both trucks, even though one is is about 1000lbs. heavier.

        I’ll be looking at other brands first for my next vehicle.

  • avatar

    I think the Matrix is weak because the Corolla is weak, yet lack the name recognition of the Corolla.

    They really need to hit next Corolla out the park because competition is very tight in the segment now. At best Toyota should be in 4th place behind Elantra/Focus/Civic (or probably even lower behind Cruze,VW etc), but Corolla coast on name, but Matrix doesn’t.

    Build a great Corolla and call the hatchback the Corolla hatchback, that way it can pull some of that Corolla name recognition.

    For people like me what you call it, but I don’t buy on past name recognition, I wouldn’t touch the current Corolla/Matrix with a ten foot pole, there are just much better options out there.

  • avatar

    When i chose between the matrix and vibe, i just couldn’t appreciate the so-called design of the matrix. So the choice was easy, except for horrible vision for lane changing, high beltline, dark as night interior, cheap plastic and seat material that doesn’t let the back get some air…i almost regret not getting one of the last 2008…Now i’m looking at a Cube, wich cure almost all the things i hate about my vibe except the reliability and fuel economy wich are excellent. If they only keep one i would say go with the first generation of XB but give it the 1.8 liter or bring back a corrola wagon. The new XB is too fat ass and drink too much…

  • avatar

    Toyota should not bring over the Verso-S, as it would make the Matrix seem too much like a traditional minivan. It is very big inside, but incredibly dull.

    In addition, the Verso design would compete with the Prius V.

    Toyota should bring over the Auris. The Auris is bland too, but less so than the Verso.

  • avatar

    The problem with the Matrix is the same as the Scion. People in their 20s buy those, and the recession has wrecked the financial situation of that generation. If the economy recovers, the 20s will be back and the Matrix, as well as the Scion will be hot sellers. Toyota should hold out.

  • avatar

    The current generation of styling for this car looks like a samurai warrior helmet on wheels. Also totally agree that this should be a corolla wagon with same styling as the corolla, not different, that way when is time to sell people doing searches will view the sedan and wagon side by side in ads and might opt for the extra utility.If you want funky go see the scion store.

  • avatar

    No surprise there that when Toyota stupidly listed to the few who cried about the lack of torque in a four cylinder economy hatch and put a bigger engine in gas mileage went down and sales dropped off the cliff . Why in the world would anyone who demands torque in their vehicle buy a economy class four banger with a slush box anyway ? If Toyota wants to keep the Matrix in their lineup they need to return it to it’s economy hatch roots and up the mileage to around 40mpg highway and cut the price back to near first generation Matrix levels . Otherwise why even bother when they won’t be able to compete with other players in the economy hatchback class like the new Focus and Mazda 3 ?

  • avatar

    Who cares? Corolla-based hatchbacks? Unless one of the options is “sell the Caldina GT-T in the US” then… who cares?

  • avatar

    Why is it, that in recent years, when I look at Toyota in a mirror, I see the reflection of GM of years ago staring back at me?

  • avatar

    I still think the Matrix and xB are repetitive in the Toyota/Scion line. Now, back with the xB was smaller, lighter, and more frugal, it made sense to offer both nameplates.

    I think Toyota needs to re-shrink the xB for its next generation (think original xB size, fuel economy, and appeal), and keep the Matrix as its larger hatchbacky wagon thing.

  • avatar

    With the RAV4 having grown to become a six-seater (a bit of a stretch, I know), they should transform the Matrix into a raised hatch (Venza style) to compete with the Soul, Juke, and upcoming Mazda CX-5.

    • 0 avatar

      YOu guys have no idea just how complicated Toymotas lineup really is we get used JDM cars here ther are dozens of different corolla models and have been for ages Ceres, Marino, etc all minor sub models youve never seen They make GM easy to understand

  • avatar

    Drove the last Matrix once. It is simply obscene in its cheapnes and crudeness.

  • avatar

    The Matrix is (or should be) first and foremost a practical car.

    The last gen was horrid and everything the car should not be — poor mileage, terrible, *terrible* gunslit visibility and not all that much fun to drive. The formula is not brain surgery, why has Toyota gone so wrong?

  • avatar

    I think the Vibe always outsold the Matrix because of GM’s habit of putting cash on the hood, and also of fleet sales.

    The Matrix/Vibe were on my short list, but the dash of a Vibe literally cracked apart in my hand during the test drive.

  • avatar

    Had an 08 Vibe GT as a rental car once. I drove it about 2500 miles and I have to say I liked it almost enough to buy one. The GT packaged added some big wheels and nicely tuned suspension. I actually did like the looks of it as well, although only because it was the GT. My wife also found it very comfortably and something about the handling kept her from getting car sick as I hooned it along curvy Colorado roads. It really did handle nice. Gas mileage wasnt great, but the enjoyment of the drive made it worth it.

    Just for a point of reference my daily driver was a Neon at that time. This time around, if I had not fallen in love with the Juke I may have considered one of these.

  • avatar

    I own a 2003 Matrix. I am one of those old guys who shows up to buy the more roomy of the “youth” cars because I like the hauling capacity, ease of entry/egress, economy, compact size, etc. Plus I live in a city and don’t need/like SUVs.

    The 2003 is no prize pig, but it works for me, and I like it. The current version just seems so much uglier and more cheaply made that I could not bring myself to buy one. Also, last time I checked, you could not get the fold down front passenger seat except with the larger engine. I use that feature regularly. I have lived with the lower power of the smaller engine, and am willing to continue to do so in exchange for the better FE. But not without the fold down front seat.

    I suppose people like me are too small of a market to matter, but I really like the idea of a small wagon/van, and I don’t care if you all think they are boring. In some segments, boring is good.

    Glad to see more hatchbacks, but they do not have the room I need.

    Nor do I need a hybrid, but the Prius V is going on my list because it has more room than the Mazda5, and well, those are the only two of their kind on the US market. I would go for the Verso big time.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a 2003 Vibe and it was tremendously versatile. The folding front passenger seat allowed me to stow an 8′ ladder with the hatch closed. It also looked sharp, had great fuel economy, and all-wheel drive. I was really disappointed with the later redesigns.

      By the way, I’m pretty sure that there was one year that it was the best-selling Pontiac. I always wondered how Pontiac management felt about having a Toyota as their best-selling model.

  • avatar

    Back in the 80s the Corolla came in about a dozen different flavors and Toyota didn’t have any trouble selling them. Might make sense to go back to that model. Just because the name is now synonymous with boring doesn’t mean that can’t change.

  • avatar

    Avensis estate, please. Currently it has butterface but the rest of it looks nice. Available in diesel manual transmission form, of course. The Blade Master Shake Number One in the Hood G would be great but I doubt Toyota would want a high performance V6 hot hatch in America. Americans hate small cars with big engines….

  • avatar

    The scion line up amuses as we get em with plain ole toymota badging

  • avatar

    Ward’s numbers are for US only. Toyota Canada (TCI) breaks down their sales numbers: 38680 Corolla and 19093 Matrix in 2010, 53933 Corolla and 22526 Matrix in 2009.
    An extra few thousands Matrix are sold every year in Mexico and Carribean countries.
    That being said, Matrix will likely be terminated in 2012.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    My fiance knows I’ll be looking for a vehicle post-wedding. We came out of a local resturant a few weeks back and saw a 1st gen xB sitting in the parking lot. “How bout one of those?” she said. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the guts were the same as her 2005 Vibe.

  • avatar

    We have an 06 Matrix. It’s an ok car, hasn’t lived up to the Toyota quality reputation but it’s pretty practical and gets good mpg.

    Toyota really should either A ditch the cheap Corolla parts and make the Matrix a more stand alone model. Or B assimilate the Corolla nameplate back and just call it a Corolla hatchback.

    Since Ford has a Focus hatch again the latter seems like the better idea as it will allow Toyota to get the people who buy their cars on nameplate alone to buy a Toyota Corolla: Matrix.

  • avatar

    I looked long and hard at the Vibe in ’05 and really liked it; but ultimately decided that it was too small for my needs.

    I agree with many others that the GM Pontiac version of the Matrix/Vibe twins was the better of the two, if you forgave it the GM grade interior, which left a fair amount to be desired during the era.

    The Matrix has never been a big seller, nor marketed well and the redesign was a big step backwards. Toyota has too many products that require dedicated marketing as it is – I really don’t think anyone would weep if the Matrix was not replaced.

    For those looking for a low cost, fun to drive, well designed people and mini cargo mover, I hear Honda has a fabulous third generation Matrix – they call it the Fit.

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