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Comparing Corolla And Matrix, And Help With Purchasing Decision

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Apologies for the long topic name. I previously owned a 2004 Corolla S, with auto transmission. I sold it two years ago because I inherited a free Civic from a friend and wanted to learn how to work on cars, and it was a 5 speed (which I should have bought on the Corolla instead of an automatic). Who wouldn't turn down an excellent running free Civic, right? The Civic turned out to be a little too small for me and since it was a coupe, didn't have the cargo capacity I was looking for (The Corolla didn't really have the cargo capacity I wanted, either). Thus, I've decided on the Matrix. I've come across a 2005 Matrix with 100k miles, that is in excellent condition externally and internally, and the price is right. I turn to the experts at this forum who have been very helpful in the past (particularly fishexpo).

I checked out everything that can be visually inspected, and the car appears to be in very good condition. The clutch is fine, it drives straight and stops straight, the engine sounds just like my old 2004 so I don't think there are any valve issues, the crankcase doesn't appear to have any buildup or residue, the fluids have all been changed recently, the tires are fairly new, the interior is immaculate, the AC blows ice cold, the cruise control works great, all the power options work fine, all the lights work, there are no squeaks when going over bumps. Oh, and it's only had one owner and no accidents according to Auto Check. The 100k miles is a concern for me, but the previous owner worked in sales and had to drive long distances for work, so the vast majority of the miles are freeway. This is also evident because of the small rock chips on the front of the hood, and a broken fog light, presumably from rocks. Having driven Toyotas for my whole life, I'm not scared by a seemingly high-mile car if its been taken care of properly.

I'm familiar with most of the mechanical components of my old Corolla, but I'm not familiar with the differences in the Matrix. So, here are my questions: what significant mechanical differences exist between a 1ZZ-FE Matrix and a 1ZZ-FE Corolla, in terms of suspension, transmission, electronics, etc? Also, pending a thorough buyers inspection with a compression check, what should be primary concerns for me in buying a Matrix with 100k on the clock?

Thanks for your input and advice.

Between the two cars - the 2004 Corolla and the 2005 Matrix - they are mechanically very similar, engine design, transaxle gearing, base electronics, etc. are interchangeable between the two. Wheels and some brake components are interchangeable, suspension is different as the Matrix is a couple of hundred pounds heavier - but the basic layout (front struts + lower control arms + stabilizer, rear struts + rear torsion beam + stabilizer). Both use timing chains, same spark plugs, both have distributorless ignition systems (coil on plug) and returnless fuel systems. Front disc/rear drums

The mechanical aspects of the 2005 Matrix mirrored the 2005 Corolla, in that they both have DBW throttle bodies and use a air/fuel sensor in-place of the conventional O2 sensor (i.e., higher resolution and sensitivity, also higher cost to replace).

Including the above changes, there was also a slew of additional features that were introduced with the 2005 model year:

- OBD-II CAN computer interface (move to more standardization)

- emissions change from ULEV to LEVII-ULEV (change in tuning, "feature" of the DBW and new air/fuel sensor)

- charcoal prefilters added (now multilayer cabin filters and the prefilter for the engine - part of the emissions system)

- plastic fuel tank (not 100% sure this is also the case on the Matrix)

- ECTS-i introduced ("feature" of the DBW system - Electronic Throttle Control System with intelligence -> ETCS-i - can have an "odd" throttle lag, the 2004 Corolla was a cable throttle system)

- engine immobilizer (need to use special "chipped" keys (transponder keys) = $$$$)

- tire pressure warning system (tied to ABS system, an indirect tire pressure monitoring system design - not quite as good as the direct TPMS, but considerably less expensive (no modules to buy))

- different A/C system (more efficient, now compliant with CARB)

As for things to look for - not a whole lot - basically the same as the Corolla. If there are maintenance records - that would be ideal, otherwise a comprehensive visual inspection should be able to catch 90% of potential problem areas.

Weak liftgate struts (the struts that hold up the rear lift gate) would be the only thing I could think of off the top of my head. Check for obvious signs of damage, wear and tear, leaks of any sort. With 100K on the clock - you are getting close to the time when the tining chain tensioner could start leaking (fairly common on all Toyotas that use a timing chain). Soft valvecover gasket (o-ring) can also start oil leaks - double check the bottom sparkplug wells and the upper threads on the sparkplug for signs of pooling oil. Rear brakes - most people don't even think about them until around 100K miles - check for wear and adjustment of the rear shoes. Waterpumps may start to weep coolant around the weep hole, check the conditions of the rubber coolant hoses (radiator, heater core) as well. Check all A/C lines (soft rubber and metal hardlines) for signs of seeping, corrosion, etc. Check fluid colors and odors - excessively dark fluid colors and/or burnt odor are signs of possible problems. Even after a fluid change, some of that color and odor will still be there.

From your description above - sounds like it is in great shape, aside from the mileage. There aren't many "subtle" problem areas with this model year of Matrix that I know of - if it runs and drives well, chances are it will stay that way - given consistent and regular maintenance regimen.

When we first got our Matrix, we though it was a goofy looking Corolla. But you'd be amazed by how much cargo you can stuff in the car. Would put several larger SUVs to shame with its cargo flexibility. Couple that with a light weight body (relatively speaking), good fuel mileage, and low maintenance costs - hard vehicle to beat. Doesn't sounds like much - but a little more than 20 cu.ft. cargo space behind the rear seats vs 13ish cu.ft in the Corolla - huge difference. Drop the rear seats and you'll be looking at over 53 cu.ft.


Fishexpo, as usual, very helpful and informative response. Thanks a bunch.

I'm getting the engine checked out on Monday with a full compression check and everything else. I will ask them to double check on the timing chain tensioner and the water pump. I checked out the liftgate and it seriously looks like its almost never been used. There were no scratches in the back, the carpet was pristine, and the window popped (and stayed) open perfectly. So, perhaps that's a good sign? default_smile

I have a few questions, if you want to answer them, about your own experience with the Matrix. Any particular issues you've had? Any quirks you've observed about the car? I checked out your Photobucket album -- how many of those repairs are on the Matrix, or are they on the Corolla? How long do you think the clutch will last? Can the timing chain in the 1ZZ-FE really last the life of the engine? I've got a 90 Toyota pickup and the timing chain guide in the otherwise indestructible 22-RE had to be replaced relatively soon -- at about 180k. But the engine as a whole was in great shape for the teardown, just the guide needed to be replaced. Thoughts?

Thanks again.

Most of those repairs are for the Corolla. There are a few repairs for the Matrix - most center around the three major accidents the Matrix got into (all three accidents, other drivers were at fault and interestingly driving a SUV at parking lot speeds - maybe they just couldn't see the Matrix).

Mechanically - even though the Matrix was a "first" year model - it actually enjoyed less "problems" than my Corolla. By problems, I mean very little in terms of cost out of pocket, more annoyances than anything else (EVAP system for example). The timing chain setup is pretty hard on the motor oil, as long as you change the oil at regular intervals, and keep an eye on levels between oil changes, you should have no problems running that chain for the life of the engine. I've doubled check valve clearance on both cars and they are spot on. When the Corolla hits 200K miles - I might pull the timinig chain off and see how much it stretched out, if any. Like your older Toyota truck, the timing chain guides are the ones that are likely to see any significant amount of wear. How much and what mileage is hard to say.

Clutch life - depends on how the car is driven. I've seen them let go as early as 20K miles or run out to 200K miles. With lots of cruising miles on the car, I wouldn't expect too much wear and tear on the clutch. Though I'd make sure to set aside a couple of bucks for a potential replacment down the road.

From the description of the - the interior and body sound like mint condition, which is always a good thing. Mechanical bits on the car are pretty well vetted out, as they are shared on the Corolla platform. Keep up with the maintenance with good quality parts and fluids, and a long service life is easily at hand.