Friday, July 13, 2012

Wildcard Pick of the Month - Hyundai Matrix (2003-2007)

This month, we'll be having our first wildcard pick. The thrill is that a surprise vehicle (published on a surprise date) gets the spotlight. But do remember this one will happen every two months, so watch out this September and November for our wildcard pick of the month. 

If you are looking for a practical vehicle (sedans are not included on the list) that can be bought for less, you're in luck for this month. And as Myk Belmonte launches the wildcard pick of the month, the featured vehicle fits the description above.

2003-2007 Hyundai Matrix

There is a market for buyers who pick style over substance, and the trade-off is functionality in exchange for vehicle styling. If you've purchased a Toyota Echo Verso (or Fun Cargo in Cagayan and some parts of Mindanao), Suzuki SX4 (I'm discussing the hatch version), Honda City GD, Fiat Multipla (if you live in Europe), or a Hyundai Matrix; reward yourself that you've got a highly functional vehicle that can perform all-duty tasks. As they say, beauty is just skin deep.

The Matrix (or Lavita in some East Asian countries) was introduced in 2001 to replace the Hyundai Santamo (which is essentially the italicized H's version of the Mitsubishi Chariot/Spacewagon) that has been due for a replacement. The weird looking exterior was designed by car design firm Pininfarina, which crafted designs for various high end automobile manufacturers. It stayed in production until 2010 without any exterior design changes, with the Europe exclusive ix20 filling in the void left behind.

While synonymous for Starex vans during the early 2000s, Hyundai Asia Resources Incorporated took the courage to launch the Matrix in 2003. It had rants and raves from the media to ordinary consumers; some praised the interior flexibility offered while some gave a thumb down for its odd ball looks. It initially had a gasoline engine that could be paired with both stick shift and automatic transmissions with a 2005 update had a diesel power plant under the hood. With Matrix production shifting to Turkey (all units are built in South Korea) and it would be costly to import directly, Hyundai had no choice but to discontinue it in 2007.

Value and Costs
If you are looking for a cheap daily car with the practicality of a hatchback, you're in luck. Prices of used Matrixes ranging from 2003 to 2007 would be usually priced between P200,000-P300,000. This is definitely an advantage if you find the sizes of the Aveo (definitely your last choice) and Jazz (the obvious first choice) too small for your needs. A diesel engine wrapped in a flexible interior with a shell at low prices? It's a bargain!

The Matrix is a trouble free daily car, with major problems not reported on popular automotive forums. Parts are shared with several Hyundai vehicles, but with the Matrix being a discontinued model, expect for some components to have long waiting periods. Be cautious if you're checking one with a diesel engine under the hood for faulty fuel injectors and tail pipe problems.

Exterior and Interior
This Italian design can be dismissed as weird or wonderful, with comments more on the former. But the oddly proportioned shape translates to a functional interior. The side windows on the rear portion do not go with the flow together with the rest of the window sills.

Having a weird taste can mean a good thing, with the occupants being treated to a roomy interior and good all-around visibility. Other odd items include the center placed instrument gauges and the location of the warning lights stalk, which is placed above the steering wheel. But the "dare to be different" theme ends here, with the other controls located in their usual spots.

Unlike the Hyundai's main and direct competitors, a gasoline engine and a diesel power plant was offered in the market. The gasoline option is a G4GR 1,599cc (from the Beta engine family) that has 103hp at 6,000rpm and 141Nm at 4,900rpm while consumers who opt for the diesel will get a U (from the U-Line group of engines) 1,491cc which carries 102hp at 4,000rpm and 235Nm at 2,000rpm. The gasoline burner has adequate power in low speeds but push this hard, the engine feels strained which results to low fuel consumption figures. The engine of choice is the diesel; it has the capacity of motivating this 1,370kg body in a fast but frugal manner. Not to forget, it won't need frequent trips to the pumps.

Driving Impressions
Thanks to its McPherson and multilink suspension setup, the Matrix can attack corners with safety and stability. You'll feel safe driving one (due to the suspension settings, not of a "hidden" stability or traction control, but the Matrix does not have them) but forget sporty driving, this does not inspire the likes whose idols are Vettel and Hamilton. On the tightest of turns, the Hyundai screams for more grip no thanks to its puny 14 inch wheels. Braking is decent, despite the absence of ABS brakes.

If you don't mind the funny exterior design (not all are like Kim Kardashian when it comes to be choosy in designs), the Matrix is one good choice if all you need is a daily commuter car. You have to grow with the weird proportions, but you'll be rewarded with its interior flexibility. With prices that can get you a garden variety sedan, this is one fish that stands out in the sea.

The Good:
  • Very practical
  • Economical diesel engine
  • Hatchback versatility
The Bad:
  • Odd ball looks
  • Airbags or ABS Brakes not available
  • Weak gasoline engine
The Pick: 1.5 CRDi LS

Engines: 1,599cc G4GR I4 gasoline and 1,491cc U I4 diesel
Power: 103hp @ 6,000rpm (gasoline), 102hp @ 4,000rpm (diesel)
Torque: 141Nm @ 4,900rpm (gasoline), 235Nm @ 2,000rpm (diesel)
Fuel Consumption: 8-12km/L (city), 10-14km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear multilink

Price (New): P550,000-P678,000 (range from 2003-2007)
Price (Now): P200,000-P300,000
Rivals: Toyota Echo Verso, Chevrolet Aveo, Honda Jazz
On Sale: 2003-2007

Hyundai E Rodriguez - 727-6396
Hyundai Quezon Avenue - 374-3911
Hyundai Alabang - 906-6152

Photos courtesy of

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