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2010 Toyota Matrix XRS


Jeremy and Michael:

I wrote to you in May regarding my mother's car purchase. Based largely on your article, she purchased a Hyundai Sonata and is thrilled with it. And if things go wrong, I can blame you guys!

Now it is my turn. We are a family of five. However our oldest is off to university and No. 2 will be off next year. So it's time to retire our last minivan before the first snow fall.

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Our new second vehicle must be frugal, safe and reliable. It must travel 25,000 km per year and serve for about six years. It needs to be safe and comfortable for two "young adult" drivers, one 5-foot-2, the other 6-foot-2. It must:

  • Take me to and from work
  • Take two or three to hockey with gear
  • Take two or three to and from skiing with equipment
  • In a pinch carry all five of us for short trips
  • Carry up to four of us for 100-km trips

What we are looking for (ideally) is:

  • Inexpensive as possible (less than $20,000 cost?)
  • Preferably a hatch
  • Split folding back seats
  • Air-conditioning
  • Cloth seats (no vinyl)
  • As much safety equipment as possible (ABS, ESC, side air curtains, etc.)
  • Height adjustable driver's seat

Finally, we are seriously considering a standard transmission as they are less expensive to repair than automatics and I believe safer to drive for young drivers as they require their full attention. One reason that we require your assistance is that three of the vehicles we are considering have not yet been released in Canada, so we need "expert" opinion on whether it is worth waiting for them.

Vehicles that we have rejected include the Nissan Versa (only four headrests), Hyundai Touring (other options seemed better and perhaps seating/entry was a little low), Jeep Patriot, Chevy HHR (room for four only).

Our list: (Click on the car name for vehicle specs)

Toyota Matrix Pros: Toyota resale and dependability Cons: High beltline makes for much reduced visibility, some safety equipment is extra charge

Kia Soul Pros: All the safety requirements and high seating position Cons: Kia resale and fairly expensive maintenance schedule

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2011 VW Jetta Pros: VW driveability and safety features. Cons: Low seating, no hatch and VW reliability.

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Pros: High seating position, Mitsu warranty Cons: Probably the highest cost and how big is the back seat?

• 2011 Scion XB Pros: Utility Cons: Size, when is it coming to Canada?

Kia Rondo Pros: safety features and utility (purchased on the recommendation of an automotive columnist from another paper) Cons: we already have one, no manual available, KIA resale and maintenance schedule

Regards (and thanks), Dan

Vaughan: Danny-boy, you're back for more and you have provided a lengthy specification. I suspect you're either a schoolteacher or long-winded paid-by-the-word journo like Cato, correct?

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Cato: Who cares what Dan does for a living? Let's cut to the chase here; Dan wants us to nail this one quickly, okay?

Vaughan: There is a new urgency about you, Cato. Unusual. And welcome.

Cato: First, Dan, put the Elantra Touring back on your list. It is roomy, comfortable, the $17,399 version comes with everything from air conditioning to air bags - even overhead curtain ones for your safety worries - to whiplash-protecting front seats and that 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

Vaughan: Hyundai seems to have found a long-term strategy for maintaining quality, too.

Cato: And pricing. Dan, you get a lot of car for the money here. But forget about that sticker price. What I see is that Hyundai has up to $2,500 in rebates available here. Between factory-to-dealer, factory-to-buyer and Clean Air Cash and some sort of dealer markdown, you should be able to nail that GL Hyundai hatchback for $15,000-$16,000.

Vaughan: Which is well within Danny's price range.

Cato: Next, Dan, I want you to forget about the Jetta. You don't need or want a sedan, not with all that hockey, and skiing and other back-to-school gear. But what about the VW Golf hatchback?

Vaughan: Cato, the cheapest Golf hatch now is $21,175. That's beyond schoolteacher Dan's budget.

Cato: Not by much. Dan, the Golf, which was renovated for the 2010 model year, is refined, safe and has the best seats of any vehicles on your list or ours. It's only $1,175 above your budget, so have a look.

Vaughan: Vehicles No. 3 has to be the Matrix. This is the tried and true model in the bunch - the safe choice. Danny, my boy, you seem like the kind of guy who wants a safe choice to consider.

Cato: Sure, Matrix. Dan, go for the XR version at $20,575 list. Just don't pay the list. Toyota has a $2,000 factory-to-dealer incentive on the table here and you should negotiate for it. That puts you well within your budget.

Vaughan: Now let's quickly run through the others on your list. You already have a Rondo, so scratch that one right away.

Cato: The Mitsu is a little pricy, starting at above $24,000 list. So we just can't send you down that road.

Vaughan: And the Soul is a little too small and a little too dorky for you, Dan.

Cato: Of the three, Dan, my vote is for the Elantra Touring. And no, the ride height is not unacceptably low.

Vaughan: On top of my list is the Golf. You'll thank me for steering you towards seats that remain comfortable for 100-km road trips.

2010 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L Trendline four-door hatchback

2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring GL

2010 Toyota Matrix XR

Wheelbase (mm)




Length (mm)




Width (mm)




Height (mm)





2.5-litre five-cylinder

2.0-litre four-cylinder

2.4-litre four-cylinder

Output (hp)


170 hp

177 lb-ft

138 hp

136 lb-ft

158 hp

162 lb-ft

Drive system





Five-speed manual

Five-speed manual

Five-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)




Fuel economy

(litres/100 km)

10. 4 city

7.0 highway

8.9 city

6.4 highway

9.6 city

7.1 highway

Base price (MSRP)





Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 2 p.m. on CTV.

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