Fix my 03 Matrix XRS or buy a newer one?

#1

I have had to spend a lot of money repairing my 03 Toyota matrix lately and now my mechanic says a terrible noise it’s making means I finally have to fix my suspension for another $1700. I thought repairing my struts and bushings was like a luxury fix to make it ride like a new car but apparently it’s a necessity. I do have a strange love for this car and am thinking about fixing it however it’s not even worth $1500 trade in. I would love to find a manual transmission xrs matrix but haven’t found one near me in Oregon. Does anyone have any thoughts on this problem I’m facing?

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#2

Hey there! My $0.02 is to go ahead and fix the car. Since you like it and you’ve already put some money into it, you might as well reap some of the benefits of that investment. Drive it for another year or two (or more). In the meantime, you can keep your eye out for a nice manual XRS Matrix for sale – and when you find the right one, your current car will be far easier to sell (and for a better price) since you’ve been keeping it in tip top shape.

My other tip would be, after the car’s all fixed up, hire a really good auto detailer to go through it and make it look like new again. It usually costs about $250, but it’s a great way to fall in love with you car all over again.

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#3

Depending on what’s actually wrong you make be able to do the repair for a bit less if you want to sell it. If its a strut mount clunking you could be able to just replace the mount, if it’s a control arm bushing, that can just be replaced, or one of the two bushings in the back axle. Replacing all the struts and mounts is the right way to repair it, and not only will the car drive better when it’s done, it will be very easy to sell. Every old car needs suspension work, one that’s had the all work done will be a huge selling point to potential buyers.

Now, if you’re planning on trading that in, then it doesn’t matter. Dealers don’t really care as long as the car runs and isn’t smashed up. You can get away with just fixing the bare minimum.

BUT, as a Corolla XRS owner myself, if you’ve been driving the automatic, then you’ve been missing out. This motor needs 6 gears to really take advantage of the low torque and high redline. And with turbos being the new way to add power to 4 cylinders, the high power N/A 1.8 2ZZGE in these cars is the last of a dying breed. With a head designed by Yamaha, an 8.2k redline, a true 100hp per liter, with all the sounds and character of a race engine, this motor is hard to give up. Other than older Honda’s your not finding a lot of that around, and the Matrix platform is even more unique. The fold down rear seats make for a huge flat floor cargo area, having even more room inside than the larger 2nd gen model that replaced it. It’s like a hot hatch with the practicality of a small minivan.

Just talk to your mechanic, tell them what you’re trying to do, and maybe they’ll work with you. But remember even an old 6 speed Matrix might need some work too, unless you find a really nice one. But if you don’t need the hatchback, then just look for something newer like a 07+ Civic Si or a 6 speed Acura TSX. Those cars have great motors and would make a suitable replacement for your hi revving 1.8, and they have a lot better suspension system too. 4 or 5 grand can get you into the door of a suitable version of either of those models.

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#4

Thank you for that. I did decide to get it fixed and I am going to keep looking for a manual xrs.

Do you know if the newer models had the same get up and go? I am a lover of the fold down seats and huge cargo area. Also I’m a taller person and the headroom is perfect for me. This is the 1st car I’ve felt comfortable in.

Thank you again for your reply!

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#5

Sadly the newer models got rid of the 1.8 2zzge and got the 2.4 that they use in the base Camry. It makes way more torque, but less horsepower, and it feels quite pedestrian compared to the 1.8. I don’t know if they’re even as comfortable on the inside, but the 2nd gen XRS models did come with an independent rear suspension.

I’m also tall and have a 2nd gen Scion XB. It’s a great car for legroom as the seat is really tall and lots of room on the inside with the seats folded down. It has the same boring 2.4, but I have the 5 speed manual which makes it a bit for fun. They’re also really cheap for what you can get. You can find spotless clean ones for like 7 grand.

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#6

Following up on this… I’ve put $2200 into new brakes and suspension work and the horrible noise persists. It’s been back to Toyota twice and they can’t duplicate it/can’t figure it out. What should I do?

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#7

A lot of shops offer at least a 30 day warranty on repairs. Did it make the noise again immediately after you left with it?

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#8

Not until the next morning. It only happens when I step on the brakes the 1st thing in the morning.

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#9

Like, when braking when driving 1st thing, or just pushing the brakes while sitting in the car?

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#10

Braking when driving first thing.

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#11

That’s an odd one, then it goes away for the rest of the time when driving? Maybe it’s an ABS thing.

As a former service adviser, I’d go back, tell them exactly when it happens in full detail (like even outside temp if it’s cold, warm, wet and raining, etc) and they’ll probably have to keep it overnight and try to replicate your problem in the morning.

You just want to give them as much detail as possible. Try to remember everything you can next time it makes the noise.

Good luck, and they should probably at least wave the diagnostic fee.

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