toyota matrix or mazda3 hatch?

el_bagadorel_bagador Member Posts: 28
edited March 2014 in Mazda
i'm ready to ditch my '92 saab 900 for something cheaper (both to buy and maintain) and more reliable. i'll be making a new purchase in the spring, and would like to get something in a compact sportwagon/hatch. i haven't tested anything yet, but i can tell just from doing a lot of reading that i'll like driving the 3 better. the main question for me is the reliability....the matrix is pretty much a corolla, and it seems like the reliability will speak for itself. the 3 is unclear, however, since it's a relatively new model. anybody know anything about this? i've read that mazdas are generally reliable and cheap to maintain--truth? also, how's the sound system in the 3? please help...your responses are greatly appreciated!!!!


  • el_bagadorel_bagador Member Posts: 28
    i live in new do these two compare in snow?
  • creakid1creakid1 Member Posts: 2,032
    should have the reliability history of the '04 cars.

    Both the '04 Focus & '04 Mazda3 are "above average" & thus way more reliable than the "below average" '04 Mazda6 & '04 RX-8. The choice is yours, so I picked the '05 Focus ST. But, interestingly, I haven't seen one on the road!
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    may have a couple of "issues" that are still being resolved - check out the Mazda3 thread. These could be first year blues that arefixed son. One relates to poor performance of the A/C, I believe.

    Any issues the Matrix had were fixed up two years ago now, as this model has been around longer (and I had one with a couple of early-release issues).

    If the Mazda3s is the model you think you'll like driving better, don't write off the Matrix XRS just yet - it is a lot of fun in its own right. But the Matrix does have a higher and more minivan-like driving position, which does not lend itself well to sporty driving. However, the counterpoint to this is that it has a more balanced suspension - sporty in the curves but not punishing over the bad pavement.

    And yes, the Matrix is mostly a Corolla (XRS having a Celica powertrain) under the skin, so it should be very reliable in the long term. As should the 3.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • creakid1creakid1 Member Posts: 2,032
    "However, the counterpoint to this is that it has a more balanced suspension - sporty in the curves but not punishing over the bad pavement."

    That's what Focus's for -- does well in both ride & handling, plus better steering feel than both.

    "And yes, the Matrix is mostly a Corolla (XRS having a Celica powertrain) under the skin, so it should be very reliable in the long term."

    That's the point -- Toy 4-cyl power trains sound unrefined starting 3000 rpm. So go rev the heck out of the '04 Focus w/ Mazda powerplant then amaze yourself! ;-) By the way, even w/o revving, my '05 Focus ST is gutsy even off the line at low rpms!
  • el_bagadorel_bagador Member Posts: 28
    thanks...i've seen your id on a lot of boards, you seem to be very knowledgeable. seems like m3's have a lot of bugs, and its not clear if they've been dealt with. haven't had time to do much reading of the matrix board yet--any common bugs with those, or have they been pretty well ironed out?
  • oskwioskwi Member Posts: 88
    We're in the exact same boat looking at the same exact cars! I've narrowed my search between the two you mentioned...for now, at least.

    I live in Buffalo, NY and am looking for something that is reliable that will allow me to transport "stuff" in. I do NOT particularly want an SUV...too expensive with gas, insurance, gas, gas, etc...

    From the research I have done, the Matrix had some initial problems with sulfur smelling exhaust and with the auto headlight sensors. These problems seems to have been corrected...and even if they were not, I wouldn't harp on them.

    The Mazda 3 should be very reliable BUT, there have been a few documented cases of poorly performing A/C and recently, some airbag sensor problems. While the car is much more refined than its predecessor, the Protege, I think there are still some glitches that need addressing. Personally, the big turn off for me with the M3 was the cheap removable shelf in the cargo area. It was cumbersome to remove and seemed like it would not "stand the test of time". However, I'm sure the driving experience is superior to my '01 Mazda...didn't have time to drive M3, just stopped in and took a look.

    Good luck with your research and let us know what findings you observe.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    I had one of the early release Matrixes, and it rattled and squeaked like nobody's business! Very annoying. Despite several attempts by the dealer, many were still there when I sold it after 18 months. Some had been eliminated, only to be replaced by others.

    Early Matrixes also had the twilight sensor thing - the car would turn the headlights on and off 10 times a minute whenever you went into the shade, or made a right or left turn, or whatever. Toyota issued a TSB on that one within six months of the start of production, and fixed the existing cars like mine for free.

    There was also an early problem where some cars' light sensor would cause the headlights to turn on in the middle of the night, so that their owner woke up to a dead battery in the morning. That was much less widespread, and Toyota had nailed that one down and issued a recall within a few months as well.

    All those issues above were resolved in the first model year, so you would not have to deal with any of that now. One thing that has hung around because it has not been a big enough complaint for Toyota to do anything about it, is the little storage compartment below the shifter, which drops open and won't stay closed securely for some folks. I don't know how much you might care about that, but if you do, check out the car you actually plan to buy and make sure it stays shut after you put items inside! :-)

    I never used mine at all, so this was not an issue for me.

    The Matrix is a solid choice in terms of quality and reliability, have no fear, if that turns out to be the best car for you.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • el_bagadorel_bagador Member Posts: 28
    thanks for the matrix info....any other issues you know about? i also need a car for 'stuff' and don't want any kind of SUV (or ford...but thanks creak).

    from what i'v eread on other boards, mazda3's have documented issues with:
    --fast back brake rotor and pad wear
    --check engine light and airbag sensors
    --knocking in the rear, from the bumper area

    but the mechanical problems seemed to be in the first model year, which is to be expected. so i'm really wondering what people's experiences with the 05's are so far and if these problems carried over from the first year. if they're still hanging around, it will make my decision easy, since the trix seems to have minimal issues these days.
  • sschaffersschaffer Member Posts: 80
    I'm in a rather unique position as I'm a Toyota Technician, been working at a largish Central California dealership service dept for over 30 years.

    I also own a Mazda 3S 4 door sedan, which I purchased last July 31. It's an 04 model with a 6/04 production date. I've had it over 4 months now and nothing has gone wrong, no rattles, AC copes well with the 105 degree heat here in Fresno, no check engine light or rear brake rotor problems and the airbag sensor thing was apparently taken care of in production before mine was built as it does not apply to my car.

    The Matrix has settled into having the kind of reliability Toyota is famous for, very few complaints any more and no common glitches in the last year or so.

    I like the overall refined feel of the Mazda 3, it's quiet engine and good torque and especially the butter smooth manual shift and clutch. All Mazda 3s come with 4 wheeh disc brakes, ya gotta get the overpriced XRS Matrix to get them. That Matrix also comes with the 180hp engine that acts like 135hp except between 6400 and 6800 rpm.

    The Mazda handles better by a large margin, much less body lean. It has a very sophisticated fully independent blade type rear suspension where the Matrix has a simple twist-beam axle.

    The Toyota engine is much noisier on accelleration, begs to be upshifted long before you get anywhere near redline. The Mazda's 2.3 is as silky smooth and quiet as most V-6s, actually more so than Toyota's recent 3.3 V6, you never feel like you need to upshift to make things settle down and I've caught myself in 3rd many times when I thought I was in 4th.

    The Matrix interior is sorta boy-racer looking, while the Mazda's looks more European.

    Matrix shares it's platform with the Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3 shares it's with the Volvo s-40 and v-50, so you can guess which has the better driving dynamics and more solid feel.
  • el_bagadorel_bagador Member Posts: 28
    schaffer--wow--that's good information, seriously. appreciate the input. so nothing with the rear brake rotors/pads? are the rear rotors vented now, or made out of stronger metal? also--the top-level trix did seem pricey, glad it's not my imagination.

    buffalo (can i call you that?)--i'm testing my buddy's trix tomorrow (automatic unfortunately) and a 3 stick tomorrow. will post my impressions sometime sunday or monday. would also be cool to bounce knowledge/impressions/dealer experiences back and forth during our respective testing/buying processes--whaddyathink? i saw your email is private, as is mine, so this board will have to do.
  • el_bagadorel_bagador Member Posts: 28
    so i drove both the matrix xrs, and a 3 this afternoon. my impressions:

    3: i drove this first--the dealer said "here take it, be back in an hour" and off i went. let me tell you, it was nice to take a test with no dealer yammering about financing and other bull$&% in my ear. anyway, this car kicks. i buzzed around a standard-issue massachusetts rotary (roundabout, traffic circle, whatever) three times in a row (i think) to test the acceleration through turns and body lean, and it's tight. very tight. also went on a small, trafficy state highway with lots of lights, which i made fun by doing lots of quick lane changes (at between about 40 and 60 mph) and accerlations off stops. the car accelerates really well through its range (except at the very start, where there seems to be a slight delay, but nothing i'm upset about) and snaps out of turns like nobodies business--on first blush, it handles (and definitely accelerates) better than what i drive now (old saab 900). it feels like it's glued to the road. the ride didn't seem to be overly harsh to me, but my 900 is rattly and harsh as hell over rough stuff. took it on the highway up to about 85, since this is as fast as i ever go, under any circumstances, and it was quiet. sure, a little wind, but not that bad at all. the engine didn't seem like it was having a hard time at all, at any speed i drove. as far as the interior goes, it's nice...i turned on the radio for about 5 seconds, until i decided it would be better to not crash while trying to figure out the settings--the setup is a little strange. this brings me to the only thing i really didn't care for--the lights that twinkle, for lack of a better word, on the radio when you adjust the volume. who thought this was a good idea again? does only one person on the design team have to think something is a good idea for it to make it into the production model?whatever. no big deal. if i get the car i'll do something to cover it up or disable it. or get used to it. oh, and the driver position is pretty close to my 900--feels pretty low slung, and had no trouble getting comfy in it.

    matrix xrs: no such luck with a solo drive with toyota, their lot is alcatraz, and their cars are prisoners on work release. i don't know, maybe this is normal. anyway, schaffer is dead on with his description--the engine is loud (even louder than the sales guy), and sounds like it's constantly being overworked. and what i've read elsewhere was confirmed: even with the celica drivetrain, this car feels woefully underpowered. unless you get the revs up into the 6000's. low end acceleration was pretty pedestrian, i thought. took the same route as with the 3 (except i practically had to bribe the sales guy to let me go on the highway--again, is this normal?). id definitely leaned more through the rotary, and didn't accellerate well through the turns (at least not as well as the 3). on the highway it was loud--wind and engine. and the manual tranny felt really notchy and stiff, nowhere near as smooth as the 3. the interior was fine...not as cheesy as i expected. the only thing that i didn't dig was the position--felt like i was in a mini minivan. there's more space, it feels bigger, and the cargo space is bigger.

    initial verdict: the mazda ran circles around the toyota, as far as pure driving was concerned. the toyota will hold a little bit more stuff, and your passengers will be a little bit more comfortable--it's fine if you don't need a car that hugs the road and accelerates well. it's definitely no slouch, it's just not a 3.

    i'm going to be driving these two (and probably an impreza) a bunch over the next few months...will post further impressions as i go.
  • creakid1creakid1 Member Posts: 2,032
    "...the only thing that i didn't dig was the position--felt like i was in a mini minivan. there's more space, it feels bigger, and the cargo space is bigger...the toyota will hold a little bit more stuff, and your passengers will be a little bit more comfortable..."

    The Toyota has more space, in fact, so roomy that you will find miles of space between you & the steering wheel. I thought the driver is suppose to reach the steering wheel.
  • el_bagadorel_bagador Member Posts: 28 reach the wheel confortably in the matrix i had to be virtually on top of it, which cramped my legs a touch and left me a little too close to the dash for my liking. the stick position is also a little weird...again, felt too close to everything.
  • oskwioskwi Member Posts: 88
    Very thorough first impressions. I went and looked at the Matrix on Friday night when there were no salesmen/women around. I find this to be more appropriate since I can take my time looking at the car. Ironically, the dealership lots around here are busier during off times at night than they are during the day. I think people are fed up with the constant sales drone when you go in during work hours. Anyway, there I am looking over the car in 25 degree weather. I agree with you...I don't like the interior...especially the steering wheel being so close to the dash. I also don't like the absence of body cladding (molding?) on the doors. Those doors are "ping and ding" magnets waiting to happen. I do like the new front-end refresh with the more integrated fog lamps however.

    I still like the looks of the Mazda 3 better. It is more aggressive by far. What were your thoughts regarding the height over the road. I still like the idea of being higher over the road, but will not buy an SUV to do so. That's why the newer cross-over vehicles are of such interest to me. You can have the best of all worlds in my like drive (I don't like "trucky" drives as I'd like to salvage my kidneys; decent amount of cargo space...for my needs anyway; decent fuel economy)

    I'll be taking my test drives over my upcoming Christmas break when I have more time. From your post, and my initial observations, I'm maybe only 50% sold on the Toyota. If your test drive impressions hold true, that percentage will drop!

  • el_bagadorel_bagador Member Posts: 28
    well, like i said, the matrix seating position is substantially higher up and more, um, erect. mazda is more low slung--not like a sports car necessarily, just lower, and more comfortable in my opinion, since you can stretch your legs out and let the wheel telescope to you. but my personal preferance is to be lower to the road if i can help it. it sounds like if you want to be a little higher, but still get a reasonably handling and very fuel efficient ride, the matrix would suit you better between the two.

    the matrix front end refresh is nice, but the 3 also has integrated headlights too. and it's definitely a nicer body design overall.
  • creakid1creakid1 Member Posts: 2,032
    Only the Volvo S40/V50 w/ std cushion-tilt allows me to sit high comfortably & still has a high door armrest for me to rest on while holding on to the 9-o'clock-position steering spoke & turn signal stalk continuously!

    Mazda3's Japanese-designed interior has a low armrest but I can't really sit low in it w/o loosing the thigh support. Therefore, I always have to raise the seat all the way high in order to feel right for my legs, & then I will need the headroom of a moonroof-less car. I'm 5'11", by the way.

    At least the driving position in my '05 Focus ST's German-designed interior allows my legs to stretch out comfortably whether the seat is raised or lowered. Only the door armrest isn't high enough. Plus, the turn signal stalk & steering spoke are higher than the 9 o'clock position.

    I doubt the Corolla/Matrix, even w/ the telescopic steering likes the '05 Euro model, will let you reach the steering close enough. Just check out the current Golf/Jetta w/ std telescopic steering & see a similar problem nearly as bad.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Member Posts: 1,280
    Can you hang your arm out the window comfortably in these two cars?
  • el_bagadorel_bagador Member Posts: 28
    i don't know, i didn't try. the matrix seems to have a really high sill though.
  • oskwioskwi Member Posts: 88
    Thanks for the info. The reason I asked is because some vehicles that are higher off of the ground have very low seats in relation to the floor...the RAV4 and the Pathfinder are two such cars that have a nice "view of the road" but really irritate my back personally.

    Also, the Aerio wagon was on my original "it fits my criteria" list but quickly dropped off. It was more due to the extreme lack of dealerships around here and the general dealership attitude than anything else. The exterior is just a bit too different for my taste as well. What have you heard about Suzukis in your area of the country? What made the M3 and Matrix the final two contenders for you personally?
  • creakid1creakid1 Member Posts: 2,032
    After I got my high-chair Focus ST w/ a dome-like moonroof-less ceiling, I felt like inside of a minivan but corners AND rides like a German sport sedan.

    Then I noticed the Aerio & the Five Hundred on the road looking like my little & big bros, respectively. But they are totally unrelated to my German-designed Focus. 'cause the Aerio is Japanese & the Five Hundred is derived from the Swedish S80.

    Japan does not have the technology to design a tall narrow little car that rides comfortably, let alone riding comfortably while handles like a sports car. Just take a look at the Aerio, xA, xB, Echo or even the Matrix/Corolla(which rides OK). & some of them can even feel tippy on cross wind.

    The German-platform Mazda3 is somewhat close just lagging behind the Focus, both I & II, in ride comfort.

    By the way, like the Chevy Aveo, Suzuki cars these days are just bunch of Daewoo's from Korea. Don't confuse them w/ the Japanese-designed Geo Metro/Pontiac Fire Fly(Canada) being a Suzuki Swift w/ one cylinder deleted.
  • el_bagadorel_bagador Member Posts: 28
    1. < 20 g's-->necessary
    2. reviews, what owners are saying about them
    3. reliability
    4. maintenance & insurance costs

    as you can probably tell, the matrix has been more or less eliminated for me--there were too many things i didn't like about the way it drove. it's been replaced with a subaru impreza rs wagon, which i have yet to test.
  • stragerstrager Member Posts: 308
    I was in the market for a compact hatchback/wagon from a Japanese nameplate, and bought a Scion xB (from Toyota) after also looking at the Matrix and Mazda3.

    If horsepower is a priority, then forget about the xB. But if you want a high quality, fun to drive, compact wagon with a HUGE interior and great gas mileage for only $15K fully equipped (including stability control and ABS), the xB is a no-brainer choice. The xB is simply the most fun car I've owned.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    while many of the Suzukis are rebadged Daewoos, remember that the Aerio is the exception - designed by Suzuki for Suzuki.

    Having said that, if the Aerio interests you then you really ought to be taking a closer look at the Matrix, IMO. Some of the negatives of the Aerio are erased in the Matrix, and all of the good points are present, and then some.

    Regardless of what the Matrix XRS and Mazda3s hatch will do in instrumented tests, the Mazda will always "feel" sportier from the driver's seat, because of the more connected controls, the lower seating position (and lower roof), and the less buslike relationship of the driver to the steering wheel.

    But the flip side for me was that the Mazda was crashy over bad pavement and gave up a lot of rear seat passenger room and cargo space to the Matrix. Not to mention having a lot more road noise. The Mazda is definitely the sport alternative to the Matrix, but you might be surprised at just how sporty the Matrix can be. The Matrix just needs to develop a fatter power band than 6200-7800 rpm.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • creakid1creakid1 Member Posts: 2,032
    "But the flip side for me was that the Mazda was crashy over bad pavement and gave up a lot of rear seat passenger room and cargo space to the Matrix. Not to mention having a lot more road noise."

    The solution is to donate its 17"s to the 16" 3's right there in the lot before you purchase the 3 hatch. If that doesn't work well enough, then replace the shocks with...uh...Volvo S40's non-sport units. Why don't you just get the (reliable '05)Focus hatch/wagon w/ std 15"s or optional 16"s! ;-) I guarantee the suspension-tuning rides damn comfy!(See CR's half-red-circle rating)
  • mdaffronmdaffron Member Posts: 4,421

  • SylviaSylvia Member Posts: 1,636
    It is. Let's get back on topic folks. If you want to talk about the xB, use the Browse Forums by Vehicle menu on the left to locate discussions for it.
  • stragerstrager Member Posts: 308
    Since I originally was trying to make the same decision (Matrix vs Mazda3), but ended up buying the xB, I posted why I made that choice.

    One post about the xB isn't going to remake this topic into a xB discussion. Please note that others have also mentioned the Ford Focus, Suzuki Aerio and the Volvo V40 in this discussion, probably because they felt those cars were similar in some ways to the Matrix and Mazda3.
  • oskwioskwi Member Posts: 88
    Thanks for the information. I'm pretty much in the same situation.

    It seems as if I started something by inadvertently mentioning the Aerio...which I explicitly stated as being dropped from my list. I'll refrain from further non-M3 and non-Matrix word usage.

    I haven't spoken with my insurance rep. as of yet, but how do the rates compare for the M3 and Matrix in your area? I would assume that they are similar?
  • el_bagadorel_bagador Member Posts: 28
    probably...i haven't looked into that aspect of thisng yet, though. as soon as i do, it will be public knowledge.
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