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Matrix needs reprogramming. Image by James Jenkins.

Matrix needs reprogramming
Hyundai's car, the Matrix, hit the showrooms in 2001 and the car we test here is basically as it was then.

   



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It is always the case that where one company leads into a new area and is greeted with success that some, if not all of the others will eagerly follow for their slice of the action. The small family MPV sector was one such place, opened up by specialist in the field Renault with its Megane-based Scenic, with a vein of buyer's rich enough for everyone to mine.

Hyundai's car, the Matrix, hit the showrooms in 2001 and the car we test here is basically as it was then. Hyundai took the usual approach of looking at the market leaders, making note of the most desirable features and then going about reworking them in its own style and at its own low prices.

The external styling was penned by Pininfarina and catered for European tastes. It looks a little dated alongside the next generation of cars it was originally competing against, but is by no means ugly or offensive; anonymous is probably the worst you could call it.

Hyundai's Matrix is relatively short, but maximises interior space by pushing the wheels out towards the corners and being relatively wide for its length. This pays obvious dividends in the interior in terms of accommodation; it also makes it an easy car to drive and park. The deep windows allow for excellent visibility for all occupants, as well as allowing more light to flood into the cabin, which is always welcome.

The interior is very much the norm for a compact MPV, including five seats with a foldable rear row split 60:40 to maximise load space and occupant room. The layout features, such as a shallow and sculpted dash moulding, add to an airy feel with plenty of head and legroom all-round.

Cabin materials are ok, but nowhere near the quality of the class leader's, but then nor is the price tag. The dials and gauges sit in the centre of the dash, to the obvious benefit of manufacturing costs, meaning at first an unnatural glance to the side to check speed, fuel level etc. A row of lights for indicator function and warnings for critical features are sited just behind the wheel, minimising the possibility of them going unseen in the centre display. The gearshift is mounted below the controls for the heater and stereo.

Under the skin of the Matrix sits the Hyundai Elantra platform and it also shares some engines with that donor car. Three units are in the line-up; we drove the oldest power plant, the 1.6-litre DOHC four-cylinder petrol engine. A newer 1.8-litre petrol is available along with a 1.5-litre common rail turbodiesel (CRTD) unit, as tested in the Hyundai Getz. On paper, the 1.6 sits somewhere between the 1.5 CRTD and the 1.8-litre petrol in terms of performance and economy. It performs adequately with 102bhp and 104lb.ft of torque, but it is very raucous when worked hard and in a variety of driving conditions we struggled to better 35mpg. From our experience we'd recommend the 1.8-litre petrol from a refinement point of view, admittedly at a fractional increase in fuel consumption. If fuel economy alone is your main criteria then the diesel wins hands down; its greater torque output may make for real world performance on a par to the petrol as well, although Hyundai's flat-out performance figures are not flattering in this respect.

Apart from the relatively poor NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), the Matrix drives well with nice light controls. The handling is competent, if someway short of something like a Ford Focus C-MAX, and the ride is soft and supple enough to offer decent comfort. Refinement at a cruise is quite good with little wind noise and a reduced contribution from the engine.

Overall the Matrix is very old school Hyundai. The main appeal is the price and the warranty that allows you the new car ownership experience for the price of a second hand offering from a rival, around 11,000 in the case of our test car. This in itself remains enough for some people, and justifiably so, but the car is average at best.

To be fair this is an older car in Hyundai's range now and its own newer offerings add to its shortcomings by showing just how far the marque has come over the last five years. People looking at a Hyundai Santa Fe in the showrooms will be underwhelmed by the lesser quality and overall package that the Matrix offers.

If you have to have a new car then the Matrix isn't a bad car per se, given that it is effectively a generation out of date now, only relative to newer class leaders could you say that it is a weak offering. Personally I'd wait for Hyundai to wave the same magic wand at the Matrix as has been waved at the Coupe and the Santa Fe before taking the plunge.
Hyundai Matrix UK range overview

- Hyundai Matrix 1.6 GSI : 10,995
- Hyundai Matrix 1.6 GSI Auto : 11,870
- Hyundai Matrix 1.5 CRTD GSI (diesel) : 11,690
- Hyundai Matrix 1.8 CDX : 12,220
- Hyundai Matrix 1.8 CDX Auto : 13,070

Dave Jenkins - 26 Jul 2006



  www.hyundai.co.uk    - Hyundai road tests
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2006 Hyundai Matrix specifications: (1.6 GSI)
Price: 10,995 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 12.7 seconds
Top speed: 106mph
Combined economy: 39.8mpg
Emissions: 174g/km
Kerb weight: 1323kg

2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.

2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.   


2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2005 Hyundai Matrix. Image by James Jenkins.
 






 

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