By Reuven E. Epstein
My wife and I are on our 3rd Toyota. The first was a 1987 Tercel wagon with a 5-speed stick shift and about 70 HP. We still have it at over 257,000 miles. The second was a 2002 Sienna van that died in a collision at about 120,000 miles. We replaced the van in October ‘09 with a Matrix from a car rental outfit with about 30,000 miles. The Matrix is basically a Corolla with a hatchback. It is not fancy, large or expensive, so I didn’t expect a lot from it other than basic transportation. And yet, my wife and I are very disappointed.
In the rush to replace the van, we were overwhelmed by the newer, flashy design of the Matrix, and we overlooked the problems we discovered later. It has a nicely designed, well-lit instrument panel that caught our attention. It also has a poorly designed rear hatch and side windows that
severely limit visibility that we didn’t pay enough attention to. When backing out of a parking space it is almost impossible to see anyone or anything in back or to the side. Our car is a ‘09 that is an “improved design” from the ‘08. The ‘08 had decent side windows in back. The ‘09 replaced them with metal. From the outside it looks like there are dark glass windows to the rear of the metal. From the inside you discover that the larger glass on the outside turns into very narrow “cat’s eye slits on the inside that are almost useless.
Not to settle for its screwed-up rear view, Toyota also limited forward visibility. The seats are set very low, so it feels like you are sitting inside a high-walled bathtub. I am almost six feet tall, and I still have trouble seeing. The dashboard is set high, and it is not possible to see the hood over it. The windshield posts are very thick and the large outside mirrors are set up over the top of the window openings in the doors. Between the posts and the mirrors cars and people are hidden. Making left and right turns is a real challenge. In the Tercel the seats are higher, the posts smaller, and the outside mirrors are smaller and lower. We have never had any trouble seeing from the driver’s seat in the Tercel.
I have always had good feelings about Toyota design and quality. Not now. I cannot believe that people at Toyota passed off on this car. These are not strange electronic or mechanical problems. These are highly visible simple design mistakes that anyone working on an auto design should see especially when the older model was better.