Raymond D. Young / Raymond D. Young | July 11, 2005 00:00
The Italian and Korean JobIt is an outsourcing world. In the 21st century setting, it is not uncommon to see products made or designed elsewhere other than the company's headquarters or its home country. Thanks to modern technology which made communication wherever and whenever in the world easier, and partly, by cheaper labor costs of other countries. The latter alone suffices to woo large corporations to jump in the outsourcing bandwagon, for what comes with outsourcing is the promise of reduced expenses, particularly in the field of manpower.
But not everyone who engages in outsourcing is after profit or reduced costs. More than a handful of corporations, automotive ones included, turn to outsourcing as a means of adding value or prestige to its current line-up. In the case of Hyundai, it made sure that its new MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) offering will be representative of the firm's renewed commitment and vision to be one of the world's leading automakers in due time.
The Matrix MPV is a result of Hyundai's partnership with renowned Italian automotive designer Pininfarina, proof of which is the designer's badge on the side profile of every Matrix produced. True to MPV tradition, the Matrix is a family wagon with hints of versatility all around, from the sliding rear seats and almost endless seating configurations to accommodate buttocks, cargo, or both, depending on the need.
Exterior wise, the Matrix possesses exterior dimensions befitting an MPV, as evidenced by its slightly taller height vis-à-vis its overall width, in the name of increased interior dimensions while occupying lesser road space. Its tall ride height also is in line with its promise of go anywhere, including knee-deep Manila floods maybe, although the Matrix is no off-roader. For 2005, sporty exterior appointments of the Matrix include a honeycomb design grille and air dam, and multi-spoke 14" alloy wheels.
When the Matrix was launched sometime in 2003, it came with a 1.6 liter gasoline engine that this writer feels is adept for various Philippine road conditions. For 2005, the Matrix comes to life anew with the fire-breathing virtues of the new 1.5 liter CRDi (Common Rail Diesel Injection) turbocharged engine with five-speed manual transmission. From sober and unassuming, the Matrix suddenly becomes torque happy and it's bound to be one brisk city and highway sprinter.
A five-day stint with the Matrix is more than enough for one to realize the new life it has been given. Steering feedback suffices in most conditions, although one will yearn for a sharper and more responsive feedback. But, given the vehicle's taller height versus its width, the current steering ratio of 3.19 turns is safe so as not to induce the vehicle to a rollover. Springing virtues, via the tandem of McPherson front struts and dual link rear coil springs with gas dampers are fine and firm; a little tuning however is needed so as to eliminate minor torque steer when the diesel engine is churning out torque figures. Braking is very good and with great pedal feedback, although ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) incorporated into it won't hurt.
The Matrix truly is another fun vehicle to drive, especially with the new diesel engine. With peak torque occurring at a very early 2,000 rpm, every trip is full of torque, and also encourages one to shift early to maximize its narrow power band. On lazy days, even a shifting point of a little above 1,000 rpm is enough to keep up. Small but terrible characterizes the new diesel engine accurately; it may be low in displacement but a plethora of technology accompanying it makes one forget everything about the displacement; especially when one realizes its efficient fuel consumption of about 12++ kilometers per liter in mixed cycle driving. Overtaking slower vehicles and uphill climbs are also a piece of cake with the Matrix CRDi. Transmission gear ratios are a perfect fit to the new CRDi engine as it possesses a taller-than-usual first gear, great for stump pulling and prepping the vehicle up to triple digit speeds. The successive gears are well spaced as well. The final gear ratio of 3.842 also provides longer transition points so as to maximize, again, the diesel engine's inherent narrow power band.
The interior on the other hand, is all about storage, as it is plagued by a myriad of cubby holes and storage locations. A JVC MP3 head unit is the Matrix's sound companion, providing hours of tunes especially on long trips. The increased legroom, headroom and shoulder room is enough to rival much larger cars. As mentioned, the sliding rear seat provides a touch of flexibility as it gives way to either to more rear legroom or cargo space. Tall seating all around is also in the MPV tradition, as it encourages one to see more of the road and view ahead. The main gripe of this writer, however, is the Matrix's lack of a height adjustable driver's seat or a pedal height adjuster; most of the time he rests his feet on the pedals (i.e. clutch driver) as they are quite hard to reach at times. At the very least, a foot rest underneath the pedals is a well thought aftermarket option. But despite this very minor finding, all these MPV perks, together with the affordable PHP 678,000 price tag and three year or 100,000 kilometer warranty (whichever comes first), makes the Matrix a worthwhile catch.