Matrix vs. vibe


I am looking for an economical small wagon and like the matrix. The high roof promises fewer conked heads when taking a baby bucket out of the car. The Vibe seems to be identical but sells for less. I asked a Pontiac Vibe owner if he was happy with his car. He claimed that his leaked fluids at 40,000 miles because GM had bastardized the vehicle somehow. He felt that if he bought the matrix there would have been no problems. Do you have any insights on this? Can GM actually screw up the vibe and make it faulty or is it an exact clone of the Matrix? Greg


Other than styling and minor options they are identical. The last thing a manufacturer wants to do when rebadging a car is go and spend a fortune re-engineering it. Any car can leak fluids, so saying it wouldn’t have happened if he had purchased the same car with a different name is just ignorant.


The only difference is that the Pontiac will depreciate a little bit quicker, due to attitudes like your friend’s. If you’re buying new, intending to sell later, the Matrix is probably better, but if you’re buying used you can probably pick up a Vibe a little bit cheaper.


Same car, different badges, slightly different trim.


GM may even improve the car dependent on your view. All cars have failures including golden Toyota.


I recently struggled with this decision and was influenced by reports like “Consumer Reports” that assigned higher ratings to the Matrix. My friend’s Toyotas have always been so quiet that I hoped the company might do a better job than Pontiac at insulation against noises. I also hoped for a better trade value. I have an '09 with almost 2K miles on it and I love it. My primary criterion for any car is gas mileage, and I have zero complaints. I live in the country and do most of my driving on state roads, with little time spent in a city or on an interstate highway. My usual mileage is around 32 (This is for an automatic) and I was over 35 on a 400 mile trip on very good state roads with a speed limit of 55. I have to be honest and tell you that I have recently had a terrible speeding ticket and worked diligently to hold right on 55.

This car does not have cruise control. If you get a Matrix be absolutely certain the cruise is included, if you want this feature.

I love the quiet and smooth (for a compact) ride. Yesterday I was going to be late for an important meeting and I was frustrated by all the slow drivers I encountered while driving on a hilly, narrow country road. The speed limit is not posted so the assumed limit is 55 (a deputy told me that when I moved out here). I needed to be on time and drove like a teenager, something I haven’t done in many years. I passed 6 cars, twice taking two at a time. I hauled around curves that made me hang on to my center of gravity. I accelerated like a kid, AND I HAD A BALL!!! I didn’t know the little car had so much in reserve and handled that well. I’m not likely to repeat this foolish break-neck driving, but I will always remember feeling like a kid again.

I love my Matrix, even if it is ugly looking.


Every Matrix sold in the US and Canada is made in the Cambridge, Canada plant, which has the best quality rating of any plant in North America. The Vibe, I believe is made in California in the NUMMI joint venture plant. There should not be much differnce between the two; the NUMMI plant has Toyota calling the shots on qaulity.


“I recently struggled with this decision and was influenced by reports like “Consumer Reports” that assigned higher ratings to the Matrix.”

And when you see those differences hitting one over the other in terms of reliability, you know right then and there the minimum amount of error there is in Consumer Reports’ ratings. These vehicles are almost 100% identical mechanically. With the previous pairing, the Corolla and the Prizm, there were slight differences in suspension tuning, but that was really about it.

The only reason for buying a new Matrix would be if you were planning on selling in a couple years. The ignorant masses will pay you more for your Matrix than they would for a Vibe, because that plastic Toyota symbol has magic powers to keep your vehicle running properly. However, when you’re buying used, a well-maintained Vibe is generally the way to go - the same vehicle for less money.


"Every Matrix sold in the US and Canada is made in the Cambridge, Canada plant, which has the best quality rating of any plant in North America. "

In which study does the Cambridge plant have the best quality?

In 2007 JD Power reported it:

  1. Ford’s Wixom Plant (now closed - platinum for best quality any plant anywhere in the world serving the US market)
  2. GM Oshawa Ontario #2
  3. Honda East Liberty

In 2006, it was:

  1. GM Oshawa Ontario #2
  2. Toyota Georgetown
  3. DaimlerChrysler Windsor Ontario

In 2005, it was:

  1. GM Oshawa Ontario #2
  2. GM Oshawa Ontario #1
  3. GM Hamtramck, MI




Forgot which study, but it was an overall efficiency of production and build qualilty rating. Toyota even builds some Lexus models in that plant. Agree that Canadian plants generally compare very well with US and Mexican plants.


Make that Canadian plants and “US plants that Ford has recently announced that are being closed” (sorry, there just seems to be a nasty correlation between a Ford plant winning and getting closed - there are plenty of Ford plants still running here).

Anyway, if you do find the study, please let me know - I’d be interested in seeing it. There is the Harbour Report for assembly plant efficiency, but they don’t touch quality. And according to them, Cambridge North finishes in 5th (Corolla) and 6th (Matrix) for efficiency in the “compact non-premium conventional” category… behund Spring Hill (Saturn), Alliston #1 (Honda), NUMMI (Toyota/GM), and Lordstown (GM)… and just a tad above Wayne (Ford). Over all segments, they’re not in the top 10 according to them. So if you can find out which study, I’d appreciate it (you have to compare several studys to get a real feel for differences)…


“…leaked fluids at 40,000 miles…”

Now that is what I call specific criticism. For all we know, that was the first time that he first noticed AC condensate under his car.


It sounds like ordinary bad luck.


I own a 2003 Vibe that now has over 128000 miles on it with no problems at all, none. It is a super solid car, made in the same plant as many Corollas are. The Vibe/Matrix is essentially a Corolla wagon. If you do get a Vibe, the two biggies are the coolant and the transmission fluid…If your Pontiac dealer does these services make sure they use their Toyota equivalent coolant (not DexCool) and Toyota equivalent transmission fluid (not Dexron III)…These are a big deal and many GM/Pontiac dealers will screw these up.


The Matrix and Vibe are both fine cars, differing only in the assembly plant. Since the NUMMI plant also assembls Corollas and Tundras, the quality is quite good. Feel safe in buying a Vibe, as long as it’s not your friend’s Vibe.


There is one other factor that’s different: the warranty. If one dealer offers a better warranty for what is in essence the same car, and the pricing is comparable, you may want to buy where the warranty is longest.

I’ve never personally been influenced by that, but some may want to be aware of it.