Notes: The Toyota Matrix is the mechanical twin of the Pontiac Vibe.

Both models were a joint GM-Toyota venture, manufactured together at a NUMMI production facility in Fremont, CA. Only the heating & A/C systems are different.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
10 / 0
Average Mileage:
51,506 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Toyota Matrix engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Toyota Matrix Owner Comments

problem #20

Jul 122015


  • 300,000 miles


I was slowly pulling into my garage (in the basement of my house), gradually braking as I had done many times before. I was stopping the vehicle in its usual position when the engine suddenly began racing and the car accelerated forward. It struck some shelves I had against the wall of the garage, crumpling both the shelves and the front of the car's hood. Everything happened so fast at that point that I am not sure just what happened, but I ended up with the car stopped up against the garage wall and the car in park. I believe I threw it into neutral, then applied the brake since it was still moving, then tried to back up, and finally put it into park. The car was declared a total loss by my insurance company. I experienced the same problem of sudden acceleration when stopping several times previously, but none of those incidents caused any damage. In each of those situations I was able to get the car into neutral, stop it with the brake, and continue on my way. In this instance there was not enough space ahead of me to do that successfully. I know that a number of incidents of unintended acceleration of a Toyota Matrix have already been reported for a number of different model years.

- Deerfied, MA, USA

problem #19

Jan 232014

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 34,000 miles
I was exiting on a ramp from the highway. I stopped the car before coming off the ramp on an incline when the engine suddenly revved up with my foot on the brake. I immediately put the shifter in neutral and it returned to normal rpms. This is the second time that this has happened in three weeks.

- Templeton, MA, USA

problem #18

Feb 252013

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 99,083 miles
Accelerator pedal sticking, hard to press.

- Grandy, NC, USA

problem #17

Jul 292010


  • 135,000 miles


ABS, brake, & service engine lights came on. Took it to midas, they replaced speed sensors. When I got car back it shifted gears (automatic) funny & hesitated significantly shifting from 2nd to 3rd. Immediately returned car to midas. They re-diagnosed & suggested I take it to Toyota dealer (john elway's crown Toyota). They said it was speedometer cluster & replaced it which did not resolve my problem so declined to pay & asked them to put back my old speedometer cluster. They didn't & didn't charge me for the new one. Had car towed back to midas. They disconnected speed sensors & told me it was drivable. Got on freeway next day & car wouldn't shift from 3rd to 4th gear, engine revved to 6000 rpms, got off freeway & called midas corporate to complain. They said they would have franchise owner call me. He called but did not identify himself as the person I originated dealt with at midas shop, I know this because I called the number they called from & it was the midas shop. Went to midas, today (8/27/10), they asked me to bring car in tomorrow & they would put back old speed sensors & see what happens. They think it's the car's computer but in the meantime I'm out a thousand dollars.

- Guasti, CA, USA

problem #16

Jun 222010


  • 55,500 miles
Morning of June 22nd, when I drove back from charlotte, nc airport to university area, on highway I-85, my Toyota Matrix 2003 stop acceleration-quickly drop the speed from 70mph to 40mph and still dropping. Doesn't matter how hard I apply the gas pedal, it won't accelerate. I stopped the car in an open area close to an exit and stopped the engine--power was on and radio was working. I stopped the engine and waited a few minutes. I then turned the engine back on, tried it again. I was able to drive it to home. God, I was lucky.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #15

Feb 122006

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 91,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Matrix. The contact stated the rpms suddenly increased while the vehicle was in park and would move forward even when the brakes are being appied. The contact took the vehicle to a dealership to have it inspected and the dealer informed the contact that the idle was low. In 2007, the sales dealer told the contact they would lower the idle but she is not sure if that repair was performed. Her concern was that the vehicle could possibly lunge forward and cause a crash. The failure mileage was approximately 91,000. Updated 5/10/10 the consumer stated since the vehicle was purchased, it has lurched forward about once a week or more. Occassionally, when the vehicle was started, the engine would rev extremely high. Updated 06/11/10.

- Akron, OH, USA

problem #14

Aug 172009


  • miles


I have had four instances of sudden acceleration in a 2003 Toyota Matrix xrs over a period of 8 years. In each instance, I was pulling into a carport at a slow speed with my foot on the brake when the engine suddenly accelerated despite the fact that my foot was on the brake, not the gas pedal. In all instances, I was able to press hard on the brake and come to a stop. After the second incident, I took the car into my Toyota dealer and told them what had happened twice. They checked out the car and said nothing was wrong with it. I have had two other incidents since then. I live in a retirement community and have told the authorities here that if I ever drive the car through the carport wall it will be due to sudden acceleration of my Matrix. The incidents are wide-spread -- perhaps every two years. So it is a little hard to get Toyota to pay any attention to the complaint. Please check the electronics -- it is obviously not mechanical. I have given the date of the last incident below.

- Oberlin, OH, USA

problem #13

Feb 262003


  • 209,580 miles
Cruise control on my 2003 Toyota Matrix sometimes disengages while traveling on the freeway. Deceleration is better than acceleration, but it is still unnerving when followed by other cars. Frequency is about once a month, occurs on one trip and happens three or four times. The cruise control disengages even when the light is on. My wife and friends have experienced this in my car, so it is not just me. When I turn my vehicle over to the Toyota people for analysis, they can find nothing wrong. I cannot tell if this is an electrical short in wiring within the steering column or in the electronics.

- Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #12

Mar 042009


  • miles
When I start my car it revs up very high making it sound like it is going to take off by itself. It has been doing it since I bought the car in 2004, and I mentioned it to the dealer and he said those kind of cars do that.

- High Point , NC, USA

problem #11

Feb 052010


  • 80,000 miles
My 2003 Toyota Matrix xr sometimes accelerates uncontrollably. Usually when I am cruising at highway speeds, when I let off of the gas pedal, the car's throttle still feels like it's in the open position, causing the car to speed up instead of slowing down. It almost feels like if the cruise control is turned on and the car is trying to maintain speed. My cruise control was turned off during each of these incidents, and there was no indication that they were turned on at the time of the incidents. This problem occurs once every few months and I usually don't pay attention to them. The car will accelerate for a few seconds then eventually the throttle will close and the car will slow down and then I will apply the brakes gently. I have informed my Toyota dealer of this but they usually just brush the complaint off and say they couldn't find any problems. I personally think it's an electronics issue where the cruise control system override the manual system without the input of the driver.

- North Potomac, MD, USA

problem #10

Feb 122008


  • miles


The contact has a 2003 Toyota Matrix. The contact stated that the vehicle had been having periodic accelelration problems since 2008. The contact stated the sudden acceleration has only happened when the contact is trying to slow down., while driving at any speed. This failure had been happening more over the past two years. The failure mileage was unknown. The current mileage is 86504.

- Brunswick, OH, USA

problem #9

Oct 272006


  • miles
When on the highway especially, vehicle lurches forward and accelerates quite noticeably. It does this at least once daily when accelerating or braking over 30 mph. Please provide information on this issue.

- Springfield Gardens, NY, USA

problem #8

Sep 082003

Matrix 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 11,450 miles
I took the Matrix in twice shortly after I bought it because the car would unexpectedly lunge forward while at a complete stop. I also complained that the brakes felt "loose" and did not "catch" as they should. I was advised both times by the service manager that they could not duplicate the problem and that nothing abnormal was found with car. While I was beginning to look into "lemon laws", in September of last year I was at a stop light with the brake pedal fully engaged. Due to my previous experiences with the car lunging forward, I would keep several feet between me and the car in front of me to avoid an accident. This time the car not only lunged forward, but it was like the accelerator stuck-I had my foot on the brake but could not stop the car after it lunged forward and I hit a car that was in front of me at the light. My car did not stop until I was almost parallel with the other car on the passenger side! I have had the case looked at by Toyota, and their legal department has advised that nothing is wrong with the car-their only explanation is that the vehicle operates to "normal" specifications. They have advised that the car will lunge forward while the air conditioner is as when the ac compressor cycles, it increases the engine RPM and the vehicle will move forward. My air conditioner was not on at the time of this accident, however.

- Franklin, TN, USA

problem #7

Jun 292004


  • Automatic transmission
  • 6,500 miles
While driving the vehicle accelerated without warning. As a result the consumer had to Dodge a vehicle and drove into a corn field. The cause has not been determined. Please provide additional information.

- Castleton, VT, USA

problem #6

Apr 282003

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 1 miles
When the sun is shining you can not read the speedometer or the guages. He driver is driving blind without any instruments or guages. This is a very dangerous situation in all types of traffic conditions.

- Cashmere, WA, USA

problem #5

Apr 202004

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
When at a stop sign or when placing vehicle in reverse engine will race and vehicle will unexpectedly accelerate out of control. Engine intermittently idle up to about 2,000 RPM regardless of temperature. Cause not yet determined. Problem is similar to PE04021.

- Orange, CA, USA

problem #4

Dec 232003

Matrix 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 8,000 miles
Whenever vehicle was at a stop signal and without warning vehicle surged forward. Consumer's foot was on the brakes when surging occurred. This problem occurred several times since ownership of the vehicle.

- Cunningham, TN, USA

problem #3

Jan 202004

Matrix 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
Toyota Matrix 2003 (also applies to Pontiac vibe 2003) as instruments are the same. Use of all "red" colored instruments, (speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, etc.) makes them difficult to read, reading trip meter requires removing sunglasses to read. Can become impossible to read in bright sun. Because speedometer is difficult to read, driver can easily be put in position of driving with excessive speed because speedometer is hard to read ot may require sunglasses to be removed to read speedometer. Personal experience tells me that by taking a few seconds to read instruments can put a driver in a potientallly dangerous situation when in some traffic situations. Could lead to accidents or death. "complaints" about this problem are noted in the reviews entered by individuals on the web site, specifically:*. please also see also car & driver 6/2002 page 62 in an article titled "comparison test: Boxes size small", which states in part: "...the red instruments are hard to read through sunglasses, and the dials seem peculiarly located down in dark tunnels...". please note that both Toyota and Pontiac corrected this in their 2004 models of the Toyota Matrix and Pontiac. Action requested: Require both Toyota and Pontiac to offer owners of the 2003 models the choice of updating their instrument panels to the 2004 model instruments.

- Melbourne, FL, USA

problem #2

Jul 102003

Matrix 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While traveling on the highway and without prior warning, the vehicle suddenly accelerated. The consumer was unable to read the dashboard lights when the sun was extremely bright.

- Island Heights, NJ, USA

problem #1

Mar 052002


  • miles
While air conditioner is running and normal braking vehicle will surge forward. Due to an increase in rpms.

- Sunnydale, CA, USA

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