Archives » April 13th, 2004

April 13, 2004

Enter the Matrix

We used to have a Ford. It was a used Contour, six years old when we bought it, over 70,000 miles. During the first year we had it, it ran fine. One day we made the mistake of thinking we could drive over the mountains with it, and on the return trip the automatic transmission started jolting in the shift from first to second. I thought maybe it was just overworked and need the night to cool off. But it didn’t. It was a permanent problem. We took it into the shop, which began an eight-month odyssey of repairs that resulted in a new transmission and two new torque converters being put in. That right there convinced us of the value of an extended warranty.

Anyway, ever since then we’ve hated that Ford. We would have driven it off a cliff if it didn’t have a little value to it. The Check Engine light was still on and the transmission still had occasional fits. There was no way we were ever driving that car out of state. We knew it had to go. So we decided to trade it in. But for what?

Since we’re both working now, we figured a brand new car was within our reach. A used one under 5,000 miles would be even better, but those are a little harder to come by. We started our search with one core idea: no more Fords. From there we narrowed it down a little, took our new family addition into account, thought about what cars out there really made us salivate, and in the end realized there was only one car we could be happy with. So we bought it.

This is our new beast, the 2004 Toyota Matrix. First of all, it’s a Toyota, so it has a life expectancy of about 300,000 miles over your standard Ford. Also, it’s a station wagon/extended hatchback/“crossover utility” type vehicle, giving us a lot more room for taking a mountain of baby supplies on vacation. And third, it’s just damn spiffy. We’ve been in love with this car ever since it came on the market, and once we realized it was in our price range, we knew there was no turning back. My love affair with the Mini Cooper still holds, but the Matrix was always second on my list. And since we were looking for a family car, the Mini unfortunately had to take a back seat.

There’s something exciting about owning a new car. Sure, you know it’s worth about $3,000 less than it was last week. And you have to be careful how you drive it during the break-in period. But knowing that this car went in a straight line from the factory to the lot to your driveway gives you a special connection to it. You don’t have to worry about what the previous owners did to it, what surprises you might find hiding under the seat or in the deep recesses of the trunk. You only have to worry what folks did to it during the test drives. This is your car. Not a cast-off, not somebody else’s reject, but all yours. For the amount of money you’re spending, you better get that special feeling.

So now we’re really living life. The new car smell is still so strong that it stays in your clothes after you get out. We’re taking a road trip this weekend just because we haven’t been able to for so long. And, most amazingly, our baby, who hated going anywhere in the Ford, loves this car. Even at seven months, we can tell he has exquisite taste.