Scrapyard Gem: 2006 Hyundai Matrix


BARNSLEY, England — One of the best things about traveling to the car graveyards of a distant land is that you get to see discarded examples of vehicles that never came close to being sold in the United States. I visited the breaker’s yards of northern England recently and photographed plenty of machines that never had a chance of coming to our continent, including a 2007 Mitsubishi Colt, a 2008 Mitsubishi i, a 2005 Smart ForFour, a 2005 Vauxhall Tigra, a 2009 Alfa Romeo Brera S and a 2010 Peugeot Bipper. Today’s Junkyard Scrapyard Gem is a very useful South Korean MPV that most American car shoppers would have shunned as they backed away in horror from its not-at-all-truckish shape: a Hyundai Matrix.

This car currently resides at Carlton Car Breakers in Barnsley, located in an industrial area between Sheffield and Leeds. There were several boneyards specializing in transit bus parts nearby, with row upon row of British double-decker buses inside, but they appeared to be open by appointment only.

Carlton’s is a traditional breaker’s yard (what we’d call a dismantler in the United States), so customers can come in an look at the inventory but generally must have employees extract parts for them.

Inside, it’s a glorious maze of mostly late-model vehicles.

You’ll need to walk sideways, carefully, between the rows of double-stacked vehicles. Land is expensive in England, so businesses like this one must be efficient in their use of space.

I found some interesting older machinery, including this first-generation Suzuki Wagon R+, but most of those cars were too inaccessible to allow the shooting of a proper Scrapyard Gem photo set.

Naturally, I brought along a 100-year-old British camera to document my journey, in this case a London-made Houghton Ensign. Shooting weird ASA 50 film with a primitive box camera in gloomy winter Yorkshire can be a challenge for the junkyard photographer.

Finally, I found this mysterious Hyundai with enough surrounding space to shoot photos from all angles.

The Pininfarina badges sold me immediately. What is this thing?

This is a Matrix, the export-market version of the Hyundai Lavita. The Lavita was based on the third-generation Elantra and was built for the 2001-2010 model years.

Its wheelbase is similar to that of its platform cousin, the Santa Fe, but its overall length is more than 18 inches shorter and its curb weight is about a half-ton lighter. Sure, it’s a bit funny-looking (despite Pininfarina’s best efforts) and was available in front-wheel-drive form only, but there’s a very impressive volume of passenger and cargo space inside.

Two in the front, three in the back, lots of cargo room behind the rear seats.

The MSRP for the U.K.-market ’06 Matrix 1.6 GSI was £10,995, or about £18,185 in today’s pounds (that’s $22,977 in 2024 U.S. dollars).

Three engines were available in 2006: a 1.5-liter turbodiesel with 101 horsepower/173 pound-feet, a 1.6-liter gasoline DOHC straight four with 102 horsepower/104 pound-feet and a 1.8-liter gasoline DOHC straight-four with 121 horsepower/119 pound-feet. This car has the 1.6, which was the cheapest engine. Transmission choice was between a four-speed automatic and a five-speed manual; this car has the manual.

Pininfarina designed at least one South Korean car that was sold in the United States: the Suzuki Forenza (aka Daewoo Lacetti) sedan.

Enlarge your world.

The Lavita/Matrix was a good seller in places with expensive fuel and narrow streets.

Matrix production in South Korea ended after 2007, but continued for a few more years in Turkey.



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