The Toyota Matrix is a five-door hatchback based on the compact Corolla sedan's chassis. It offers a practical blend of interior space, efficiency and all-weather capability with the optional all-wheel drive system, as well as a modest dose of sportiness.
Outside, the Matrix is inoffensive, if a touch soporific; an optional sport package helps add visual excitement. The cabin is a model of ergonomic harmony, with easy-to-decipher controls and instruments rendered in durable, up-market materials. There's plenty of room for cargo with the rear seats up (19.8 cubic feet) or down (49.4 cubic feet).
The latest Matrix is available in two trim levels, base and sport-minded "S," with each featuring its own four-cylinder engine. The base model comes with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 132 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 128 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. This engine is mated to either a standard five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.
The Matrix base model has an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 25 mpg city and 32 mpg highway with the five-speed manual transmission, or 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway for the 1.8-liter paired with the four-speed automatic transmission.
Standard features abound on the little hatchback, including power windows and door locks, A/C, cruise control, color-keyed power heated outside rearview mirrors, a tilt and telescopic sport steering wheel and daytime running lights. An AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers, USB and AUX inputs and SiriusXM radio is new for the latest model year, as is standard Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming.
Should buyers step up to the Matrix S, they get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated at 158 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 162 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. While the S comes standard with a five-speed manual, those seeking an automatic will gain an extra cog over the 1.8-liter model as the S features a five-speed automatic transmission in front-wheel drive form.
Matrix S also has available all-wheel drive, but if one opts for the benefits of AWD, Toyota switches the five-speed automatic for a four-speed automatic transmission. Toyota says the Matrix S AWD does allow for a "sport" mode on the transmission that will suggest to the transmission that it hold its gears longer for a more engaging experience.
The Matrix S, powered by the 2.4-liter engine with five-speed manual transmission, achieves an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. With the five-speed automatic transmission, it earns 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. The Matrix S AWD with the four-speed automatic achieves 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.
To the base Matrix's standard features, the Matrix S adds a 115-volt power outlet; integrated fog lamps, a fold-flat front passenger seat, remote keyless entry and two extra speakers for the sound system. A new addition is Toyota's "Display Audio" upgrade stereo system, which brings a 6.1-inch touchscreen display.
The Matrix S offers an S Sport Package with 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear underbody spoilers, color keyed rear spoiler and a unique S badge. The Premium Package offers a power tilt/slide moonroof with sliding sunshade, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, six speakers, XM radio, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, CD text display function, auto sound leveling and hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology. A navigation system is also on offer.
Regardless of trim level, the Matrix offers ten airbags: dual front, side, knee, seat-cushion and rear-side airbags, to be exact. ABS, traction and stability control systems are standard, as is a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and seats designed to lessen the likelihood of whiplash round out the safety features on the Matrix.
The Corolla-based (but not in name) Matrix competes with a packed segment of compact hatchbacks - including the Volkswagen Golf, Mazda Mazda3 Hatchback, Hyundai Elantra Touring and Ford Focus Hatchback.