If you were arguing that Toyota offers too many models, you might point to the Matrix. Essentially a Corolla hatchback, the Matrix is also uncomfortably similar to the Scion xB, which costs less and comes standard with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is optional in the Matrix. To be fair, the Matrix’s styling strikes a decent balance between the Corolla’s blandness and the xB’s potentially polarizing cubism. It also sets itself apart by offering all-wheel drive, which, combined with its command seating position, makes it a bargain alternative to a compact crossover. Be careful though, as a few options will quickly run the price toward $25,000. The view inside is inoffensive if also less appealing than that of newer compacts, with the sort of well-thought-out ergonomics we’ve come to expect from Toyota. The cabin betrays its age (the Matrix was last redesigned for 2009) in the quality of its plastics and in the lack of standard iPod connectivity. Round air-conditioning vents serve as a reminder that the Matrix was in fact developed back at a time when Pontiac was a going concern and sold the nearly identical Vibe. Toyota markets the Matrix as a somewhat sporty, youthful vehicle and offers a selection of TRD performance parts, including a limited-slip differential and performance brake pads, to increase the excitement. And yet the actual experience of driving a Matrix is more in line with that of the middle-of-the-road Corolla. The Matrix has ample power to keep up with traffic and reasonably accurate steering, but it doesn’t offer much to get the driver excited.
Drive: Front-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim levels: Matrix, LE, S
Body style: Hatchback, 5-passenger
Engines: 1.8L I-4, 132 hp, 128 lb-ft
2.4L I-4, 158 hp, 162 lb-ft
Transmissions: 5-speed manual, 4- or 5-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 94.0 cu ft
CARGO SPACE: (rear seats up/down) 19.8/61.5 cu ft
The Matrix enters 2012 with no changes.
Front, side, and side curtain air bags; ABS; traction and stability control; and a tire-pressure monitoring system are standard.
All: 20-26 mpg city/26-32 mpg highway
- Crossover attributes at acompact-car price
- Good fuel efficiency for autility vehicle
- No longer the greenest choice
- Even with more flavors, it’s still vanilla
The compact, compact crossover.
- Dodge Caliber
- Hyundai Tucson
- Kia Sportage
- Mazda 3