The Matrix pitches over bumps like an ox cart and suffers from torque steer even though there's not much torque to speak of, but I actually caught myself enjoying this unassuming little Toyota.
The Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe was a decent car in its day, but to me it feels and looks slightly dated, even though it was redesigned not that long ago. It drives well enough, with a reasonably powerful engine mated to a decent manual transmission, but its suspension tuning leaves a lot to be desired as it wallows over even the slightest of road imperfections. The hatchback/wagon body style is useful, but there are a lot of other cars on the market, from the Mazda 3 hatch to the Hyundai Elantra Touring, that are more thoughtfully designed for hauling, are competitively priced, and drive much better to boot.
Stepping into the Matrix is a familiar routine--the latest Toyota dash, the tactile feel of controls, and the typical easy-to-use blandness that accompanies most of Toyota's newer, smaller models (read: xB, xD, Corolla).
My wallet reels at the prospect of spending nearly $23,000 for a loaded Matrix. It's a pleasant mix of snappy style, dependability, gas mileage, and utility but doesn't excel in any particular category. And 20 large opens up a wealth of possibilities in the used car supermarket: lovingly-maintained Bimmers, full-sized pickups, and rumbling Mustangs galore.