Strengths and weaknesses:
- spacious seating
- quiet interior
- AWD option
- bland powertrain
- fuel economy
- cheap interior
Matrix not reloaded for 2012; no revolution either
"Matrix is a perfectly satisfactory five-door that plays it safe in every possible respect, making a vehicle that’s a safe bet for the most people."
It seems every Toyota Matrix owner I talk to loves the little hatchback. They gush about its roominess, its comfort, and its versatility. After spending a week with a 2012 model year Matrix, it’s tough to argue those points, but it’s just as difficult to ignore how competitors are undeniably moving ahead of Toyota’s entry.
The Matrix is a perfectly satisfactory five-door that plays it safe in every possible respect, making for a vehicle that’s a safe bet for the most people. It sets itself apart by being one of the lowest-priced all-wheel drive vehicles on the market, but there’s not much more beyond that.
This year’s Matrix is essentially a carryover from the 2011 model year, with the one notable addition being a Touring Value Package that offers a slew of oft-used goodies for a price that’s a smidge over $4,000.
That’s a significant chunk of extra cash for an inexpensive vehicle like this, but you get some good stuff including a power moonroof, cruise control, power windows and locks, air conditioning, and fog lamps. Now how about Bluetooth, Toyota?
Most people buy a hatchback because it can carry more stuff than a sedan, and the Matrix certainly has its fair share of space, regardless of whether or not the fold-flat rear seats are in the upright position. In terms of interior dimensions, it’s about in the middle in its class, but it especially shines when the second row bench seats are folded.
There’s lots of room back there for whatever stuff you need to pack for a weekend getaway or a weekday grocery trip, and though I appreciate Toyota adding plastic strips to the cargo area, the strips don’t do a particularly good job of grabbing and holding on to stuff like they should.
The seats in both rows are actually quite comfortable, helping keep backs and bums from getting sore over extended trips. There’s lots of headroom and legroom in the back row, even for the middle occupant thanks to a barely-noticeable drive shaft hump on the floor.
Toyota offers two four-cylinder engine options with the Matrix, a 1.8-litre and a 2.4-litre, with the latter being fitted under the hood of the all-wheel drive and XRS models.
Our base model tester is fitted with the smaller engine, which is mated to an optional four-speed automatic transmission. This is about as vanilla a setup as you’ll find in a vehicle today. The transmission isn’t particularly keen on shifting down when you need it to, and to make matters worse, there’s no option to shift manually without a clutch.
Most competing hatchbacks offer larger base engines with more power, as well as fuel economy that’s pretty close to that of the Matrix. And really, my final fuel economy numbers after a week of driving aren’t all that spectacular.
Ride is sure to make the average Point-A-to-Point-B driver perfectly content, as the Matrix handles broken roads with no problem.
The interior is quieter than I expect, though that’s not to say things inside the vehicle are all roses - far from it in fact. My biggest complaint is the quality inside the vehicle, with things like the emergency brake lever boot material coming right off when I give it a light pull, and a general plastic-y look and feel throughout.
The chunky, sorta-flat-bottom steering wheel actually feels really nice in my hands, but with steering as mute as that found with the Matrix, the wheel’s shape becomes completely moot.
Try as I might, I can’t come up with a lot more to say about the Matrix, good or bad. It’s an inexpensive vehicle that will hold lots of stuff, and if you really want all-wheel drive and a bigger engine, you can get those things, though you’ll be sacrificing the low starting price point and fuel economy.