2011 Toyota Matrix Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Good cargo capacity, but plastic surface can make some items shift around more than if carpet was used. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Toyota's Matrix continues to be a good choice in the compact segment, shown here in new S package trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Call it a hatchback, call it a Corolla wagon, or call it Matrix, Toyota's stylish compact 5-door that still looks fresh after years of service. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Stylish rear wing is part of S package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Published on October 22, 2011

Matrix offers a well laid out instrument panel with a uniquely designed primary gauge setup. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

If you've ever thought that Toyotas are really good cars that aren't quite as affordable as some of the new upstart brands from, say, Korea, take a look at Matrix. Not the newest kid on the block, but it nevertheless sports edgy styling inside and out, competitive performance and loads of comfortable, practical room, plus some surprisingly unexpected standard features for a base price that starts at only $16,715.

What's surprisingly unexpected? How about Toyota's impressive Star Safety System that includes ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and Toyota's new brake override system called Smart Stop Technology (SST), which automatically shuts off the throttle under hard braking, therefore eliminating any chance of unintended acceleration.

That's an ugly term that I'm guessing Toyota is getting tired of hearing about, but maybe not as they're probably still celebrating having been totally and completely exonerated by NHTSA and NASA findings that verified any such incidences were driver error. And truth be told some haven't heard this good news, so rather than allow any question marks to hover over its 2011 models, Toyota added SST and the other Star Safety features across it's lineup, turning a bad situation into the best safety program in the auto industry, which also, in the case of Matrix, includes active front head restraints and a full assortment of airbags.

Of course, Matrix isn't only about safety. The sporty Corolla-based wagon cum fastback is nicely equipped with creature comforts and convenience features too, such as heated mirrors, an outside temperature gauge, intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear washer/wiper, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with auxiliary input, plus audio controls on a sweet looking flat-bottom steering wheel that also tilts and telescopes for optimizing your driving position.

It was easy to get comfortable in the high-grade cloth seats, the driver's even sporting manual seat height adjustment, and thanks to Toyota supplying me with the new S package that replaces the outgoing XR trim line I also experienced the benefit of an ultra-easy to connect Bluetooth hands-free phone system along with a USB port and XM satellite radio upgrade. Added cruise control, part of the Convenience package that also adds air conditioning, powered windows, powered door locks with keyless entry, a rear bumper protector, and a tire pressure monitoring system, all of which automatically gets added to S package cars, made Toronto's 401 less of a chore, while a powered glass sunroof let the rays pour in (and for September there was no shortage of sunshine). The $23,075 S Package improved the look of my tester too, with a special sport grille, fog lamps, a roof-mounted rear spoiler, a chrome exhaust tip, plus front and rear underbody spoilers, while the upgraded five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels on P215/45R17 Bridgestone Turanza tires improved style and performance.

Matrix performance won't blow you away, but it won't keep you from breaking the posted limit either. Behind the grille is a 1.8-litre, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder that's good for 132-horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque mated to either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic that feeds the front wheels or optional all-wheel drive. If you want more performance you can opt for the XRS, which ups the ante with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder capable of 158 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque and the option of a 5-speed automatic.

The XRS enhances performance in other ways too, such as 18-inch alloy rims on 215/45R18 all-season tires, while special sport seats with increased support, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, powered windows, powered locks with keyless remote, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated compass, a fold-flat front passenger seat, variable intermittent wipers, a 115-volt power outlet, and, new for 2011, a vacuum fluorescent display, make the XRS trim level the Matrix to buy for those with a little more expendable income: it starts at $24,075.  

Having effectively replaced the Corolla wagon in the lineup when introduced way back in 2001 as a 2002 model, the Matrix continues to offer a more versatile crossover-style option for those who need a little more cargo flexibility than a four-door sedan. A wide rear liftgate opens up to a sizeable load floor measuring 560 litres (19.8 cubic feet) when the 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks are upright and 1,399 litres (49.4 cubic feet) when folded flat. The cargo floor and backs of those rear seats are covered in a durable plastic, which should be a bonus with respect to wear and tear, but allows items to slide around a little more than carpeting would otherwise have.

During my two-day drive around Toronto visiting clients and colleagues, I was especially appreciative of the Matrix' fuel economy. I experienced mileage similar to the U.S. EPA metric equivalent rating of 9.0 L/100km in the city and 7.3 on the highway, although it's rated at 7.8 and 6.2 respectively by the rather optimistic Canadian standards.

It's probably not difficult to tell that I like the Matrix. Along with an attractive design, decent performance and good fuel economy it's a comfortable, well-made car that has delivered day-in, day-out dependability for close to a decade. Add to this that it's made in Canada at Toyota's award-winning Cambridge, Ontario plant, supporting our rather challenged manufacturing base, and it becomes an even smarter choice for compact buyers.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Wagon, Toyota, 2011, Matrix, $10,000 - $19,999, Compact,

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments