2014 Toyota Matrix Review NJ

          


The Toyota Matrix (in fact the Toyota Corolla Matrix in formal manufacturer-speak) was a compact hatchback made by Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Canada.  Derived from the Toyota Corolla, with which it shared a full platform, the vehicle was intended to attract Corolla buyers for whom the sedan didn't provide enough room.

 

Matrix debuted for the 2003 model year as a sporty hatchback-cum-SUV, both narrower and taller than traditional station wagons. It was aimed at the younger end of its market segment.

 

Milestone Upgrades

The second generation Matrix arrived for the 2009 model year, sporting three trim grades; entry level (or Standard), S and XRS.

 

A choice of two engines was offered; a 1.79-liter in the base model, and a 2.36-liter in both S and XRS grades. Three transmissions completed the picture; a four-speed automatic, a five-speed automatic and a five-speed manual. Seat fabrics, wheels and both front and rear fascias all received further upgrades two years later, and at the same time Toyota's Smart Stop Technology was added across the board.

 

Provisions such as iPod/USB interfaces and Bluetooth connectivity, with satellite radio, in the six-speaker CD sound system -- all as standard -- were all conspicuously beyond the levels of provision usual for a budget-priced compact vehicle.

 

Other Interior Enhancements

The base model was delivered with standard:

  • 16-inch steel wheels
  • Air conditioning
  • Cloth upholstery
  • Cruise control
  • Heated mirrors
  • Power windows and doors
  • Tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel

 

The S trim level added:

  • Fog lights
  • Metallic interior trim
  • Premium audio system (with 6.1-inch touchscreen interface)

 

XRS options included front and rear spoilers, 17-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof.

 

Cargo

Interior space was always the Matrix's strongest selling point.

Unique in its marketplace segment, the handsome little hatch featured 60/40-split rear seats. Those seats had strong, rigid plastic backs so that -- when folded flat -- drivers had a remarkable 53.2 cubic feet of cargo space available. Eight tie-downs were provided in the hatch area, along with integrated rails on the backs of the fold-flat seats and along the rear floor, so securely attaching cargo nets was never a problem.

 

Further, the front passenger seat also folded flat. This meant the compact car, with exterior dimensions of only 171 inches over a 102-inch wheelbase, could actually accommodate extremely long items, such as surf boards. For drivers of a less sporty character, that fold-flat front seat also had an integral tray incorporated into its back, so that laptop computers could be used in a mobile desk configuration. Indeed, a 115 volt/100 watt power inverter outlet was located close by for this very purpose.

 

Performance

Although not unique, the available all-wheel drive on the Matrix was rare in an affordable small car. Buyers looking for added safety and sure-footed handling in adversarial driving conditions -- such as snowy roads -- were well-served, and the vehicle's brakes were strong and responsive. Ride height, similar to that of less-affordable compact SUVs, provided a good, safe view of the road.

 

Reliability over long-term usage was also way above average for the class, as might be expected from a vehicle manufactured by Toyota.

 

Facts and Figures

The Matrix handled well for a small car, being particularly astute and responsive in corners. Acceleration was adequate, but visibility through the rear screen was somewhat limited. All trim levels were five-door hatchbacks.

 

Specs at a glance:

  • Prices ranged from $19,275 for the 1.8-liter front-wheel drive to $22,415 for the 2.4-liter all-wheel drive.
  • Economy ranged from 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway to 26 mpg city/32 mpg highway.
  • The 1.8-liter engine developed 132 horsepower.
  • The 2.4 liter engine developed 158 horsepower.

 

Safety

All models across the Matrix range, in its final year of production, are featured as standard:

  • Anti-lock braking
  • Electronic brake force distribution
  • Side torso airbags
  • Side curtain airbags
  • Traction control
  • Vehicle Stability Control

 

Discontinuation

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed the phrase 'in its final year of production' above. In mid-2013, Toyota announced an intention to simplify its lineup by discontinuing the Matrix hatchback as of the 2014 model year (in the United States at least). Competition from other alternatives -- including stable-mates Prius C and Scion xB/xD -- had led to modest sales numbers; in 2012, the Matrix sold only around 4,300 units.

 

Matrix will continue to be sold in Canada, but developments would seem to suggest that the vehicle won't be around for long in the North American marketplace. This means that consumers who're set on buying a new Matrix must act quickly; only very limited numbers remain on dealer forecourts.

 

As a factory-authorized Toyota dealership, and with the contacts that only come from being in business for more than half a century, Dayton Toyota is the best bet for potential buyers in the Princeton/Edison/Freehold triangle. Their 21-acre, state-of-the-art facility is home to large inventories of both new and used Toyotas, so there's still a good chance of their tracking down a brand new Matrix for you to test drive.


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