New & Used Toyota Matrix: In Depth
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The Toyota Matrix is a compact five-door hatchback that shares a majority of its components with the Toyota Corolla. Although Toyota doesn’t spend much time to advertise the Matrix, it’s still a fuel efficient, reliable, and practical car in the hatchback class.
For 2014, there will be a new Toyota Corolla--the Matrix's four-door cousin. But there's speculation that the Matrix itself won't return after the 2013 model year. According to reports, the slow-selling hatchback will live on for other markets, including Canada--but Toyota hasn't confirmed the future of the Matrix in the U.S.
For more information on the current model, including options, prices, and specifications, see our full review of the 2013 Toyota Matrix. Read this
The first generation Matrix, from 2003 through 2008, was launched at the same time as the now-defunct Pontiac Vibe, allowing a Toyota-GM joint venture to produce enough volume between the two cars to make a dedicated production line feasible. The second generation Matrix, launched in 2009, had a short-lived Vibe twin, but the General Motors bankruptcy that year killed off the Pontiac brand, and Toyota now builds the Matrix in Ontario, Canada.
While Ford, Hyundai, Mazda, and Nissan all offer five-door hatchback styles of their compact models, Toyota has never sold the Matrix as a Corolla. That's what it is, effectively, though: a tall hatchback Corolla, shorter than the sedan. But the Matrix's mix of economy and interior flexibility remains modern, even if the car itself is now dated.
The second-generation Toyota Matrix was introduced for 2009 with a new look, more standard safety features, and more power than its predecessor. The base model continued with a 1.8–liter engine producting 132 horsepower, while new S and XRS variants featured a 158-hp, 2.4-liter engine. The most fuel-efficient model was the 1.8-liter model equipped with the standard five-speed manual, though an aging four-speed automatic was also available. The manual version returned an EPA-rated 26 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.
An all-wheel-drive option also returned with this new model--an unusual feature found only on the Subaru Impreza in this class. But the AWD Matrix was dropped after 2010, much to the dismay of buyers who wanted Toyota reliability and all-wheel drive in a package smaller than the RAV4 crossover. Toyota also dropped the Matrix XRS model with the larger engine for the 2011 model year. For 2013, Toyota is upgrading the audio systems, including standard Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. Prices for the Toyota Matrix start at $16,700.
The first generation of the Toyota Matrix was introduced for the 2003 model year, with a minor facelift coming for 2005. Two different models were on offer, both of which came with a 1.8-liter engine. The base version produced 130 horsepower, and a high-performance model called the XRS boosted that to 180 horsepower called the XRS, using the same 1.8-liter engine found in the Toyota Celica coupe. Power figures were slightly revised in 2004 and 2005, mostly due to new testing standards rather than changes to actual performance.
A special edition Matrix M-Theory package was the big change for the otherwise carryover 2007 model. This model came with 17 inch wheels, a sports turned suspension and came in an exclusive Speedway Blue paint scheme. It essentially replaced the sporty XRS model, which was dropped after the 2006 model year along with the all-wheel drive option.