- Versatile layout
- Easy to maneuver and park
- Smooth ride
- Lacks enough pep for hills or full loads
- Engine and road noise
- Interior materials feel cheap
- Safety features are expensive options
The 2008 Toyota Matrix still has one of the best combinations of utility and fuel efficiency, though it lags in safety features.
The 2008 Toyota Matrix is a tall-wagon (or so-called crossover) model that’s closely related to the Pontiac Vibe and based on the Toyota Corolla sedan. With a completely redesigned Matrix expected for the 2009 model year, the 2008 Matrix carries over with no significant changes.
The Matrix is offered in base and sportier XR models for 2008. Both are powered by a 126-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, with the choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic. Both 2008 Toyota Matrix models now have front-wheel drive, with the all-wheel-drive model that was previously offered now discontinued.
With either transmission, the engine has just enough power to keep up with traffic and feel somewhat perky. But with a full load or in hilly terrain, it comes across as somewhat underpowered and is accompanied by more engine noise. Fuel economy is a plus, though; with the manual, the 2008 Toyota Matrix is rated at 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway.
The 2008 Toyota Matrix has a simple but proven small-car layout, with struts in front and a torsion-beam axle in back; front disc and rear drum brakes provide stopping power. The ride is firm but reasonably comfortable, and handling is more direct and responsive than small SUVs; it drives just like a small sedan.
Inside, the 2008 Toyota Matrix is more spacious than its small-car footprint might suggest. In front, the low but upright seating position affords a decent view out and around the vehicle, making the perspective for parking quite easy. In back, the seats can accommodate adults with enough headroom, though legroom can be tight. The seats fold forward to a large, flat cargo floor that cleans up easily and has integrated tie-downs. The window opens separately from the hatch, which some may find handy.
The base-model 2008 Toyota Matrix comes with the basics but not much more; standard equipment includes air conditioning and a four-speaker CD audio system but has manual winding windows. The uplevel XR brings a lot of popular equipment, such as a height-adjustable driver’s seat, power windows, keyless entry, and a 115-volt AC power outlet. Major options, many of which are grouped into packages, include alloy wheels, upgraded JBL audio, cruise control, and a moonroof. Modern entertainment options such as satellite radio or an iPod interface aren’t available as factory options; neither is a navigation system or Bluetooth.
The 2008 Toyota Matrix is in the middle of the pack for crash safety and lags at the back in terms of standard safety equipment. In federal crash tests, the Toyota Matrix is given good four- and five-star ratings for frontal impact, but only three- and four-star ratings for side impact. With the optional side airbags, the Matrix’s side performance improves to a mix of four and five stars. Front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes are all optional on the Matrix, and electronic stability control is optional but only with automatic transmission.