- Roomy, versatile interior
- Good ride quality
- Fuel economy (1.8-liter)
- Smallish cargo space with backseats up
- Road noise
- Hampered rear visibility
Not quite a utility vehicle, but a little more robust than a no-frills hatchback, the 2010 Toyota Matrix offers an appealing combination of frugality and versatility.
The 2010 Toyota Matrix is essentially a tall hatchback version of the Corolla sedan; though it's shorter and a bit easier to park, it has an interior that's more easily reconfigured for larger cargo items. Sometimes called the Toyota Corolla Matrix, it comes with all the qualities that make the Corolla sedan appealing, including an affordable price, good fuel economy, and a reasonably comfortable ride. For 2010, the Matrix jumps up with respect to safety, with electronic stability newly standard on the model line.
With its recent redesign, as an early 2009 model, the Matrix picked up a lower, sportier stance, yet retained similar proportions to the previous version. Overall, it flows a little more, thanks to a more contoured roofline and a number of sculpted details. The seating position is a little lower, and interior styling has been given more matte-metallic trim, though the overall effect is simple and unmistakably Toyota.
Base models of the 2010 Toyota Matrix have a 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, while S and XRS models get a larger 2.4-liter engine, making 158 horsepower. The 1.8-liter has plenty of pep with the manual transmission, but the automatic has only four gears with the 1.8-liter (five with the 2.4), for those who must have automatic, the 2.4-liter is the way to go. In TheCarConnection.com's opinion, the 1.8-liter holds enough of a fuel economy advantage to make it the clear choice between the two with a manual, with ratings as high as 26 mpg city, 32 highway, versus as low as 20/26 mpg with the automatic and all-wheel drive. Opt for that all-wheel-drive system on the S model and you'll downgrade to the four-speed auto.
Fitting five adults in the 2010 Toyota Matrix is a stretch; it just doesn't have enough shoulder space to fit three people across. But there's decent legroom and plenty of headroom. Fold either or both portions of the split rear seatback forward and you'll find generous room for stuff, but with the seatbacks up in place, there's not a lot of grocery space. Overall, the Matrix has a good ride, with less of the pitchiness seen in the last-generation model; top XRS and AWD S models come with a fully independent rear suspension that may bring an even smoother ride without sacrificing handling. However, across the line, road noise can be an issue; a surprising amount of boominess can enter the cabin from rough pavement.
Safety is quite strong for the 2010 Matrix. Stability and traction control are newly standard for 2010, and dual front, side, and curtain airbags, along with active headrests and anti-lock brakes, remain on all models. Crash-test ratings are good but not class-leading; in federal testing, the Matrix earns four- and five-star ratings for side impact but five stars for frontal impact. Results are also mixed from the insurance-funded IIHS; in that group's testing, it gets just "acceptable" ratings in seat-based rear-impact tests but "good" results in frontal offset and side impact.
Toyota has been reasonably generous with standard features on the 2010 Toyota Matrix. Power mirrors, tilt and telescoping steering, and an auxiliary input jack—items that aren't always standard on small cars—are standard on the base model. The S upgrades to power windows and locks, a useful 115-volt power outlet good for laptops, cruise control, and a flat-folding front passenger seat, plus other dress-ups. Additionally, the sportiest XRS gets a strut-tower brace for improved handling, as well as 18-inch alloy wheels. At the top of the range, a DVD-based navigation system with XM NavTraffic is available.