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Compared to sedans, hatchbacks tend not only to be a bit more versatile, but also sportier, and that's exactly the tack that the 2013 Toyota Matrix takes. Appealing to a somewhat younger, more active crowd, the Matrix delivers with more functionality than a small sedan, but from behind the wheel it's not quite as sporty as the design hints.
The Toyota Matrix stands out for its sporty silhouette, rakish roofline, and a handsome, somewhat aggressive stance. The roof is almost coupe-like, and there are just a few hints of utility vehicles—around the rear fascia—but otherwise it's a good-looking hatchback. Inside, it's a little less contemporary, although the chunky instrument-panel layout has a certain keep-it-simple charm.The Matrix model lineup consists of base and S models, with base models getting a 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and S models stepping up to a 158-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. We think most shoppers will be happy with the 1.8-liter, as the 2.4-liter is quite a bit thirstier—especially in all-wheel-drive (S AWD) form. The five-speed manual is enjoyable with with either engine, but the available automatic has only four speeds with the smaller engine (or with S AWD models), making it sluggish at times. Gas mileage is disappointing, given Toyota's experience with high-mileage hybrids; the Matrix gets just 32 mpg highway, at best.
The 2013 Toyota Matrix gets a lot of kudos for day-to-day practicality, but it falls a bit short in comfort and refinement. It's configured like a classic small hatchback, with the rear seatbacks folding fully flat. However the front seats are a little too short and flat for all-day comfort for taller or larger drivers, and while ride comfort is decent, too much road noise enters the cabin.
The Matrix gets top 'good' ratings from the IIHS in frontal and side impact, as well as rear impact. Safety features are respectable but not standout in any way; front side and side-curtain airbags are included, as are anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, on all 2013 Matrix models.
Pricing for the Matrix is a bit higher than the Corolla, but standard equipment is higher too, with this stylish hatchback aiming to offer just a little bit more than basic transportation. And as such, its standard feature set is good, although there simply aren't many option possibilities.
For 2013, Toyota has introduced new audio systems, including a six-speaker system with satellite radio, iPod connectivity, and Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming included on the base model. Upscale S models include a system with a 6.1-inch touch screen, and on the S model, a Sport Package is available, and it adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and body skirting.