With performance that’s adequate, acceptable, and economical, the 2008 Toyota Matrix is more liable to impress misers than it will the hip youth market.
The sole engine motivating the Matrix is a 1.8-liter, 126-horsepower four-cylinder. Maximum torque of 122 pound-feet doesn’t arrive until 4,200 rpm, leading to strained performance with the optional four-speed automatic, acceptable and peppy performance around town with the five-speed when not carrying a heavy load. ConsumerGuide warns that this engine “needs high rpm for best performance,” and that “passing power is tepid.” Edmunds claims “it takes about 9 seconds to hit 60 mph” with the five-speed manual. Both 2008 Toyota Matrix models now have front-wheel drive, with the all-wheel-drive model that was previously offered now discontinued.
The silver lining of the engine’s modest performance is economy, and here the Matrix impresses, delivering EPA estimates of 26/33 mpg with the manual and 25/31 mpg with the optional automatic. Edmunds calls these figures “above average.” “Matrix and Vibe use regular-grade fuel,” notes ConsumerGuide.
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. Conservative ConsumerGuide finds “responsive steering and assured cornering behavior with only moderate body lean,” while Edmunds warns that “most drivers won't find the Matrix to be an especially fun-filled ride.” They mention “those who commute or take longer road trips should find the Matrix's smooth and comfortable ride to their liking.” “It steers with more precision and less wheel vibration than the Corolla,” says Cars.com, “but still falls short of stimulating.”