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.
Reviews of both engines are average, although the more powerful 2.4-liter engine is clearly the favorite among reviewers. Edmunds contends the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix's 1.8-liter powerplant feels a little pokey accelerating off the line, but "the engine remains smooth all the way to its power peak." However, they go on to say that "once you've tried the 2.4-liter engine, it might be hard to go back." Cars.com calls the 1.8-liter "a smooth, if unexciting, powertrain." MotherProof attests that this Toyota 2009 hatchback "kept up with traffic" and is "adequate in the power department, but she's not going to win any Most Zippy awards." ConsumerGuide agrees, finding that the "S and XRS have adequate acceleration with the automatic transmission, though liberal use of the throttle is required for merging and passing maneuvers."
Overall, ConsumerGuide reports, the "manual-transmission versions are noticeably livelier," while Cars.com raves that "the five-speed manual has a solid, hefty feel" with "throws [that] feel even more precise than the Mazda ."
For the Toyota Matrix, Edmunds observes that "all-wheel drive is once again an option," though only on the S model. Selecting the AWD S automatically earns you a downgrade to the four-speed automatic transmission, but it's not as bad as it sounds. Despite the extra weight from the AWD system, ConsumerGuide tests show that "acceleration is little different in the AWD S."
The 2010 Toyota Matrix is a small vehicle with four-cylinder engines, so a number of reviewers express their disappointment with the Matrix's fuel economy ratings, which rank as low as 20 mpg city. MotherProof notes that the Matrix "wasn't as fuel-efficient...or cost-effective as I expected," and Edmunds adds that the Matrix suffers from "mediocre gas mileage with the 2.4-liter engine." The 1.8-liter engine is the choice for those who want to use the least fuel, with 25/31 mpg with the automatic and 26/32 mpg with the manual.
Several sources point to good braking ability in the Matrix, with Cars.com saying that "response is strong, and ABS never kicks in prematurely."
Reviewers are split on how the 2010 Matrix handles. MSN Autos declares that the Matrix is fun to drive, noting its "responsive steering and impressive handling." Meanwhile, ConsumerGuide reports that "fast cornering triggers noseplow and body lean," while Motor Trend calls the Matrix "more fun to drive than either Scion or the Corolla, zipping around corners with controlled body roll." TheCarConnection.com's impression is somewhere in the middle; we'd hardly call the Matrix's handling zippy, but it's not sluggish.