2013 Toyota Matrix First Drive

It’s been over a decade since the initial debut of the Toyota Matrix.  Through iterative production and design cycles, the Matrix has proven itself to be a sporty and reliable 4 door hatchback backed by Toyota’s trademark reliability.  There is no doubt the 2013 Matrix still bonds tight with its treasured qualities, but other competitors have caught on and improved on the trend.

Based on the trusted Corolla platform, the Toyota Matrix offers a roomy interior cabin space with the added bonus of front flat-folding seats.  In addition, the overall acceleration is sharp and peppy in low speeds.  Consumers also have the option to configure the power-train with Toyota’s AWD sysem.  In terms of engine size, the Matrix is available with a 1.8 liter engine four cylinder engine, or the more powerful 2.4 liter engine available in the ‘S’ model.

The Matrix was a major hit during its golden years, but with its stale design platform inherent to its architecture has forced Toyota into a cat and mouse game with stiff competition.  For example, the new Ford Focus hatchback with its European inspired design has caught major attention.  Even the Mazda 3 hatchback is capable of delivering smoother acceleration and sharper handling, something the Matrix prides itself in.

Despite the dated design, there is no  real inherent flaw with the Matrix.  It’s still a great car for its intended purpose.

Trim Levels and Purchase Options

Some vehicle models have an overwhelming list of purchase options that can drive consumers crazy.  Fortunately, the Toyota Matrix trim level and purchase options are as basic as it gets.  The Toyota Matrix can be purchased in the Standard model, or the upgraded S model.

The basic Standard model comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a fold-flat front passenger seat, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and iPod/USB interface.

The upscale S model  level includes foglights, higher quality cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split-folding rear seats, metallic interior trim and a premium audio system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

The L series can be upgraded with a  sports package that includes front and rear spoilers and foglights. An S Sport package bundles the spoilers with 17-inch alloy wheels. A sunroof is also available as an option.

Powertrain and Performance

Consumers have the option to purchase the Toyota Matrix in front wheel or all wheel drive.  The standard base model comes with a 1.8 liter four cylinder engine producing 132 horse power, and 128 ft-lbs of torque.  Consumers have the option to purcahse this package with either a standard 5-speed transmission, or an automatic 4 speed gearbox.  EPA fuel economy scores the 2013 Toyota matrix with a 25 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined with the automatic transmission. The manual transmission bumps up these numbers slightly with 26/32/29.

The higher S model equipped engine comes in the form of a 2.4 liter four cylinder engine producing 158 horsepower and 162 ft-lbs of torque.  The front wheel drive option offers both flavors of either manual or automatic transmission while the AWD system (only available in the S model) only comes in a 4-speed automatic transmission.  The front wheel drive system in the the Matrix S scores an EPA-estimated 21/29/24 with the automatic transmission and 21/28/24 with the manual transmission. With the all-wheel drive system, these numbers fall slightly to 20/26/22.

Considering the fuel economy of other hatch-backs such as the Ford Focus, Mazda 3, these numbers are fall short of expectation.  As a matter of fact, it is worth mentioning that these numbers are equivalent to some larger cross-over 7-seater SUV’s such as the Mazda CX-9.

Interior Cabin Space and Design Features

The overall cabin space of the Toyota Matrix is homogeneous throughout.  Although not the most comfortable, the interior space provides adequate room but the ergonomics can be improved.  The seat-belts are over-sensitive, often ratcheting too soon when pulled and the clothe material feel cheap.

Taller individuals will enjoy the front seats thanks to its deep foot wells, but the back seats may be cramped for some.  The rear seats can be folded down easily yielding 49 cubic feet space.  The overall interior space can be expanded thanks to its conveniently flat fold front seats.

Driving Impressions

Having only test-driven the the S model equipped with AWD, our overall impressions are positive.  The acceleration is surprisingly responsive, and the handling is descent.  However, at just medium speeds, acceleration begins to saturate.  That said, the acceleration lacks the refinement and smoothness compared to other competitors.