Toyota Matrix Performance
Even though the Matrix has good handling that helps classify it as "fun to drive" for MSN and others, the engine is easily flustered. As U.S. News' Rick Newman says, "the Matrix huffs and puffs to get anywhere."
Acceleration and Power
Most reviewers say the Matrix's engine is out of its league. Kelley Blue Book notes the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing and 126 horsepower "has to rev high to make the most of its power...some buyers might not be comfortable with that," while the says "with a good start and just the driver aboard, it had no problem cruising at high commuter speeds...but filled with kids out to baseball and softball games, it literally wheezed its way up some steep hills."
Other writers complain about engine noise. Cars.com discovers the Matrix is "quiet enough when cruising, but the engine may growl and whine during acceleration," while the Orlando Sentinel notes the engine sounds "buzzy when pressed."
The 2008 Toyota Matrix's standard transmission is a five-speed manual that's generally described as "clunky, notchy and stiff," to use the U.S. News' Rick Newman "mad" is an alarm that beeps every time you shift to reverse with the manual. The alarm is meant to prevent shifting into first gear instead, but "other carmakers have managed to build...transmissions that don't require a bleeping beep," the gripes.'s phrasing, "but they help boost the car up to highway speeds fairly efficiently and with a decent amount of oomph," the 's writer reports. One aspect of the manual transmission that nearly drove
The optional automatic transmission is decent but shifts at a different pace than the manual. "For the most part, we were satisfied with the automatic's performance, though with a lightly powered car, downshift timing is very noticeable, and some of us thought it a tad slow," Edmunds writes, while Cars.com agrees that "oomph" is missing and Consumer Guide complains that "passing power is tepid."
The Matrix's fuel economy is regarded as a plus. The Environmental Protection Agency gives the 2008 Matrix a rating of 26 miles per gallon in the city, 33 on highways with the standard manual. The automatic transmission changes the EPA's rating to 25 miles per gallon in the city, 31 miles per gallon on the highway.
Handling and Braking
Motor Trend says, "On the road, all the Matrixes have quick steering, a firm brake feel, and taut but supple suspension," a claim that's backed by several. The 2008 Toyota Matrix has an independent MacPherson strut front suspension with a torsion beam rear, with stabilizer bars for both. This setup "displays good cornering ability without a punishing ride," Kelley Blue Book says, while the likes its balance: "The suspension is soft enough to give a good ride, but still rigid enough to encourage spirited driving on twisty back roads."
The Matrix's engine-speed-sensing, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is "precise" says Automotive.com, while Kelley Blue Book appreciates that it "makes it easy to get around curves with confidence." Although brakes are power-assisted ventilated front disc/rear drums (an anti-lock braking system and electronic brakeforce distribution are optional), the vast majority are confident in their ability. "Stopping distances are short, and the brake pedal has a nice feel" says MSN, while the chooses "excellent" and Automotive.com opts for "effective."