in 2010 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $10,828 - $13,881
Original MSRP: $16,700 - $22,110
MPG: 26 City / 32 Hwy
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2010 Toyota Matrix Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

While test drivers say the 2010 Matrix gets more powerful and crisp the higher you go up in trim, no Matrix has the peppy capabilities of the class' top cars.

  • "The Matrix is no Mazda 3 when the going gets twisty. But that hasn't kept myriad Matrix owners from driving home with smiles on their faces, and we expect this trend to continue. There's a reason Europeans love hatchbacks and wagons: They drive like cars and haul like SUVs." -- Edmunds
  • "Performance-oriented drivers will enjoy the ... combination of precise steering feel, sports-tuned suspension and grippy ultra-high-performance all-season tires." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "As sporty as it looks, it didn't handle well on the highway. The wind and drafting from semis and large SUVs blew this little car all over the road. The Matrix kept up with traffic; it even exceeded the speed limit at times. ... So she's adequate in the power department, but she's not going to win any Most Zippy awards." -- Mother Proof

Acceleration and Power

The Matrix isn't especially sporty, but it has competent power for the class. Reviewers say the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine provides a more pleasing driving experience, but they recommend the base 1.8-liter engine for buyers more concerned with fuel economy. The EPA rates the lower engine at 25/31 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission. The high level engine should achieve 20/26 mpg with a four-speed automatic.

  • "The base Matrix accelerates sluggishly off the line with its 1.8-liter engine, but its admirable fuel economy will redeem it in the eyes of many shoppers. The 2.4-liter engine in the S and the XRS is the opposite -- power is ample, but fuel economy is just OK.." -- Edmunds
  • "S and XRS have adequate acceleration with the automatic transmission, though liberal use of the throttle is required for merging and passing maneuvers." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The 1.8-liter inline-four revs smoothly, if not terribly quietly. Feel through the tilting-and telescoping steering wheel was rather tepid and springy. Yawn." -- Car and Driver
  • "We could maintain freeway speeds, even up hills, but passing involves a lot of pedal mashing, with maybe dropping the shifter down to the three position, preventing the car from going into fourth gear." -- CNET
  • "The five-speed manual has a solid, hefty feel. It's much like the transmission in the Mazda3, another favorite stick shift of mine, but its throws feel even more precise than the Mazda." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

Although there's no exuberant praise for the Matrix's dynamics, most reviewers agree that the 2010 Matrix is smooth and comfortable on the road.

  • "These tall wagons are more prone to crosswind wander at highway speeds than lower-built small cars. None has linear steering feel in turns. ... Fine around-town maneuverability. Braking control and pedal feel are good for the class." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Dynamics are simple: It's more fun to drive than either Scion or the Corolla, zipping around corners with controlled body roll like a decent sport/compact." -- Motor Trend
  • "Steering is geared for quick responsiveness, and the brake pedal has a linear action for smooth stops." -- Chicago Sun-Times

All-wheel Drive

With the Matrix's on-demand all-wheel drive system, 45 percent of the torque goes to the car's rear wheels. Most reviewers say it's not worth the extra curb weight and lower gas mileage unless you live in a region that receives a lot of snow and ice.

  • "Setting the Matrix apart is available all-wheel drive, which, although it exacts a penalty in fuel consumption, offers a persuasive and far less expensive alternative to mini-utes for those who need improved all-weather capability." -- Car and Driver
  • "Unless you regularly encounter snowy conditions, the 2.4-liter engine does not produce enough power to make the all-wheel-drive option worth the cost and extra weight." -- Kelley Blue Book

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