GO
#32

in Affordable Small Cars

MSRP: $19,275 - $22,415
Invoice: $18,216 - $20,733
MPG: 26 City / 32 Hwy
Search Used Listings:

Toyota Matrix Performance

Overall, reviewers say the 2013 Toyota Matrix performs adequately, but in this competative class, adequate is not good enough. Test drivers find that the engine in the S Matrix has better acceleration than the base engine, though some prefer the base engine for its higher fuel economy ratings. However, neither model has particularly good fuel economy ratings for the class. Generally, reviewers find that the Matrix suffers from too much body lean and nose plow, though a few think it has accurate steering and strong brakes.

  • "The … Toyota Matrix and Matrix S use the same, tightly-tuned suspension to deliver direct handling and a fairly comfortable ride." -- Kelley Blue Book (2012)
  • "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 (S trim with AWD)

Acceleration and Power

The base Matrix has a 1.8-liter engine that makes 132 horsepower and is paired with a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional. There’s also an optional 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower and can come with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The 2.4-liter can also be paired with all-wheel drive, but only when it is equipped with the four-speed automatic transmission. With the automatic transmission, the base engine averages 25/32 mpg city/highway, according to the EPA. These ratings are low for the class, but good for a small car with as much cargo space as the Matrix offers. With all-wheel drive, the Matrix averages 20/26 mpg, which is low.

Reviewers say power from the base engine is decent, but for more power for merging on the highway and stronger initial acceleration, they recommend the optional 2.4-liter. They do, however, wish the 2.4-liter engine’s fuel economy ratings were higher. Most test drivers aren’t overly impressed with the Matrix’s transmissions. They like the automatic transmission, but say many rivals offer CVTs or automatic transmissions with more gears, which improve fuel economy. 

See the full 2013 Toyota Matrix specs »

  • "The 132-horsepower engine on the base Matrix hatchback provides adequate power, but the Matrix S's 158-horsepower engine is notably better for merging onto fast-moving freeways while also providing stout off-the-line acceleration." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2009)
  • "The base … Toyota Matrix accelerates sluggishly off the line with its 1.8-liter engine, but its fuel economy might redeem it in the eyes of many shoppers. The 2.4-liter engine in the S is the opposite: Power is ample but fuel economy is disappointing." -- Edmunds (2012)
  • "S models have adequate acceleration with the automatic transmission, though liberal use of the throttle is required for merging and passing maneuvers. Manual-transmission versions are not noticeably livelier. Though heavier, acceleration is little different in the AWD S. … All 2.4-liter models suffer from a touchy throttle that makes smooth launches from a stop difficult." -- Consumer Guide (2012)

Handling and Braking

Reviewers have contrasting opinions of the 2013 Matrix’s handling and braking abilities. They say that overall, the brakes are strong, though one auto writer notes that the brake pedal feels touchy at first. While some members of the automotive press say the Matrix is fun to drive, others say that it suffers from body lean and noseplow when they take it around sharp corners. According to some reviewers, models with all-wheel drive have better handling, but one test driver disagrees.

  • "We like the AWD option for those who have to deal with snow on a regular basis but, as the system activates only when sensing wheel slippage, we think it doesn't do much to improve the car's overall handling." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "These tall wagons are more prone to crosswind wander at highway speeds than lower-built small cars. None has linear steering feel in turns. Fast cornering triggers noseplow and body lean in versions equipped with 16-inch tires, even with AWD. Grip and balance are sharper in S models with the Sport Package. Fine around-town maneuverability. Braking control and pedal feel are good for the class." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "The pedal feels a bit spongy in the first inch or so of travel; after that, its response is strong, and ABS never kicks in prematurely." -- Cars.com (2009)
  • "In handling tests, drivers were shocked by the tossable nature of the small IKEA hauler. Entering a corner at speeds on the far side of sane and giving a quick jerk to the steering wheel resulted in a big rotation and an even bigger grin." -- Motor Trend (2011, S trim with AWD)
Review Last Updated: 10/8/13

Next Steps: Toyota Matrix

  • Calculate monthly payment and apply for a loan
  • Search used Toyota Matrix for sale (677 listings)
  • See Affordable Small Cars rankings