Toyota Matrix

Debut: 2008
Maker: Toyota
Predecessor: Matrix (2002)

Ugly duck bears little resemblance to the old Matrix, although dimensionally it is nearly unchanged.

The second generation Toyota Matrix follows exactly the same formula as the original car. First of all, it is derived from the Corolla platform to reduce development and production costs. Secondly, unlike Corolla, it is a SUV-style multi-functional hatchback aiming at young customers. Thirdly, it is a joint venture with GM - still a surprise today considering they are arch-rivals. Production takes place at the JV plant NUMMI in the United States, where its sister car Pontiac Vibe is also assembled. As before, Toyota is fully responsible for the engineering and parts sourcing, so Pontiac Vibe is only a badge-engineered version of the Matrix.

The new Matrix doesn't break the mold of its predecessor. It is almost identical to the old one in form and exterior dimensions. Nevertheless, its new styling actually takes a backward step. The oddly shaped headlamps and bonnet, the BMW-flame-surfaces-style waistline and the cheap-looking plastic window frames reflect poor taste from its California designers. Comparatively, the stylists of GM did a much better job on Pontiac Vibe, making the latter more worthy to purchase.


XRS model gets aggressive aero kits, large Camry engine, sportier rear suspensions and tuning.

Open the doors, you will find one of the worst cabins by Toyota. Hard plastics everywhere, cheap seats and fabrics, average assembly quality (very rare for this company) and plain design imply this is a cost conscious vehicle designed for the American. Just beware of the Korean, as they can build cars cheaper yet higher quality these days. Well, perhaps the Japanese firm wants to save the best for itself rather than sharing with GM. On the plus side, the cabin has plenty of space because the Matrix is a tall car. A fold flat rear seat enables a large yet convenient cargo area, although this has become a norm of the class.

Under the bonnet lies a 1.8-liter dual-VVT-i engine like Corolla. We love its 132 horsepower and reasonable fuel consumption, less so the vocal manner at high rev. A more refined and torquey alternative is the 2.4-liter VVT-i four-pot, good for 158 horses like in Camry. This XRS model has another advantage over the 1.8-liter model: a double-wishbone rear suspension instead of torsion-beam. Now you might remember Toyota Auris / Blade, the hatchback version of Corolla, has similar mechanical designs. If you have a global vision of automotive industry, you will find few things are new.


High-mounted gear shifter aside, I don't see anything in this cabin worth praising.

Predictably, the Matrix is not a driver's car as its aggressive looks suggested. Its electric power steering is light and short of feel. Its body control is average. Its chassis dynamic is uninspiring. The XRS with stiffer suspensions, front tower bar and 215/45R18 tires performs better in corners, but still no one will describe it as an engaging drive.

There is nothing wrong to follow a proven formula. However, if you think you can rest on your laurels and devote little effort on the development, you will end up in something as forgettable as the second generation Matrix. The next 5 years will be difficult to it.


Comparactively, sister car Pontiac looks far more tasteful, although under the sheet metal is the same thing.

The above report was last updated on 13 Jan 2008. All Rights Reserved.


General remarks

Matrix 1.8XR
Matrix 2.4XRS

Front-engined, FWD
Front-engined, FWD

Steel monocoque
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
Mainly steel
Length / width / height 4395 / 1765 / 1560 mm 4395 / 1765 / 1560 mm
Wheelbase 2600 mm 2600 mm
1797 cc
2362 cc
Valve gears
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
Other engine features

Max power
132 hp / 6000 rpm
158 hp / 6000 rpm

Max torque
128 lbft / 4400 rpm
162 lbft / 4000 rpm

5-speed manual
5-speed manual
Suspension layout
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
F: strut
R: double-wishbone

Suspension features
Tyres front/rear
205/55 R16 215/45R18
Kerb weight
1300 kg
1424 kg

Top speed
116 mph (est)
124 mph (est)

0-60 mph (sec)
9.9 (est)
8.4 (est)

0-100 mph (sec)

Performance tested by: -

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