What's New for 2011
Toyota has discontinued the top-of-the-line XRS model for 2011 Matrix, along with its sport-tuned suspension and additional optional features. The remaining trim levels gain more standard equipment, including cruise control, full power accessories, heated and folding rearview mirrors and rear-seat heat ducts.
There have been a number of tweener cars that have hit the market within the past few years. That's not to say they're Justin Bieber enthusiasts with their fingers and eyes glued to a smartphone. These are cars that don't easily fall to definition, existing somewhere between a hatchback, a wagon and a crossover. The Toyota Matrix was one of the very first of these 'tween cars and continues to be one of the more desirable.
The 2011 Toyota Matrix stacks up against a rather odd clique of 'tweens. The Chevy HHR looks like a miniaturized version of a Truman-era Suburban; the Kia Soul looks like a roller skate; the Nissan Cube is, well, you know, a cube; and the Scion xB is styled after a box. It's truly a segment that caters to those with quirky design tastes. Yet it also boasts entries with an impressive amount of cargo and passenger space relative to their exterior footprints, so there's a practical side to them as well. For consumers more interested in practicality than attitude, the Matrix should have definite appeal with its more conventional styling.
Another benefit is that the Matrix boasts rock-solid mechanicals from the Toyota Corolla. With the available 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, acceleration is brisk for this class, and the Matrix is also available with all-wheel drive. Unfortunately, neither the 2.4-liter engine nor the base 1.8-liter is especially fuel-efficient given their output.
Of course, since the 2011 Toyota Matrix is a 'tween, there are more vehicles to consider than just its oddball brethren. Among hatchbacks, there's the versatile Honda Fit, the upscale Mazda 3 and the dynamic Nissan Juke. The VW Jetta Sportwagen is a top wagon alternative. Then there are several inexpensive compact crossovers like the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage. But for those who like the idea of a car that does a little bit of everything well (without looking weird while doing it), the Toyota Matrix is an excellent choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Toyota Matrix is a five-passenger wagon/hatchback available in base and S trim levels.
The base Matrix comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, heated and folding rearview mirrors, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Matrix S adds foglamps, a fold-flat passenger seat and a six-speaker sound system.
The S Premium package adds a more powerful engine, a sunroof, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio connectivity, and an upgraded six-speaker sound system with an iPod/USB audio interface. The Sport package available on both trims adds front and rear underbody spoilers and a snazzy S badge, along with foglamps for the base model and 17-inch alloy wheels for the S.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Toyota Matrix comes standard with front-wheel drive, while the S can be equipped with all-wheel drive. The base Toyota Matrix is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder good for 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 25 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined with the automatic and 26/32/28 with the manual.
The Matrix S gets a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 158 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. Front-drive models get a standard five-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic. A four-speed automatic is standard with AWD.
In Edmunds performance testing of the mechanically identical and now discontinued Pontiac Vibe, a 0-60-mph run took 8.9 seconds with the five-speed auto. A front-wheel-drive Matrix S with the automatic returns an estimated 21/29/24 (21/28/24 with the manual), while an AWD Matrix S returns 20/26/22. These estimates are disappointing given the fuel economy of some crossover SUVs.
The 2011 Toyota Matrix comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, brake assist, active front head restraints, front side airbags and side curtain airbags.
The Matrix has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) saw it earning a perfect five stars for frontal and front-seat side impacts, dropping to four stars for rear-seat side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Matrix its highest rating of "Good" in both frontal-offset and side-impact crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside the cabin, the Matrix has a significantly edgier ambience than other Toyotas, but doesn't go quite as far as the funky cabins found in the Scion xB or Nissan Cube. This could certainly be a good thing for many buyers, but either way, it's backed up by simple controls and decent materials.
Also bound to be a good thing is the Matrix's generous cargo capacity. There are 19.8 cubic feet of luggage capacity behind the rear seats and a maximum 61.5 cubic feet if you include the space provided by the fold-flat front passenger seat. For rear passengers, a tall, deep bench seat is inviting for children and adults alike. Like most small Toyotas, taller drivers may be a bit squished behind the wheel, but those of average height should be fine.
The base Matrix accelerates sluggishly off the line with its 1.8-liter engine, but its fuel economy will 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. In either case, the ride is smooth and well-insulated. The 2011 Toyota Matrix might not be the sportiest economy hatchback (especially now that the sport-tuned XRS is gone), but its refinement is laudable.