By KBB.com Editors
Once considered revolutionary, the 2008 Toyota Matrix is now joined by a fleet of competitors attempting to copy the little wagon's combination of versatility and sporty good looks. Copy-cats may better be able to compete now that Toyota has simplified the model lineup, but an all-new Matrix is scheduled to debut in 2009, so no one should be resting on any laurels just yet. Despite its age, few rivals can match the Matrix's outstanding quality, customer satisfaction ratings and terrific resale value. Holding strong appeal with teenagers bent on customizing every inch of their cars, the Matrix's radical exterior is complimented by its highly versatile interior, which includes eye-catching glowing red gauges, a hard plastic cargo floor and a 115-volt outlet.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're on an economy-car budget, but you want something sporty and versatile, the 2008 Toyota Matrix deserves a good long look.You May Not Like This Car If...
The four-cylinder engine has to rev high to make the most of its power, and some buyers might not be comfortable with that. With last year's removal of its all-wheel-drive option, the Matrix has little advantage over newer, more powerful five-door models such as the Mazda MAZDA3 and Volkswagen Rabbit.What's New for 2008
The 2008 Matrix carries over largely unchanged.Driving It Driving Impressions
The competent 1.8-liter engine can move the Matrix with ease, though you will have to keep the revs high in the rpm band to get the most of the engine's power. The standard five-speed manual transmission is the most helpful for this task, although the optional four-speed automatic simplifies the driving. The Matrix's precise steering feel makes it easy to get around curves with confidence and the firm suspension displays good cornering ability without a punishing ride. Interior sound levels are higher than one might expect, but not annoyingly so. Besides, we suspect most younger drivers will never hear the din over the optional JBL Audio system.Favorite Features
The 115-volt outlet on the XR's dash should be standard in every car.
JBL Audio w/ Kicker Sub Woofer
If you like your music loud and your bass thumping, this system is sure to please.
Look inside the Matrix and you'll find a detailed interior that blends black cloth, chrome trim rings and brushed aluminum into pure automotive art. Gauges are housed in four deeply-recessed binnacles that are constantly backlit in a deep red glow. You'll find the Matrix's seating to be firm and comfortable, with a height-adjustable driver's seat on the XR trim. The roomy rear seat sits up high, affording passengers more legroom as well as a good view forward. When not loaded with passengers, the Matrix's seats can be folded flat to create a rather roomy 53 cubic feet of cargo area. Laptop junkies will love the two-prong 115-volt outlet standard on the XR.Exterior
The 2008 Matrix is based on the Corolla platform and shares its chassis and powertrain with the Pontiac Vibe. The Matrix is a bit more futuristic in appearance than the Vibe, with flared ground-effects panels, sweptback headlamps and a narrow rear window. The sweeping rear beltline makes for narrow rear side windows that can hinder a driver's ability to see small objects that may be close to the rear wheels. The large hatchback makes it easy to load the cargo hold and, on the XR trim level, includes a rear wiper/washer. A number of aftermarket parts, both from Toyota and external suppliers, make it easy to customize the Matrix without having to spend a small fortune.Notable Standard Equipment
The Matrix includes a 126-horsepower engine, five-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, rear defroster, front and rear cup holders, illuminated entry, dual remote-control mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD, tilt wheel, tachometer, cargo cover and full wheel covers. The XR adds power mirrors, 115-volt outlet, power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry and a rear wiper/washer.Notable Optional Equipment
Options include cruise control, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), front side-impact and front and rear side-curtain airbags, power glass moonroof, four-speed automatic transmission, auto-dimming rearview mirror, alarm, rear wiper/washer, anti-lock brakes (ABS), JBL audio and a number of dealer installed security and protection packages.Under the Hood
The high-reving four-cylinder is peppy and fuel-efficient -- exactly what most buyers are looking for. Although not big on torque, the 1.8-liter can move the Matrix with ease, so long as the car is not loaded with passengers or climbing steep hills.
1.8-liter in-line 4
126 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
122 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/33 (manual), 25/31 (automatic)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the Matrix starts at just over $16,000 for the base model with the five-speed manual and goes to about $27,000 for a loaded XR with the automatic transmission. Similar-sized competitors include the Volkswagen Rabbit and MAZDA3 five-doors, both of which have more standard equipment but offer less fuel economy, and the Kia Rondo, which offers more equipment, a better warranty and a more powerful engine. A look at the Fair Purchase Price shows the typical transaction price paid for the Matrix in your area, so be sure to check it out before you begin negotiations. The Matrix may not cost much, but it's worth its weight in gold when it comes to resale, holding better-than-average values.