By KBB.com Editors
The 2012 Toyota Matrix puts a twist on the compact car formula, combining a wagon-like design with a tall seating position, available all-wheel drive (AWD) - front-wheel drive is the standard setup – and a peppy yet fuel-efficient engine. Slotting between a compact hatchback and a small crossover SUV, the 2012 Matrix hatchback offers a big dose of sporty styling and outstanding ride and handling. However, due to its lack of high-tech audio and infotainment options, the Matrix may still fall short of newer hatchbacks, such as the Ford Focus and Kia Rio5. Then again, few cars have the reliability and resale value of a Toyota, and the Matrix can be expected to hold up its end of that Toyota reputation.
If you think you can't have an inexpensive, frugal and reliable car with the security of AWD, the 2012 Matrix proves otherwise.
If you're looking for a hatchback that has the power and moves to live up to its sporty styling, the 2012 Toyota Matrix hatchback isn't as promising as a VW GTI, Mazda3 or Ford Focus.
After a thorough refresh last year, the 2012 Toyota Matrix hatchback has no significant changes.
Driving Impressions The 2012 Toyota Matrix and Matrix S use the same, tightly-tuned suspension to deliver direct handling and a fairly comfortable ride. The Matrix's electric-assisted power steering isn't as precise-feeling as...a traditional hydraulic unit, but it does help the engine conserve power and improve fuel economy. 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. We like the all-wheel-drive 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. If you live someplace that is always sunny and warm, the AWD option probably isn't worth the extra cost or added weight.
115-Volt AC Outlet
This clever feature allows you to power most devices that need household-style alternating current.
Generous Rear Cargo Space
Fold down the rear seats of the 2012 Toyota Matrix hatchback and its flat cargo floor can hold a bunch of camping gear, back-to-college supplies or boxes and books for moving day.
The Toyota Matrix's interior is a combination of utility and fun. On the utility side, the 2012 Matrix S features a flat-folding front seat for increased cargo space, while both trims include built-in rubber rub strips on the cargo floor and rear seatbacks. When the vehicle is parked, the forward-folding front-passenger seatback can be used as, among other things, a desk for a computer. Although not cramped, the Matrix hatchback offers front and rear-seat legroom slightly smaller than the segment leaders, the rear seat being the biggest offender. The Matrix's front seats place their occupants up high, giving the feeling of driving a small SUV. Among the more thoughtful interior features is the Matrix S model's 115-volt outlet that allows an ordinary household device to operate without the need for a 12-volt AC converter.Exterior
While the EPA may consider the Toyota Matrix to be a small wagon, we think its racy exterior and aggressive wheels say different. This sporty hatchback features a sharply-angled nose, a swept-back beltline and black-out treatment around the rear D-pillar's wraparound glass. Every Matrix includes color-keyed, heated side mirrors, a rear-window wiper and daytime running lights, and the Matrix's design elements make it one of the more youthful Toyota offerings, even outshining some Scion products. On the 2012 Toyota Matrix S trim, the sporty attitude is taken a step further with an underbody front spoiler, blacked-out rear diffuser, 17-inch alloy wheels and a rear roof spoiler.
The 2012 Toyota Matrix comes in two trim levels: Matrix and Matrix S. Both have Toyota's very comprehensive Star Safety System, which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (which in turn includes Traction Control, Anti-lock Brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist) and Smart Stop Technology, and front, front-side and full-length side-curtain airbags. Toyota's Smart Stop Technology cuts engine power if the driver simultaneously presses both the accelerator and brake pedals. The base Matrix has a 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, while the Matrix S has a 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. All models include power windows, power door locks, heated power exterior mirrors and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. The standard audio system is an AM/FM/CD unit that features four speakers, MP3/WMA playback capability and an auxiliary audio input jack. The Matrix S comes with 17-inch wheels, front foglights, silver interior trim, a 115-volt AC outlet, remote keyless entry and a 6-speaker stereo.
The base 2012 Toyota Matrix hatchback can be equipped with a 4-speed automatic transmission and the Sport package, which adds front fog lights and front and rear spoilers. The Matrix S can be had with all-wheel drive, and an enhanced Sport Package (rear roof spoiler and unique 17-inch alloy wheels). Also available is the Premium Package, which includes Bluetooth wireless connectivity, Bluetooth streaming audio, a power sunroof, iPod and USB connector and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
Standard on the 2012 Toyota Matrix is a 1.8-liter 132-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, which is available with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission. The Matrix S has a 2.4-liter 158-horsepower 4-cylinder engine with either a 5-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual transmission. The 2.4-liter engine employs variable timing on both exhaust and intake valves to optimize responsive acceleration and good fuel economy.
132 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
128 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/32 (manual), 26/32 (automatic)
158 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
162 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 (manual), 21/29 (5-speed automatic), 20/26 (4-speed automatic, AWD)
The 2012 Toyota Matrix Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $19,500 when equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission. Opting for the Matrix S with all-wheel drive brings the price to above $22,000. With the Sport and Premium packages added, the Matrix S tops out right around $25,000. To see what consumers are actually paying for this vehicle in your area, check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price before you begin negotiations. As for resale, we expect the Matrix to hold a good portion of its value over a 5-year period, topping the Suzuki SX4 and Mazda Mazda3 hatchback, equaling the Kia Soul, and falling slightly lower than the Nissan Versa.
By James (NY) on Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Reliable. Economical. Versatile."
Cons: "Miss cruise control a little."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I really like this car. I use it to comute, pull my boat, pick up stuff (and I mean stuff) at Home Depot/Lowes (use it like my little truck). Performance-wise, I was never disappointed. Handling/power met my needs (with basic package). It's a shame Toyota discontinued it."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Tony on Tuesday, February 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great car, reliable, fun to drive even"
Cons: "Road Noise, awkward driver seating"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This is by far one of the best cars I ever driven specially with the 2.4 liter engine. with 60k miles and this car gets better as time pass by, I only feed premium gas and the car works excellent on highway. the extra gear makes a lot of difference on gas millage mechanically is a perfect combination and like I said with 60k and this car has never been in the shop. except for tires I use synthetic oil and a K&N filter, no intake modifications But like always there is no perfect car and there is no one size fits all kind of deal, if you know what I mean. the interior is kind of cheesy, although well designed the driver's side seat is awkward for long trip the arm rest on the door was too low for me the lever on the side keeps lowering the seat every time inadvertently press it. over all I gave it a 10 because is good performance and the aerodynamics of the car great, although does not help with the noise on the road. This car is a love it or hate it. I love it for my life style."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Lumen (MA) on Saturday, January 19, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks modern. Easy access. Good MPG & Cargo space."
Cons: "Noisy. Poor vision. Slow Acceleration."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"NEGATIVES- Underpowered. Poor Vision forward and especially towards rear. Handling is just fair. It has way too much road and wind noise, ordinary conversations are difficult at highway speeds. When stopped, wind whistles through gaps in rear hatches gaskets, (haunting sound.) Rear wheel disc brakes are extremely costly to replace. No cargo cover, we have to use a blanket to try to hide purchases. NO SPIN-ON OIL FILTER, (HAS INFERIOR CARTRIDGE, VERY POOR DESIGN, LONG ABANDONED BY CAR MAKERS YEARS AGO!) POSITIVES- Very easy to get in and out of. Lots of cargo space. Steering and brakes have pleasant feel. Looks like a modern SUV. Headlamps do a nice job. Front seats are comfortable, read, satasfactory. Good MPG."
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By RJ (MA) on Saturday, January 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Drives well, plenty of power."
Cons: "Low gas mileage. Noisy. Small problems."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Bought this car thinking it would get good mileage as our 08. The 2.4 though does not even come close. A warning if this is a reason to buy. The car has plenty of power though and runs well. Plenty of room in the back. I have had the radio problem other people have talked about as it goes blank when over heated. Also have the dash board rattle and am unable to find it. The low profile tires are ok but do not protect the rims from curbs if you bump them and make alot of noise. Only one recall so far on the window switches. Over all no major problems and is a good basic car. As I said I would take this car for a long test drive before buying and would not get the 2.4 if you want good mileage for that size car."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Expelliarmus08 (TX) on Wednesday, August 01, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 65,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Gas milage, no bad blind spots, AUX port"
Cons: "The issue with the delayed start up"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my first car I bought for myself and have been completely happy with it! The gas milage is great and the interior is spacious and flows well. I was surprise how spacious the back seat is. I am 5'9 and have plenty of room in any seat I sit in. My friend is 6'1 and can sit comfortably in the back seat. The only issue I have had with this car is a delayed start up. I have taken it to Toyota and they can't figure out the problem. Of course my car starts up right away when they try. Figures! But they haven't charged me for bringing it in and looking at it and have paid for a tow I needed once when something went wrong. I can't tell you exactly what it was because I'm not good with cars."
10 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Ronnie (MI) on Thursday, July 12, 2012
I owned and sold this car
Reason: trade in - My approximate mileage is 77,000
Pros: "roomy, comfortable seats, leg and head room."
Cons: "loud acceleration road noise bumpy ride"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Owned this car for 4 1/2 years. The first winter I regretted I bought it. Worst car ever in the snow and rain. Motor loud when excelerating, road noise, rough ride, cheap interior,"
7 people out of 8 found this review helpful