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 Briteredlips (AZ) on Friday, November 08, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great looking car; comfortable driving"
Cons: "Some visibility issues; noisy driving"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I really love this car!! Traded in a van for this Matrix. Now that I am used to the change in size of vehicle, I love the control of this car. Kind of noisy to drive, but I really feel good driving it."
By Charlie (MA) on Thursday, October 31, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 43,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Roomy, Stylish, good MPG, low maintenance costs."
Cons: "Noisy, harsh riding and poor visibility."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Exotic styling. However, this causes difficult blind spots on either side of front windshield and to rear view. Ride is harsh, you will feel every road defect. Handling and braking are quite good. Acceleration isn't very strong, but capable in most traffic. Average around 28 MPG all around. Interior noise level is very high on highway, difficult to converse normally. The access and head room are great. The rear hatch and fold flat rear seats really makes this car a versatile hauler. The radio has too much bass, treble can't be turned up high enough to compensate."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By wph00 (FL) on Friday, August 09, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Great gas milage, handles well, not bad to look at and reasonable room. Greatest weakness is just a little cheap"
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Puffin (NY) on Thursday, July 18, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,752overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, but not on highway."
Cons: "Loud road noise, iPod connectivity doesn't work."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Bought 1 month ago prior to vacation. Loud tire noise on highway, rough ride. Despite having the upgraded 6 speaker radio, iPod connection doesn't work. Something in the back bangs when going over road bumps or highway road joints. Haven't found out what yet. Drive position is comfortable to drive for distance, but the road noise, banging in back on every bump or road joint doesn't make for a good experience. Had it in the shop twice before going on vacation to have them fix the iPod connection problem -- 3 1/2 hours of driving on trip, iPod quit. I'd tried undercoating to try to help silence the loud road noise but that didn't do much. Vacation was good despite loud bumpy road noise driving to and from. Wish I'd never bought a Matrix."
6 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By adie (FL) on Sunday, July 07, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 69,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "good value, fun to drive, fuel efficient"
Cons: "not enough space for car seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car has given me no trouble other than required mantainance and is very fun to drive. I love the fold down seats so I can items from the home store transported with ease. Overall great car!"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By CarGal99 (FL) on Saturday, June 22, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handling, braking, sporty looking, roominess, safe"
Cons: "a loose plastic panel, vanity mirror cover problem"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I like the car. I had to find a car to replace my 18 year old sports car, and I knew it would be a big adjustment to go from an 8 cylinder luxury car to something with a smaller engine and in theory, not as luxurious. I chose the correct car for the adjustment. I really tried hard not to like the car, but I really like it. It has very good "get up and go" for when you need to get onto a busy freeway or for passing someone. I like how it handles. The AWD on wet, sometimes a few inches of water covered roads plus the stability/traction control were options I'm glad this car has. Some people may not feel the amount of gas it uses justifies the option, but it does for me when it comes to safety since I'm in a very wet climate. I think it gets good gas mileage, but I had a V8 so I'm probably not the best judge of that. I'm sure there are cars that get better mileage, but for the options and features that this car has, you'd probably have to pay a lot more in a small SUV or other wagon. Now the best part, it's a small wagon! I never thought I'd be excited to own a "station wagon", but it's really nice. The seats lay all the way down flat and you can put pretty much anything back there. Even dogs and stuff you have to buy for everyday life. It has little hooks to hook grocery bags to so that your stuff doesn't go rolling everywhere (genius!) and it even has a place to tie bigger things down if you move the removable carpet/mat. I love having a 4 door again, I'd forgotten how much I like them. Only a couple of bugaboos that you'll keep hearing over and over: Road noise. Yes, it's there, sort of like how it is in most cars this style (or even in small trucks), but it doesn't bother me because my husband is always playing music so loudly, I can barely hear anything unless I'm by myself, then I notice it. But I don't find it annoying. Some people may not like it. Also, my driver side vanity mirror cover won't close. It's a little sliding piece of plastic that won't slide back. It's not something you can see unless you're driving and want to look in the vanity mirror. It's just an uncovered mirror now. And, since I bought it used, there's a piece of plastic that keeps coming loose (easily snapped back into place) between the front door/back door and the frame. Hard to describe the location, but it's right under where the seat belt joins to the car frame. I'm sure if I took the time to jiggle it into place properly or see if it needs to be screwed in or something, it's just not that big of a deal and I'm always in a hurry so if it happens to pop out, I just pop it back into place. Like I said, I bought it used, so it's probably something the former driver banged out of place and never got screwed back in. Anways, I like the car. If you are looking for value for the money, roominess without owning a larger car for your family, dogs, etc this car will be great for you. It's comfortable, the dashboard and all the features look great, it handles like a dream. The steering and braking on this car are above average. And wait til you have to park in a crowded parking lot! It's so great for tight spaces and getting in and out of crowded lots without hassle. I love having a smaller vehicle."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful