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2010 Toyota Matrix ReviewThe Good
The 2010 Toyota Matrix offers impressive fuel economy, deceptive cargo space, and an attractive price.The Bad
A tragically cheap interior and two inadequate suspensions make the 2010 Matrix a tough buy.
The CarGurus View
Toyota seems to need some time to refine its compact offerings, not to mention a little bit of style, especially considering the younger skew of the target demographic. While the AWD system sets the Matrix apart from its competitors, its shortcomings more than outweigh its appeal. The Base trim has far too many negatives to consider anything other than an S or XRS, for the benefits of the 2.4-liter engine alone.
At a Glance
The Toyota Matrix sees traction control and anti-skid now standard for all trims in 2010, following 2009’s redesign. Otherwise, this five-door wagon, essentially a hatchback version of the Corolla, sees no changes for 2010, available in three trim levels in front- and all-wheel drive.
Base trims get a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. S and XRS trims come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and are available with a five-speed manual or automatic transmission, although S trims configured with the optional AWD system get a four-speed automatic. The AWD S and the XRS both come with an independent rear suspension system, as opposed to the torsion-beam suspension on remaining trims.
The 1.8-liter engine that also serves as the base engine in the Corolla is similarly underpowered in the Matrix, a problem that's exacerbated by this vehicle’s increased weight - the Matrix is more than 200 pounds heavier than the Corolla. Additionally, sound dampening seems to be less effective here than in the Corolla, and the excessive noise produced by the 1.8-liter, especially under load, is only magnified here.
Indeed, even the 2.4-liter, praised for its refinement in the Corolla, produces harsh tones under load in the Matrix, although power is generally adequate, though it requires deep stabbing of the accelerator to find. The manual transmission produces a much punchier feel, if not extra power, and the four-speed transmission standard on the AWD S trim doesn’t seem to hurt performance, although mileage does suffer at 20/26 mpg versus 21/28 for the five-speed manual and 21/29 with the five-speed automatic.
The 1.8 manages 26/32 with the five-speed manual and 25/31 with the four-speed automatic. The Matrix uses regular-grade fuel, regardless of trim or configuration.
Ride & Handling
The Matrix offers capable bump absorption in Base and S trims, although the sport suspension of the XRS allows these imperfections to resonate harshly. That suspension does a fine job of increasing the paltry grip and lean resistance of the Base and S trims, however it’s up to the driver to determine if it’s worth the sacrifice in ride comfort. Steering is again a weakness in the Matrix, although seemingly not as exaggerated as in the Corolla. Braking, at any rate, is at least adequate, with good stopping power and pedal feel.
Cabin & Comfort
Poor materials, poor assembly, and poor finish seem the intent in the Matrix, as they are inherent at every level, with cheap hard plastics making up the overwhelming majority of surfaces. Many testers and owners alike have found misaligned surfaces as well as squeaks and rattles throughout the interior.
Gauges are hard to read, both from washout and vague type, although most are well-placed and controls seem easy to operate and reach. Wind and road noise permeate the cabin increasingly as speed rises, and the larger wheels of the XRS produce a noticeable thrum.
Headroom is ample thanks to the tall design of the Matrix, but leg- and kneeroom are in short supply, front and back. Firm seats fatigue during longer trips, and rearward visibility is hampered by the hatchback design.
Crash-test results from the NHTSA for the 2010 Toyota Matrix show five stars for front impacts as well as side impacts involving the driver. Side impacts involving rear passengers and rollover tests both received four stars.
Standard safety features include dual front, front-side, and curtain-side airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist, an anti-skid system, traction control, a tire pressure monitor, and daytime running lights.
What Owners Think
By far the most numerous complaints heard regarding the 2010 Toyota Matrix revolve around the interior, with its poor construction and cheap materials. Fuel economy is quite impressive, as is cargo room, and the option of AWD is refreshing, although it’d be nice to not be stuck with a four-speed automatic. Unpredictable suspensions could use some tweaking, with neither camp seeming to be completely happy with either the base or sport setup.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.