2012 Toyota Matrix Expert Review

Editor's Overview

The Toyota Matrix adds a measure of cargo versatility and all-weather capability to the world's best-selling car, the Toyota Corolla. Unlike the popular Corolla, the 2012 Matrix offers an available All-Wheel Drive system with active torque control, an elevated seating position for greater visibility and nearly four times the cargo space thanks to its roomy hatchback design.

You'll Like The 2012 Toyota Matrix If...

If you think you can't have an inexpensive, frugal and reliable car with the security of AWD, the 2012 Matrix proves otherwise.

You May Not Like The 2012 Toyota Matrix If...

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.

What's New

After a thorough refresh last year, the 2012 Toyota Matrix hatchback has no significant changes.

Interior Features

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 Features

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.

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.

Pricing Notes

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.

Notable Equipment

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.

Notable Options

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.

Favorite Features

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.

Under the Hood

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.

1.8-liter in-line-4

132 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

128 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/32 (manual), 26/32 (automatic)

2.4-liter in-line-4

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)

Editors' Notes

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.

Road Test Video Reviews

2012 Toyota Matrix Owner Reviews

11 Reviews
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Toyota matrix - no frills but extremely reliable!

2012 Toyota Matrix S

Very reliable car that drives well even in mountain conditions. The cab noise can be slightly loud while driving and the interior is pretty bare bones in terms of features but it gets you where you need to be and you do not have to worry about breaking down! Overall I am very happy with it is performance.

- Molly G

It is a reliable vehicle with great gas mileage and requires low maintenance.

2012 Toyota Matrix

I bought this vehicle when I was single and didn't have any children. I think it is great for a single person or a couple. It drives well, has a low maintenance cost, and has a great gas mileage. However, it is to small for a family of five. It does not have enough space to comfortably fit two car seats.

- Ari V

I am sorry they discontinued making this model as it is a very practical auto.

2012 Toyota Matrix

I like the fact that the back seat fold down to make a very spacious storage area. I would like better visibility from the windows. I owned the same auto previously (2004) and it had bigger windows.

- Clare S

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