2012 Toyota Matrix Walk Around

The Toyota Matrix is essentially the wagon/hatch version of the Corolla. The Corolla is about seven inches longer and half that lower, excepting headroom has larger interior dimensions but a smaller trunk. The Matrix hatchback eases loading awkward objects, the upright stance gives a slightly better view of traffic, and it offers all-wheel drive and a rear wiper for inclement weather.

Matrix S is distinguished by a longer, lower front fascia with outer black nacelles for fog lamp housings and a darker center grille section. The Matrix S also has different lower trim all around the body and the dark material that shows on the seams between the panels and main bodywork gives a hint of the add-on look, a situation more pronounced on light-color cars.

In profile, the front side windows resemble a wine glass on its side; the upper side curved along its length and the lower side scoops downward, for a good view of the mirror without the mirror blocking any forward or side vision, and then begins the taper upward to the rear. Painted mirrors and door handles, lack of any side moldings, and just two pieces of glass keep visual clutter to a minimum.

Seventeen-inch wheels make the best of big wheel wells while the rear spoiler serves as a punctuation point to an otherwise near-hemispherical rear end, and auxiliary sunshade for rear-seat riders.

Matrix L and S models with the Sport Package are distinguished by a special S badge.


The Matrix cabin is more stylish than what's found in the Toyota Corolla, with sweeping metal-look surfaces on both sides of the instrument cluster. Two large omni-directional vents peer out the top like bug eyes and frame the gauges that include round dials for speed and engine revs and an oblong unit for ancillary information.

The cabin is trimmed with fabric upholstery and door panels, with plastic used to lower doors. It doesn't look cheap or like this is where the money was saved, and all the switchgear has a quality feel to it. A variety of storage spaces are within driver's reach, and most have a nonskid, quieting rubber mat on the bottom, a nice feature.

Manually adjusted front bucket seats are well-placed for tall-driver headroom and short-driver visibility, and provide good support for the length of time it takes to burn a tank of gas, which is a long time in one of these. The wheel tilts and telescopes but the latter's travel is limited and, with the clutch pedal much closer than the brake pedal, may require some minor driver adaptation.

The illuminated gauges are easy to see regardless of conditions, and forward viewing is good unless you need to actually see the hood to gauge where it is. Direct rear view isn't bad either with no big central headrest in the way, but your first head turn to check a rear quarter lane change will show just how big those C-pillars are.

Three-ring climate controls deliver air where and when you want it without excessive fan noise; AC is standard. Primary operating controls are on steering column stalks, with less-frequent items like the optional stability control defeat on the dash; the shifter (automatic or manual) rides on a perch off the lower dash, while a conventional handbrake is in the console.

The rear seat is large enough that we put a pair of 6-foot-3-inch riders back there who reported satisfactory head clearance. There are three belts, used simultaneously only by small kids, and the rear-seat floor is almost flat with only a slight rise up to the console. The rear bench seat is a 60/40 split with the narrow part behind the driver where it should be, and easily folds down unless the front seat is far rearward.

Matrix has nearly 20 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, with some small bins underneath the floor. If you want to hide cargo from view there's an optional tonneau you attach at the corners. Fold the rear seats down and cargo space expands. The floor and rear seatbacks have plastic runners to ease the loading of cargo and there are tie-down rings to secure it. The front-passenger seatback folds flat for long items or to provide a place to work the laptop (when parked, that is).

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