The 2012 Toyota Matrix gets a respectable, if not impressive, Total Car Score. Then again, trying to compete against more convincing compact crossovers -- by being virtually a conventional hatchback with optional all-wheel drive -- was always a stretch to begin with.
Nevertheless, reviewers can see the sense in offering a conservative alternative to the current trendy crop of cubes and toasters. Especially since the Matrix has the "rock-solid" underpinnings of the ever-faithful Corolla, while offering a completely flat load floor with the rear seats folded and a fold-flat front passenger seat for extra Ikea-visiting versatility. Cargo space ranges from 19.8 cubic feet to a commodious 61.5.
Critics like the fuel economy of the smaller engine available in the Matrix while being underwhelmed by its power output. Conversely, they enjoy the extra muscle of the bigger engine but find its thirst a disadvantage. The ride quality gets a thumbs-up for its refinement, and the inventory of standard equipment is generous.
The Matrix had a mild refresh last year and sees no significant changes for 2012. However, a new generation of Corolla (on which the Matrix is based) is rumored to be in the wings and set to debut in the next year or so.
The five-seat 2012 Toyota Matrix is essentially a five-door hatchback, available in base and S trim levels. The base is front-wheel drive only, while the S offers all-wheel drive as an option.
The base employs a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that develops 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque and is linked to a five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic.
The S model has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder motor that makes 158 hp and 162 lb-ft. It's backed by the same transmissions, except that all-wheel-drive versions have the auto as standard.
Basic features include power accessories, 16-inch steel wheels, tilt/telescope steering wheel adjustment, CD player with auxiliary input and heated side mirrors. The S has foglamps and a fold-flat front passenger seat.
A Premium package for the S brings a sunroof, Bluetooth, upgraded audio system with satellite radio and iPod/USB connection. The Sport package has some aero body pieces plus 17-inch alloy wheels.
The 2012 Matrix is EPA-rated at 26 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined with the 1.8/manual trans setup. The automatic version returns 25/31/28 mpg. Running the 2.4/manual setup, consumption is 21/28/24 mpg; with the auto trans, it's 21/29/24 mpg. The all-wheel-drive version achieves 20/26/22 mpg.
The 2012 Toyota Matrix is rated to tow up to 1,500 pounds.
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