2012 Toyota Matrix Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jun 23, 2010

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2012 Toyota Matrix Buying Advice

The 2012 Toyota Matrix is the best car for you if you want a mini crossover that emphasizes efficiency over driving thrills.

The 2012 Toyota Matrix should carry over the expected mid-cycle freshening bestowed on the 2011 Toyota Matrix. Those changes – styling updates and a new engine were anticipated -- should sustain Matrix to the model-year 2013 conclusion of this design generation. Meanwhile, Matrix remains essentially a station wagon version of the 2012 Toyota Corolla compact sedan. Both seat five, have four doors, and share the same chassis, engines, and transmissions. But with its long, tall roofline and available all-wheel drive (AWD), Matrix could be considered a new-age crossover. It doesn’t quite qualify as a blend of automobile and SUV. But there’s no denying Matrix is more versatile than a conventional compact station wagon and more car-like than most small SUVs. 

Should you wait for the 2012 Toyota Matrix or buy a 2011 Toyota Matrix? Buy a 2011 Matrix. With the next-generation Matrix due for model-year 2014, the 2011’s styling and features will enjoy a longer shelf life. The 2011 Matrix will have the electronic brake-override system designed to mitigate sudden acceleration. And attractive factory incentives should still be in place as Toyota seeks to sustain sales momentum after the safety recalls -- and seeks to sustain interest in an aging little wagon.

2012 Toyota Matrix Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Toyota Matrix should be a visual repeat, carrying over the minor changes expected on the 2011 Matrix. These included subtle revisions to the grille area, possibly freshened taillamps, and perhaps new wheel designs. None would alter the size or shape Matrix has carried since this second-generation version debuted for model-year 2009. Matrix isn’t a pretty vehicle, but it is functional. Not quite as long as the typical compact car, it has a tall, arched roof that allows chair-like seating and generous head room. Its 20-cubic-feet of cargo volume behind the rear seats is greater than in any compact sedan and more than in most hatchbacks. Folding down the rear seats opens 61.5 cubic feet of storage space -- more than in some compact crossover SUVs. Matrix doesn’t provide the elevated view in traffic that’s a selling point for higher-riding crossovers such as the Honda CR-V. But with AWD available as an alternative to front-wheel drive, Matrix qualifies as a sensible all-weather option to bigger, thirstier crossovers. Note that Matrix lost a fraternal twin when General Motors closed the Pontiac division and discontinued the Pontiac Vibe. Matrix and Vibe were built from the same Toyota design and shared everything but their external styling. Expect the 2012 Matrix to return in three models: the base-level Matrix Standard, midline Matrix S, and sporty Matrix XRS.  

Mechanical: The 2012 Toyota Matrix should be a mechanical rerun of the 2011 Matrix. That means the 2012 Matrix Standard would again use a 132-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The 2012 Toyota Matrix S and 2012 Toyota Matrix XRS should return with a 169-horsepower 2.5-liter four. The 2.5-liter was projected as part of the 2011 Matrix freshening and would replace a 158-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Every 2012 Matrix will again come standard with front-wheel drive, which benefits traction in wet conditions by locating the mass of the engine over the wheels that also propel the car. Likely continuing as an alternative exclusive to the Matrix S will be AWD. The system is not designed for off-roading but to enhance grip in snow and on low-traction surfaces. It normally operates in front-wheel drive and automatically shuffles power to the rear wheels only if the fronts begin to slip. The 2012 Matrix Standard is almost certain to return with a choice of a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. But transmission assignments get a little hazy after that. It wasn’t known at the time of this review whether the projected arrival of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine would be accompanied by transmission upgrades. Namely, the automatic used in the front-wheel-drive S and XRS models would advance to a six-speed unit from a less-efficient five-speed. It’s also possible those models would trade their five-speed manual transmission for a sportier six speed. Expect 2012 Matrix S AWD to again come only with automatic transmission, but whether it would replace its four-speed automatic with a five-speed was unclear.

Features: The 2012 Toyota Matrix will return with a nice selection of basic amenities, though Toyota’s opportunity to expand the list was probably ripest as part of the expected model-year 2011 freshening. As for the basics, every 2012 Matrix will come with air conditioning, power mirrors, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, and a front-center armrest/storage console. A 70/30 split rear seatback that folds to form a flat load surface also will be standard. Power windows and remote keyless entry probably will remain optional on the base Matrix and standard on the other models. On the 2012 Matrix safety front, standard equipment will again include antilock brakes to enhance control in emergency stops and an antiskid system to reduce chances of sideways slides. The front seats will again have torso-protecting side airbags and both seating rows will be covered by head-protecting curtain side airbags. The 2012 Matrix will continue to offer an outstanding JBL sound system, satellite radio, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and an auxiliary MP3 jack. The available Bluetooth phone linking and the navigation system with real-time traffic information also will continue as contemporary features. Under “room for improvement,” file USB iPod connectivity and available leather upholstery.

2012 Toyota Matrix Prices back to top

Toyota won’t announce 2012 Matrix prices until shortly before the car goes on sale. But based on Matrix’s cost history, expect a base price range of roughly $17,500-$23,400. (Base-price estimates in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee. Toyota’s fee for factory-delivered cars was running around $750; Toyotas in some southeastern states are delivered by independent distributors and may carry different destination fees.)

Expect the 2012 Matrix Standard model to have a base price range of around $17,500-$18,400, depending on transmission. Peg the front-wheel-drive 2012 Matrix S starting price at around $19,800 with manual transmission and around $21,000 with automatic. Base price is an estimated $22,000 for the 2012 Matrix S with AWD. Look for the 2012 Toyota Matrix XRS to have a base price range of around $22,000-$23,500, depending on transmission.

Estimated prices for key 2012 Matrix options include $1,000 for the Power Package elevates the Standard model to near S-model content, $900 for the power sunroof, and $1,300-$1,800, depending on model, for the navigation system.

2012 Toyota Matrix Fuel Economy back to top

Uncertainty about the precise engine and transmission combinations available on the 2012 Matrix makes projecting fuel-economy numbers tricky. However, Matrix has been among the more fuel-efficient cars of its size. And Toyota isn’t about to lose ground on gas mileage in the face of ever-tightening government economy standards.

So based on Matrix’s fuel-economy history, expect the 2012 Toyota Matrix Standard to rate 26/32 mpg city/highway with manual transmission, 25/31 with automatic. Expect front-wheel-drive versions of the 2012 Matrix S and 2012 Matrix XRS to rate at least 21/28 with manual transmission and around 21/29 with automatic. Estimated fuel economy for the 2012 Matrix S AWD model is 20/26 mpg.

2012 Toyota Matrix Release Date back to top

Expect the 2012 Toyota Matrix to go on sale in mid-calendar 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Toyota Matrix back to top

Credible sources disagree on the long-term future of the Toyota Matrix. Some industry observers say it doesn’t have one. They cite low sales numbers and production complications stemming from the demise of the Pontiac Vibe. That car was built alongside Matrix at a joint GM-Toyota assembly plant that’s since been turned over for other uses. Matrix production was moved to a Toyota plant in Canada. The carmaker may not see the economic upside of importing a Matrix replacement or of continuing to devote part of one of its North American plants to build what is essentially a low-volume niche model.

Other observers insist an all-new Matrix will appear in Toyota’s U.S. showrooms during the first months of 2013 as a 2014 model. There would seem to be space in Toyota’s lineup for a small, fuel-efficient wagon. Some buyers do want versatile space and available AWD but don’t want to drive a traditional crossover that mimics the ride height and profile of an SUV. Rivals such as the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube, and even the Scion xB from Toyota’s own youth division, fit some of that description – though they don’t offer AWD.

2012 Toyota Matrix Competition back to top

Kia Soul: The appeal of a space-efficient small box on wheels seems obvious, but the reality is that no carmaker has hit a sales homerun with one. South Korea’s Kia at least produced a solid base hit with the model-year 2010 introduction of its squared- off Soul. This five-seat wagon has more styling flair than most of this ilk. It’s priced lower than most rivals, too.

Scion xB: Our vote for the best driving and most refined of the mobile cartons goes to this wagon from Toyota’s Scion division. Granted, it helps if the xB’s odd-ball looks compliment your world view – or if you can simply abide them in the name of this vehicle’s excellent use of space. Do either and you’ll be hard pressed to find as much geeky driving satisfaction for around $17,000.

Suzuki SX4: If you crave AWD in a small wagon that isn’t a crossover, check out the version of this Japanese import labeled, oddly enough, the Crossover. At under $17,000 to start, it’s been the lowest priced AWD vehicle available in the U.S. If front-wheel drive will do, the SX4 SportBack has the same hatchback body and a sporty nature that might appeal to Matrix XRS fans.

2012 Toyota Matrix Next Steps