2013 Toyota Matrix XRS
2013 Toyota Matrix XRS. Click image to enlarge
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Manufacturer’s Website
Toyota Canada

Review and photos by Michel Deslauriers

Photo Gallery:
2013 Toyota Matrix XRS

When the first Matrix hit the streets in the summer of 2002, it quickly became a popular choice among Canadians who were looking for versatility and user-friendliness in a compact and fuel-efficient package.

Ten years later, the Toyota Matrix’s future is undecided. Current sales amount to about half of what they used to, and the current-generation model fails to distinguish itself from the growing (and much improving) crowd of compact five-doors. While still relatively popular in Canada, the Matrix isn’t selling well in the US.

Over the years, the hatchback competition included, among others, the Mazda3 Sport, the Kia Forte5, the Volkswagen Golf, and the Subaru Impreza. The Ford Focus hatchback, Scion xB, and Hyundai Elantra GT are relative newcomers in the category, too. In addition, the emergence of multi-purpose vehicles such as the Mazda5, Kia Rondo and Chevrolet Orlando also contributed to the Matrix’s downfall.

Still, Toyota’s crafty hatch isn’t a bad choice at all, despite its shortcomings.

While you’re cross-shopping compact hatchbacks, you’ll quickly notice one aspect of the Matrix that does set itself apart, and that’s the higher driving position, which almost feels as if you’re driving a crossover or an SUV. Unlike most rivals that are simply five-door versions of their sedan counterparts, the Matrix’s body is different from the Corolla’s, which shares the same platform, powertrain, and other components. Unfortunately, the fat rear pillars take their toll on outward visibility.

The high roofline of the 2013 Toyota Matrix provides class-leading headroom inside, and also allows parents to buckle in their kids without breaking their backs. It also helps this hatchback boast a cargo volume of 561 L, or 1,398 L with the seats folded. Together with flat-folding seatbacks and a rugged plastic surface, you get a handy load floor that’s easy to keep clean.

2013 Toyota Matrix XRS2013 Toyota Matrix XRS2013 Toyota Matrix XRS2013 Toyota Matrix XRS
2013 Toyota Matrix XRS. Click image to enlarge

The downside: the lack of carpeting will make any light object slide around noisily in the cargo area and drive you nuts while you drive. To every problem there is a solution; this year, Toyota throws in a cargo mat with the Matrix XRS as well as with the S Package that’s optional on base and AWD models. In other trims, cheapskates like me can just use a $10 household rug and carve it for a custom fit.

The interior design is simple and straightforward, although it lacks the sophistication and detail found in some newer rivals. Rotary knobs for the heating and ventilation system couldn’t be easier to use while driving, while the new-for-2013 sound system with 6.1-inch touchscreen is a little distracting. On the other hand, you now benefit from Bluetooth streaming audio once you’ve listened to all the music found on your USB key.

The 2013 Toyota Matrix XRS gets seats wrapped in grippy cloth upholstery, and the front chairs are surprisingly supportive and comfy. You also get a meaty, flat-bottomed and leather-wrapped steering wheel as well as a few other extra items that can be included in other trim levels via option packages.

And that’s when you’ll realize how short the XRS’ equipment list is, especially when you start looking around at what the competition offers for about the same price. Heated front seats would’ve been nice on this chilly test week, but they’re not available at all in the Matrix. There’s no trip computer for monitoring fuel economy. There are no phone connectivity buttons on the wheel, so you must use those on the stereo. And unlike in some rivals, a navigation system isn’t available, although that’s really not a dealbreaker for me.

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