Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Matrix toyota car test drives made in canada
Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Matrix toyota car test drives made in canada
2014 Toyota Matrix. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Simon Hill

If Canada’s national animal is the beaver, I’m starting to think that our national car must be the tall wagon. It seems we just can’t enough of these practical little conveyances, even after our neighbours to the south have moved on to something flashier.

Maybe this sensible-shoes approach is because we’re simply more pragmatic. After all, while the U.S. enshrines “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Canada was founded on the equally compelling but utterly unromantic principles of “peace, order, and good government.” I’ll bet whoever wrote that rousing prose owned a plain black carriole carriage pulled by a docile, stubby-legged mare that no one else bid on at the local auction.

At any rate, since 2011 our shrewd car buying habits have meant that Canada got the Kia Rondo even after it was dropped south of the border, and now we get the Toyota Matrix after it too has bowed out in the States, 10 years after its debut.

Think of it as a bit of an encore performance if you will, but not to be confused with the Buick Encore. After all, while Matrix sales may have dropped by 50 percent since 2005, from 24,048 in that year to 12,982 in 2012, and 9,790 by the end of October 2013, it’s still handily outselling the Encore, which moved only 2,948 units in the first 10 months of the year. But that’s beside the point, because this story is about the Matrix encore, not the Buick Encore. Sorry, where was I?

Perhaps the best proof of the Matrix’s sensible and practical qualities is the fact that my mother-in-law owns one. Now, whatever else I might say about my mother-in-law, she is often very sensible, and certainly quite practical. When she asked for my new car recommendations – citing price, reliability, fuel economy, and practicality as some of her key concerns – I initially steered her towards a Toyota Yaris. She eventually settled on the Matrix as being a bit roomier.

Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Matrix toyota car test drives made in canada Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Matrix toyota car test drives made in canada Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Matrix toyota car test drives made in canada
2014 Toyota Matrix. Click image to enlarge

As it happens, my 2014 test car was the exact same Nautical Dark Blue colour as my mother-in-law’s Matrix, and given how little the vehicle has changed over the past few years, that meant I was driving an almost identical doppelganger to what she calls her “practical little semi-truck.”

I’m not sure what my wife made of the whole situation, but I know exactly what I make of the Matrix: it’s a versatile tall wagon with crossover aspirations, derived from the previous-generation Toyota Corolla, and at one time twinned with the Pontiac Vibe (anyone remember Pontiac?). It has seats for five, and plenty of cargo-carrying capability.

Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Matrix toyota car test drives made in canada
Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Matrix toyota car test drives made in canada
2014 Toyota Matrix. Click image to enlarge

Under the hood there’s a 1.8L four-cylinder engine that produces 132 hp, and given that the Matrix is Corolla-based, everything is simple, reliable, and not at all confusing. For its encore year the Matrix is offering a slimmed-down lineup – the AWD and XRS trims are no longer available and the 2.4L engine that powered them has likewise bowed out, so drivetrain choices are limited to selecting between the base five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic.

On the road, everything works as expected. Yup, the gas pedal controls how fast the car goes, and there’s traction control and stability control to help get things going safely and smoothly when umbrellas or snow boots are called for. Rated city/highway fuel economy with the automatic is 8.1/6.3 L/100 km if you drive conservatively (I didn’t, but I still managed about 9 L/100 km around town), and if you need to get there in a hurry 0-100 km/h can be dispatched in as little as 9.5 seconds.

The steering wheel has convenient audio controls, but other than that it simply does what steering wheels do, directing the car to go where you point it with a minimum of fuss and, if I’m honest, quite good road-holding manners. On the highway, the ride is composed and the mechanicals are reasonably quiet, but I did note a certain amount of tire noise. When you exit the highway and need to slow down, the brake pedal likewise does exactly what you’d expect of it, and there’s ABS, brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution if you need to stop suddenly. Should things go really wrong behind the wheel, there’s all the expected safety equipment including something like eight air bags.




About SimonHill

Simon Hill rebuilt his first engine, an air-cooled Volkswagen, at 14. He started writing professionally about cars in 2009 and is also the editor of Boat Journal magazine. He lives in Vancouver, BC.