Like the Toyota Corolla upon which it is based, the Matrix “tall wagon” is unchanged for 2006.

The Matrix is available in front-wheel-drive, in trim lines Base, XR and XRS; and in all-wheel-drive, in trim lines Base and XR. All models use a 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), but the XRS also receives valve lift, which boosts this sporty model’s horsepower by 38 hp over the other two FWD lines. The Base and XR FWD models start with a five-speed manual transmission that can be optioned to a four-speed automatic; AWD models use the autobox exclusively, while the XRS comes only with a six-speed manual.

The base models feature 16-inch steel wheels, CD with four speakers, front bucket seats, 60/40 split rear bench seat, tilt wheel, cargo cover, dual manual-remote mirrors, fixed intermittent front wipers and intermittent rear washer/wiper.

The XR models add air conditioning, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, power mirrors, leather-wrapped wheel, illuminated entry, cruise control, map lights, a tire pressure monitoring system (on 4WD models only), 16-inch alloy wheels, and variable intermittent wipers.

The XRS model includes all of the XR features, plus four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, six-disc CD player with four speakers, 115-volt accessory outlet, 17-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps, skirt package, and power sunroof.

Anti-lock brakes are not available on the Base FWD model; they’re optional on the XR FWD; and standard on the XRS and both 4WD models.

Built in Ontario, the Matrix is a sister car to the California-built Pontiac Vibe. Well-priced, it’s incredibly versatile, offering loads of storage space and a configuration that makes it almost a small minivan; a hard plastic floor and clever moveable cleats make it simple to secure cargo. The XRS is a muscular and fun ride that’ll get the groceries home quickly and in style. Other tall wagons to consider are the Ford Focus ZXW, Suzuki Aerio, PT Cruiser and the all-new Chevrolet HHR.

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