2009 Toyota Matrix AWD
2009 Toyota Matrix AWD. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase

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2009 Toyota Matrix

I have one more note to make about the Matrix’s 17-inch wheels, something I neglected to mention in my last entry. In that article, I wrote that I would recommend downsizing to 16-inch wheels for winter driving, both to improve grip in deep snow and ride quality.

Here’s another reason: the “open” design of these big, five-spoke alloys makes it very easy for snow to accumulate around the inside of the wheel. When this happens, the inevitable result is an out-of-balance wheel (or two, or three), that generates an awful vibration at highway speeds. The problem is cured easily enough with a snow brush, but this issue brings out a winter-driving drawback of stylish wheels that many buyers might not think about.

Not surprisingly, about 1,000 km worth of highway improved fuel consumption compared to previous calculations, but my real-world result still didn’t come close to the official highway consumption rating of 7.6 L/100 km (37 mpg Imp).

A weekend trip to Newmarket, a small city north of Toronto, to visit my cousin netted an average of about 9.5 L/100 km (30 mpg Imp.), closer to the city rating of 10.2 (28 mpg). Of course, much of this trip was spent keeping up with traffic on Ontario’s Highways 401 and 404, routes not known for their leisurely pace. Unfortunately, all-wheel drive almost always negatively affects fuel consumption, as it adds weight to the vehicle and increases mechanical drag on the engine. This is the trade-off to having a vehicle that can plough its way through winter’s worst.

The Matrix’s real-world fuel consumption only further serves to point out that Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption estimates are best used as a guide to compare one vehicle’s economy against another’s, as their test conditions don’t even come close to replicating real-world driving.

I will give the Matrix AWD’s 2.4-litre engine its due, however: this engine is a willing revver with great mid-range torque, and had no trouble bringing the car up to speeds in the 120 km/h range, even with four adults inside.

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