2011 Toyota Matrix S
2011 Toyota Matrix S. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2011 Toyota Matrix

No matter what vehicle I’m testing, I try to use it for the everyday errands I run throughout the week. For example, I paid a visit to my dentist shortly after picking up this Matrix – good timing, given the stiff, rattle-your-fillings suspension Toyota uses in this compact hatchback.

As its builder makes minor, year-to-year changes to its vehicles, I keep hoping for a more compliant suspension in this little car, as the brittle ride is the only serious downside to the Matrix’s purpose as a practical and efficient A-to-B vehicle.

Alas, that’s not to be for 2011, but Toyota has added its VSC stability/traction control system to the list of standard features, an important update that provides Matrix buyers with one of the basic safety tools that every car buyer deserves, regardless of budget. Another useful inclusion in all models are steering wheel-mounted audio controls, on a new, flat-bottomed wheel.

2011 Toyota Matrix S
2011 Toyota Matrix S. Click image to enlarge

Otherwise, the only change is a simplified trim and option structure that replaces the familiar XR model with a similarly-stocked Convenience Package that adds air conditioning, cruise, power locks with keyless entry, power windows, tire pressure monitoring, a rear bumper protector and colour-keyed door handles to the base car.

Slotting above that is a new ‘S’ trim that brings Bluetooth, six-speaker stereo (up from four), USB audio input, sunroof, flat-folding front passenger seat, overhead sunglass storage and leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob to the interior. The S trim dresses up the exterior with 17-inch wheels, roof-mounted spoiler, fog lamps, unique front and rear fascias, a sport grille and chrome exhaust tip.

All Matrixes up to and including the S model share a 1.8-litre engine, whose 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque look low for the class on paper, and feel it on the road. A heavy foot is key to getting anywhere in a hurry, thanks to widely-spaced gearing that makes the motor fall flat with every upshift, and the transmission is also hesitant to downshift at highway speeds.

2011 Toyota Matrix S
2011 Toyota Matrix S. Click image to enlarge

The unfortunate side-effect of that seemingly hard driving for average performance is plenty of engine noise; the transmission’s best trait is its smooth, crisp shifting, up and down.

With the automatic transmission, fuel consumption is rated at 8.1/6.3 L/100 km (city/highway), against which my tester averaged closer to 9 L/100/km in city driving. With the stickshift, consumption estimates drop to 7.8/6.1.

If you want more power, the all-wheel drive and XRS models both use a 2.4-litre engine that adds 26 horsepower and 34 lb.-ft. of torque, and the performance upgrade is significant. The XRS’ optional transmission is a much more flexible five-speed automatic; the all-wheel drive version is stuck with the four-speed. The extra oomph comes with a hefty hike in fuel consumption.

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