January 24, 2013 4:42 PM | By Mark Richardson for MSN Autos

2013 Toyota Matrix road test



2013 Toyota Matrix (© Photo: Mark Richardson)
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2013 Toyota Matrix

Practicality rules for this compact hatch
Years ago, at a wedding in Ottawa, the groom's father stood up and struggled to say nice things about his son's choice of bride. It wasn't that she was a bad woman or could really be faulted in any way - more that she was just a bland woman, not especially memorable. But he pushed through regardless.

"What can I say about my new daughter-in-law?" he said. "Such a welcome addition to our family. I love her as a daughter. She'll be a marvelous wife, too — she's just so... hygienic."

The bride and groom are still happily married, though they're not especially memorable. And they probably drive a Toyota Matrix.

2013 Toyota Matrix (© Photo: Mark Richardson)

It's tough to find words to best describe the 2013 Matrix. The marketing material suggests "versatile" and "confidence," though they describe many vehicles on the market these days. At the end of a week in Toyota's hatchback, the best word to come to mind was "practical."

The Matrix is surely practical. It's the hatchback version of the best-selling Corolla, which means it's popular in Canada and probably doomed after a decade now in the U.S. "If we don't have the Matrix, it won't be the end of the world," said Bill Fay, Toyota USA's vice-president, at a recent press event for the RAV4 SUV.

But here in Canada, where the Matrix is built in a plant at Cambridge, Ontario, alongside the RAV4, there are no plans to discontinue it. It's just so — practical.

Almost everything's an option

2013 Toyota Matrix (© Photo: Mark Richardson)

The rear seats fold flat, as does the front passenger seat, and they have plastic-covered backs so that they'll wipe clean of any mess, together with rubberized strips to stop things from sliding too much. There's almost 1,400 litres of cargo area available behind the front seats, though with the front down as well you could lay a telephone pole inside, lash down the hatch with a bungee where the pole pokes out the back, tack a little red flag on the end and carry it anywhere. Like I said - practical.

There are seat belts for five people, though the person in the middle on the back seat shouldn't be too large if everyone's to be comfortable. They can be tall though; there's plenty of headroom.

All-wheel drive is an option, as is seemingly everything else. The much-touted base price of $16,795, unchanged from 2012, does not include an automatic transmission, air-conditioning or even power windows. If you want those features, you need to upgrade to the four-speed automatic ($1,010 extra) and the "Convenience" package that provides the air, power windows and door locks, and a few other things, including Bluetooth and USB connectivity for your music player and phone. The sound system has been improved for 2013, which comes at a price: the Convenience package costs an extra $3,235, which is $235 more than last year.

Of course, the extra outlay for these now-basic conveniences will pay off when it comes time to sell or trade-in the car. Not many people want to own a stick-shift with no air and wind-up windows.

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