2008 Toyota Matrix XRS

The Toyota Matrix is essentially a tall yet compact wagon, with a dash of sporty style thrown in to give this practical vehicle some “cool” factor. It’s typically been marketed toward younger car shoppers, though in actuality, buyers of all ages have been drawn to this car’s desirable mix of attributes.

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There are two generations of the Toyota Matrix, the more recent one debuting for 2009. Both generations, however, follow a similar formula. Based on the Corolla sedan, the Matrix has enough space inside to carry items up to 8 feet long. This, along with the cargo area’s durable plastic load floor, presents the opportunity to carry varied items, from home improvement materials to large sporting goods such as bikes or a kayak. Comfortable front buckets and a roomy, well-shaped rear seat make the Matrix just as adept at transporting people.

The main downside to both Matrix generations is that they’re not particularly rewarding to drive. But for the practical-minded, this will likely be of little concern. Boasting high fuel economy, a smooth ride, a roomy cabin, available all-wheel drive and reliable Toyota genes, the Matrix is one of the best choices available — new or used — for a small wagon or hatchback.

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The newest Toyota Matrix is available in three trim levels: base, S and XRS. Base models have a respectable amount of convenience and safety features as standard or optional, though the S comes with more of them as standard equipment. The XRS is the top-level trim and also boasts bigger wheels and a sport-tuned suspension.

On the base Matrix, you’ll find a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 132 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. The S and XRS models upgrade to a 2.4-liter engine that makes 158 hp. On the XRS and front-drive S, you can get a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. An all-wheel-drive version of the Matrix S is also available; it comes with a four-speed automatic only.

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Compared to older Matrix models, the new one boasts a vastly better driving position, with credit going to the new telescoping steering wheel and increased seat-track travel. The controls are laid out to ergonomic near perfection. In back, the tall, deep bench is comfortable for children and adults alike, and it folds completely flat in 60/40 sections.

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On the road, the base Toyota Matrix feels a bit pokey in terms of acceleration, though its engine does provide superior fuel economy. The extra torque from the 2.4-liter engine makes the driving experience more relaxed, particularly in regards to passing. Around corners, the Matrix is balanced and predictable, and overall ride quality is very comfortable. But even in XRS trim, the Matrix is still not a very exciting car to pilot, largely due to its low-feedback steering.

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The first-generation Toyota Matrix was introduced for the 2003 model year. Toyota offered it in base, XR and XRS trim levels. The lower two trims came with a 130-hp, 1.8-liter engine and either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The XRS came with a high-winding 180-hp 1.8-liter engine and an exclusive six-speed manual transmission. In 2006, the XRS’ final year, the engine was re-rated to 164 hp due to new testing procedures, but actual performance was unchanged.

In editorial reviews, we noted that the 1.8-liter equipped Matrix offered adequate acceleration in most circumstances, but its dearth of low-end torque was apparent on uphill grades. Manual-equipped Matrix wagons tended to offer more pep than those equipped with automatic transmissions. Handling was somewhat less than engaging; still, commuters and road trippers will likely appreciate the wagon’s smooth, comfortable ride.

Inside, this Matrix charmed with its solid quality and versatility. Fit and finish was above average, and the cargo area and backside of the rear seats were finished with an easy-to-clean plastic as well as specialized cargo tracks.

If you’re interested in a used Toyota Matrix, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, early Matrix models were missing a couple of important safety features: side airbags and stability control. These features were added (as options) in model-year 2005. Also note that stability control was offered only on models equipped with an automatic transmission. You also might encounter all-wheel-drive versions of the Matrix or Matrix XR; they produced slightly less power and came with the automatic only. All-wheel drive was discontinued for the 2007 model year.

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P215/50R17 tires on 17″ aluminum alloy wheels
Power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade (not available with 17″ aluminum alloy wheels)
Front seat-mounted side-impact air bag Supplemental Restraint System (SRS)
DVD navigation system with premium audio and 6-disc CD changer (Toyota Matrix 2008)
New Toyota Matrix Premium AM/FM ETR/CD with 6-disc in-dash changer and 6 speakers.

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Other available options for most 2008 Matrix models include an All-Weather Guard Package, windshield molding, heavy-duty heater and rear-seat heater ducts.

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Toyota Matrix Specifications:

1.8L displacement double overhead cam (DOHC)
inline 4 cylinder configuration gas engine
16 valves variable valve timing
130 hp @ 6000 rpm 125 ft-lbs. @ 4200 rpm
regular unleaded fuel
DriveTrain
5-speed manual transmission front wheel drive
Suspension
front independent suspension front and rear stabilizer bar
Instrumentation
tachometer clock
display external temperature low fuel level warning
Towing and Hauling
cargo tie downs
Exterior Features
Tires and Rims
steel rims 16 x 6.5 in. rims
P205/55R16 tires all season tires
spacesaver spare tire steel spare wheel
full wheel covers
intermittent wipers rear defogger
Safety Features and Ratings
ventilated front disc / rear drum brakes front seatbelt pretensioners
rear door child safety locks child seat anchors
rear center 3-point belt 2 front headrests
2 rear headrests daytime running lights
Comfort and Convenience Features
Front Seats
5 person total seating capacity bucket front seats
cloth upholstery
Rear Seats
bench rear seat split-folding

Convenience:

power steering tilt-adjustable steering wheel
remote driver and passenger exterior mirrors front cupholders
remote trunk release front door pockets
front seatback storage cargo net
front 12v power outlet(s) front console with storage
Comfort
air conditioning interior air filtration
dual vanity mirrors cargo area light

In Car Entertainment

AM/FM in-dash single CD player stereo 4 total speakers
mast antenna.

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Scribbled on May 24th 2008 in Toyota, Toyota Matrix
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