Toyota not sure about a new Matrix model

Article by Christian A., on June 2, 2011

Toyota isn’t sure yet if there will be a new Matrix model, according to Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager. U.S. sales of the small hatchback have dropped. It sold 14,592 units in 2010, compared to posting a high of 66,836 units in 2002. Matrix volume declined by 47.3% to 26,121 units in 2009. It sold 49,567 units in 2008 and its sales fell by a further 44.5% last year. However, in Canada, the Matrix continues to perform well.

It’s because Canada’s winter weather makes the all-wheel-drive Matrix a core vehicle. In fact, the Matrix outsells the Corolla by about twice the volume in Canada.

Wards Auto said that Toyota has yet to decide if it will make a new Matrix when the next-generation Corolla debuts in 2013. The main issue is that the Matrix shares a platform and powertrain with the Pontiac Vibe, which had been phased out. This means that a new one has to be built.

It’s rumored that the new compact Prius variant will replace the Matrix in the Toyota model lineup but Carter clarifies that the two models are targeted at totally different markets.

But then again, Toyota may consider offering a small hatchback available to be a good hedging move since US consumers have taken a liking to hatchbacks and small wagons. Ward's Auto said that of the 2012 Focus vehicles sold so far, about 43% are hatchbacks.

Toyota says that for the 2011 Matrix, two grades will be offered. The first is the base version or simply the Matrix. It comes equipped with the DOHC 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine capable of producing, at 6,000 rpm, an output of 132 hp.

Maximum torque is at 128 lb.-ft. and available at 4,400 rpm. Paired to this engine is either the manual 5-speed transmission or the automatic 4-speed Electronically Controlled Transmission or ECT. Since the air intake and its exhaust camshafts have both been equipped with the Dual Variable Valve Timing that has intelligence controls, or VVT-I, it results in having its fuel economy and performance optimized.

For the 2011 Matrix with the manual transmission, it has an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 32 mpg highway and 25 mpg city. The one with the automatic transmission meanwhile has fuel economy at 32 mpg for highway and 26 mpg for city. The second version is the sportier S grade or the 2011 Matrix S. Powering this version is the 4-cylinder 2.4-liter engine capable of 158 hp output at 6,000 rpm with peak torque of 162 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm. Performance is improved as the result of having an exhaust specifically designed to lower the backpressure and the balance shaft that restrains the vibrations.

The engine is mated to a five-speed transmission, in both manual and automatic modes. The Matrix S has an all-wheel drive version that is equipped with the same engine but is paired instead with the 4-speed automatic ECT. The two automatic transmission fitted to the Matrix S utilizes a torque converter that with its flex lockup, help increase the vehicle’s fuel efficiency. The driver can use the shift control to choose between downhill or uphill and this allows the proper gear to be used in a way that is apt for the current conditions.

It can also help with moderate engine braking that is important especially when driving downhill. Should the driver want to have an engaging driving experience, all that’s needed to be done is to manually move the 5-speed automatic using the shift lever and change it from the D-position to the S-position and then push it forward to trigger the upshift and backward for the downshift.

Fuel economy of the Matrix S with the manual transmission is 28 mpg highway and 28 mpg city. The one equipped with the automatic transmission meanwhile has ratings of 29 mpg highway and 21 mpg city. Meanwhile, the Matrix S AWD gets a fuel economy rating of 26 mpg highway and 20 mpg city.

Handling of the 2011 Matrix, and even the ride, is improved due to a number of changes made. The body structure is rigid and it retains this quality while becoming lighter. In terms of suspension, the front part has a firm and compact independent MacPherson strut that has an L-arm and comes with its stabilizer bar. Meanwhile the rear has a double-wishbone suspension that has a coil-over-shock set-up.

Because of this, the 2011 Toyota Matrix not only gets a packaging that is efficient. It also offers amazing ride comfort and exceptional handling. Fitted as standard on all versions of the Matrix are the 4-wheel disc brakes.

The Matrix has those 10.7-inch ventilated discs on the front with the rear one having the 10.1-inch solid discs. The Matrix S on the other hand has on the front the 11.6-inch ventilated discs with the rear having the 10.9-inch solid discs at the back. The Matrix S AWD has the same sized discs on the front but 11.0-inch on the rear. For the wheels, the ones on the Matrix come in a new design with 16-inches and a six-spoke full wheel covers. Fitted to it are the sized P205/55R16 tires. For the Matrix S, an option is available through the alloy 5-spoke 17-inch wheels with the 215/45R17 tires.

Meanwhile, the AWD version that comes with the active torque control system is generally front-wheel-drive based. What this system does is that when the need calls for it, it makes use of an electromagnetic coupler in order to supply the rear wheels with torque.

This is needed in situations like heavy acceleration, on a grade, or when the front wheels are starting to slip. It can also identify the current traction using signals that are sent to the ECU and that come from the ABS sensors that are located on each of the wheels. By having Traction Control, this helps the AWD version, or even the front-wheel-drive variant, giving it an additional degree of wheel slip control.

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