Car driven: Toyota Matrix XRS, 6MT
price, 24540$ CAD, fully loaded.
features include all the standard stuff + 17" wheel wrapped with Firestone SZ50 tires (option in USA)
Interior: Great space, tried fitting golf clubs in the hatch, it can fit 2 no problem, if fit 3 or 4, it needs to be stacked up, thus limiting rear view. Rear seat also very spacious, i am 5'11 and my friend sat in the back no problem with lots of room left. headroom is excessive, it doesn't need that much headroom at all, just like the Toyota Echo. Plastic quality is quite nice for upper part, and switchgears. but the door panels, glove box have stiff plastic that feels extremely cheap. The build quality is quite nice and everything seems solidly built. The seating position is almost like a Minivan, with lots of headroom, me being 5'11, i need to adjust the seat quite high but still has tons of headroom left. Shifter position please look below.
Exterior: All subjective, but i can accept its shape. Front looks a little messy. Side profile looks very nice, i like the high beltline and i like its rear end design.
Engine: Weird exahust note, not inspiring but more annoying. Low end lacks torque, but not extremely bad. Since this car i ordered, and its gonna be my car if i am buying it, i didn't rev beyond 4000rpm. I test drove the Celica GTS before, so i knew what differece the cam switchover would make. NVH is very well supressed. Very smooth and i didn't even know i rev beyond 4000rpm.
Shifter/clutch: First, clutch pickup point is quite high, took me a few shifts to get use to it. Shifter position, i know everyone would be interested in this. It feels a little bit weird at first. It still feels weird after the test drive. 1st to 6th all feels fine. Although it is a little bit unsmooth. The thing i didn't like is the downshift. from 5th to 4th, i had a lot of trouble. instead of being in the middle, u actually have to move it a little bit left of the center point to shift into 4th, i cannot find it for the first 3 or 4 times until i tried it out at a stop light. Pedal positions are quite good, though not as good as Miata where i could heel toe right from the spot, Matrix took a few tries before i can sucessfully do it.
Handling: Top heavy, a little bit reluctant to turn in. The cornering speed is there due to the grip from the Summer performance tires. Suspensoin is stiff, so it doesn't bodyroll too much. Due to high CG, cornering is not too confidence inspiring but the cornering speed is definitely there if u want to go fast. Another thing is the steering. In parking lot speeds it is extremely light. Once up to city cuirsing speed, it becomes heavier but still lacks feel. Although not as bad as Camry, it doesn't compare to the Protege 5 or Focus. The Sentra SER is better in terms of steering feel.
Final rating: 85% if you are looking for a practical hatchback with decent handling and peppy engine.
I choose the Sentra SER over it becoz of its better handling and better low end torque for autoX. If i was not going to autoX, i would definitely choose the Matrix due to its much better rear seat room and practicality.