By KBB.com Editors
The 2009 Toyota Matrix offers a sporty, but practical and reasonably priced alternative to either mundane sub-compact cars or bulky crossover SUVs. Released as an early 2009 model, the new Matrix gets more appealing styling, an optional 158-horsepower 2.4-liter engine, crisper steering feel and more precise handling. The performance-oriented XRS trim level returns, as does optional all-wheel drive. As with the previous Matrix, there's plenty of room for four adults and the rear seats fold down to create a flat, voluminous cargo area. Main competitors for the Matrix include the MAZDA3, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Honda Civic and the Matrix' fraternal twins, the Toyota Corolla and Pontiac Vibe, which are all built in the same Canadian factory.
Performance-oriented drivers will enjoy the 2009 Toyota Matrix XRS trim level's combination of precise steering feel, sports-tuned suspension and grippy ultra-high-performance all-season tires. Rear seats in all models easily accommodate two adults, or the seats can be folded to provide a large cargo area.
The Matrix transmits a surprisingly high amount of road and tire noise into the cockpit. Two of its tire choices -- the high-performance and touring all-season tires - seemed noisier than the ultra-high-performance rubber on the XRS.
New coupe-like styling better fits the youthful, sporty appeal of the 2009 Matrix. Standard is a new 1.8-liter, 132-horsepower four-cylinder engine, which is up by six horsepower over the previous powerplant. Upper trim levels have a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower. The XRS and the S with all-wheel drive have independent rear suspension.
Driving Impressions Each trim level of the 2009 Toyota Matrix has its own significantly different feel and performance. The base model is focused more on economy and functionality than driving excitement. The...S trim level, which will be the sales leader, has a slightly more sporty suspension and steering tuning and the 158-horsepower 2.4-liter engine; the handling is responsive and acceleration is decidedly peppy. The XRS is a serious performer with taut, sport-tuned suspension, precise steering and high-performance tires. The electric power steering system allows easy tuning for different levels of steering feel, and also helps performance and fuel economy by dismissing with the traditional engine belt drive and hydraulic pump. Unless you regularly encounter snowy conditions, the 2.4-liter engine does not produce enough power to make the all-wheel-drive option worth the cost and extra weight.
Sport-tuned suspension, excellent steering feel, grippy 18-inch tires and a 158-horsepower engine turn the 2009 Toyota Matrix XRS into a terrific little car for the enthusiast driver on a budget.
Generous Rear Cargo Space
Fold down the rear seats of the 2009 Toyota Matrix and its flat cargo floor can hold a bunch of camping gear, back-to-college supplies or boxes and books for moving day.
Despite its sporty exterior, the 2009 Matrix is an extremely practical sub-compact. The rear seats comfortably accommodate two full-sized adults. There's more than plenty of headroom both front and rear and legroom has been increased. The rear seats fold forward to create a flat cargo floor that will swallow large amounts of gear; however, the restyling cut about two cubic feet from the cargo volume. The front passenger's seat folds flat and can be employed as a computer table or to carry longer cargo. The high front seating position provides excellent visibility, and all trim levels have supportive sport seats.Exterior
The previous Toyota Matrix reminded some of a miniature minivan or station wagon, which turned off a number of potential buyers. For 2009, in addition to making it slightly longer and wider, Toyota stylists eliminated the third side window, significantly expanded the C-pillar and wrapped the back glass around the sides, thus giving it a sportier coupe-like appearance. The XRS gets even more aggressive styling, including a front underbody spoiler, a rear roof spoiler and 18-inch aluminum wheels.
The 2009 Toyota Matrix comes in three trim levels: Base, S and the sporty XRS. All have four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and front, front-side and full-length side-curtain airbags. The base model has a 132-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, while the S and XRS have a 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter version. The base and S versions have 16-inch steel wheels, the XRS has 18-inch aluminum rims and XRS and S versions have larger front and rear disc brakes. Other standard equipment includes Lexus-style Optitron gauges, an auxiliary input jack and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel. The S and XRS have a 115-volt AC outlet that accepts three-prong plugs.
Electronic stability control is optional on the base and S models and standard on the XRS. Available on the S and XRS trim levels are a navigation system that's more affordable to fit the Matrix market and a JBL seven-speaker audio system with a six-disc CD changer. All-wheel-drive is available, but only on the S model and only with the 2.4-liter engine and four-speed automatic. Optionally available are 16-inch aluminum wheels for the base model and 17-inchers for the S trim, fitted with either touring or high-performance all-season tires.
Standard on the 2009 Toyota Matrix is a new 1.8-liter, 132-horsepower four-cylinder engine, which is available with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The S and XRS models have a 2.4-liter, 158-horsepower, four-cylinder engine with either a five-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. The 2.4-liter engine employs variable timing on both exhaust and intake valves to produce both responsive acceleration and good fuel economy. All-wheel drive is available only with the S trim level with the automatic transmission. In normal operation, the AWD system sends all the power to the front wheels, but when slip is detected the electronically-controlled center differential diverts up to 45 percent of the torque to the rear. Base and non-AWD S models have a beam rear axle, while the XRS and AWD versions have independent rear suspension.
1.8-liter in-line 4
132 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
128 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/32 (manual), 25/31 (automatic)
2.4-liter in-line 4
158 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
162 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 (manual), 21/29 (five-speed automatic), 20/26 (four-speed automatic, AWD)
By Briteredlips (AZ) on Friday, November 08, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great looking car; comfortable driving"
Cons: "Some visibility issues; noisy driving"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I really love this car!! Traded in a van for this Matrix. Now that I am used to the change in size of vehicle, I love the control of this car. Kind of noisy to drive, but I really feel good driving it."
By Charlie (MA) on Thursday, October 31, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 43,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Roomy, Stylish, good MPG, low maintenance costs."
Cons: "Noisy, harsh riding and poor visibility."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Exotic styling. However, this causes difficult blind spots on either side of front windshield and to rear view. Ride is harsh, you will feel every road defect. Handling and braking are quite good. Acceleration isn't very strong, but capable in most traffic. Average around 28 MPG all around. Interior noise level is very high on highway, difficult to converse normally. The access and head room are great. The rear hatch and fold flat rear seats really makes this car a versatile hauler. The radio has too much bass, treble can't be turned up high enough to compensate."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By wph00 (FL) on Friday, August 09, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Great gas milage, handles well, not bad to look at and reasonable room. Greatest weakness is just a little cheap"
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Puffin (NY) on Thursday, July 18, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,752overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, but not on highway."
Cons: "Loud road noise, iPod connectivity doesn't work."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Bought 1 month ago prior to vacation. Loud tire noise on highway, rough ride. Despite having the upgraded 6 speaker radio, iPod connection doesn't work. Something in the back bangs when going over road bumps or highway road joints. Haven't found out what yet. Drive position is comfortable to drive for distance, but the road noise, banging in back on every bump or road joint doesn't make for a good experience. Had it in the shop twice before going on vacation to have them fix the iPod connection problem -- 3 1/2 hours of driving on trip, iPod quit. I'd tried undercoating to try to help silence the loud road noise but that didn't do much. Vacation was good despite loud bumpy road noise driving to and from. Wish I'd never bought a Matrix."
6 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By adie (FL) on Sunday, July 07, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 69,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "good value, fun to drive, fuel efficient"
Cons: "not enough space for car seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car has given me no trouble other than required mantainance and is very fun to drive. I love the fold down seats so I can items from the home store transported with ease. Overall great car!"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By CarGal99 (FL) on Saturday, June 22, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handling, braking, sporty looking, roominess, safe"
Cons: "a loose plastic panel, vanity mirror cover problem"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I like the car. I had to find a car to replace my 18 year old sports car, and I knew it would be a big adjustment to go from an 8 cylinder luxury car to something with a smaller engine and in theory, not as luxurious. I chose the correct car for the adjustment. I really tried hard not to like the car, but I really like it. It has very good "get up and go" for when you need to get onto a busy freeway or for passing someone. I like how it handles. The AWD on wet, sometimes a few inches of water covered roads plus the stability/traction control were options I'm glad this car has. Some people may not feel the amount of gas it uses justifies the option, but it does for me when it comes to safety since I'm in a very wet climate. I think it gets good gas mileage, but I had a V8 so I'm probably not the best judge of that. I'm sure there are cars that get better mileage, but for the options and features that this car has, you'd probably have to pay a lot more in a small SUV or other wagon. Now the best part, it's a small wagon! I never thought I'd be excited to own a "station wagon", but it's really nice. The seats lay all the way down flat and you can put pretty much anything back there. Even dogs and stuff you have to buy for everyday life. It has little hooks to hook grocery bags to so that your stuff doesn't go rolling everywhere (genius!) and it even has a place to tie bigger things down if you move the removable carpet/mat. I love having a 4 door again, I'd forgotten how much I like them. Only a couple of bugaboos that you'll keep hearing over and over: Road noise. Yes, it's there, sort of like how it is in most cars this style (or even in small trucks), but it doesn't bother me because my husband is always playing music so loudly, I can barely hear anything unless I'm by myself, then I notice it. But I don't find it annoying. Some people may not like it. Also, my driver side vanity mirror cover won't close. It's a little sliding piece of plastic that won't slide back. It's not something you can see unless you're driving and want to look in the vanity mirror. It's just an uncovered mirror now. And, since I bought it used, there's a piece of plastic that keeps coming loose (easily snapped back into place) between the front door/back door and the frame. Hard to describe the location, but it's right under where the seat belt joins to the car frame. I'm sure if I took the time to jiggle it into place properly or see if it needs to be screwed in or something, it's just not that big of a deal and I'm always in a hurry so if it happens to pop out, I just pop it back into place. Like I said, I bought it used, so it's probably something the former driver banged out of place and never got screwed back in. Anways, I like the car. If you are looking for value for the money, roominess without owning a larger car for your family, dogs, etc this car will be great for you. It's comfortable, the dashboard and all the features look great, it handles like a dream. The steering and braking on this car are above average. And wait til you have to park in a crowded parking lot! It's so great for tight spaces and getting in and out of crowded lots without hassle. I love having a smaller vehicle."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful