The 2009 Toyota Matrix is a new, second-generation design developed in tandem with the Corolla sedan. In essence, the Matrix is the wagon/hatch version of the Corolla. In fact, the company refers to it as the Toyota Corolla Matrix. With edgier styling inside and out and four versions to choose from, the Matrix makes a sensible choice for many people.
Perhaps the oldest piece of hardware on the new Matrix is the all-wheel-drive system introduced on the RAV4 for the 2006 model year. Everything else is newer, making the Matrix an all-new car. The 1.8-liter engine is new. Even better news is the high-revving version that was poorly matched to the previous-generation Matrix has been replaced by a larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder from the Camry. Gearboxes, brakes, steering and safety systems have all been redone. The body work is all new, also, though the design is an evolutionary update of the previous version.
The new 2009 Toyota Matrix is bigger than the previous version, but Toyota hasn't lost sight of this being its smallest crossover vehicle. You can carry four big people or drop three seats and slide a short board inside; four doors make loading kids, dogs and miscellaneous cargo a cinch.
All run on regular unleaded fuel and rate at least 20 mpg in the city; the 2.4-liter upgrade engine pushes 30 mpg on the highway, while the smaller engine and five-speed manual, which are as much fun to drive as the big automatics, run mid 20s in the city and low 30s highway. Given Toyota's history we can't imagine they will require much in the way of expensive repairs or maintenance. Engines were a weak point on the previous-generation Matrix, so the 2009 represents a big upgrade.
Check out the Matrix if you want the reliable reputation of the Corolla with less visual boredom, if you need a urban runabout that's cheap to buy and run, or just because it's logically all you really need in a land of average speeds hovering in the mid-30-mph range. The Matrix doesn't stand out anywhere as much as it provides a useful, better than average package for any purpose short of pickup-sized building materials or a trip to the red carpet. In short, the new Toyota Matrix is a very sensible choice.
By price and hatchback design, the Matrix slots into multiple categories for cross-shoppers, including roomy compact cars such as the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Subaru Impreza, and VW Golf; small vans and crossovers such as the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage/Hyundai Tucson, Mazda5, Nissan Rogue; and the less-easily categorized Chevrolet HHR, Dodge Caliber, Scion xD, and Suzuki SX4.
The 2009 Toyota Matrix comes in base, S, S AWD, and XRS models.
The standard Matrix ($16,190) uses a 1.8-liter engine and five-speed manual gearbox and comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, AM/FM/CD stereo compatible with MP3/WMA files, input jack and XM satellite radio, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Optitron (electroluminescent) gauges with tachometer, power mirrors, intermittent wipers, engine immobilizer, and cargo cover. A five-speed manual gearbox comes standard, a four-speed automatic transmission is available as a separate model ($17,000). Options include alloy wheels, six-speaker radio upgrade, power locks/windows, keyless entry, cruise control, moonroof, lighter, an all-weather package (heated mirrors, intermittent rear wiper, rear-seat heat ducts), electronic stability control.
Matrix S ($18,260) comes with the 2.4-liter engine and five-speed gearbox. Standard features include the six-speaker radio, power windows/locks, keyless entry and intermittent rear wiper plus a 115-volt AC outlet and larger rear brakes. Options include a JBL sound system or navigation with real-time traffic (you can't have both), moonroof, rear spoiler, cruise control, electrochromic interior mirror w/compass, lighter, 17-inch alloy wheels, the all-weather package, electronic stability control and a five-speed automatic ($19,450).
Matrix S AWD ($20,400) uses the 2.4-liter engine, a four-speed automatic and all-wheel drive; it also includes a fully independent rear suspension, larger rear brakes, and the all-weather package. Options on the all-wheel drive are similar to S, excepting the all-weather and five-speed automatic.
Matrix XRS ($20,660) comes with the 2.4-liter and five-speed manual, plus seat fabric upgrade, 215/45R18 tires on alloy wheels, front strut brace, electronic stability/traction control, three-spoke leather steering wheel, rear spoiler, fog lamps, and the independent rear suspension and big rear brakes. XRS options are limited to the JBL sound system or navigation, moonroof, cruise control, lighter, all-weather, and five-speed automatic transmission ($21,850).
Safety features that come on all models include front airbags, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, antilock brakes with brake assist, tire pressure monitors, and daytime running lights. Electronic stability control is standard on XRS and optional on others.