2009 Toyota Matrix Expert Review

You'll Like The 2009 Toyota Matrix If...

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.

You May Not Like The 2009 Toyota Matrix If...

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.

What's New

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.

Interior Features

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 Features

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.

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.

Pricing Notes

The 2009 Toyota Matrix Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts at just over $16,500 when equipped with a five-speed manual. Opting for the S trim with AWD brings the price closer to $21,000, while a fully-loaded XRS with navigation and moonroof will be just under $25,000. To find out what smart buyers are really paying for this vehicle in your area, check the Fair Purchase Price before you begin negotiations. Previous Matrix models held their value extremely well, and the 2009 version should be no exception. Expect it to hold a resale value that is higher than the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Pontiac Vibe, about the same as the Mazda MAZDA3 and just below the Honda Civic.

Notable Equipment

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.

Notable Options

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.

Favorite Features

XRS Trim

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.

Under the Hood

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)

Editors' Notes

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.

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2009 Toyota Matrix Owner Reviews

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One of the most important things is the reasonable gas mileage.

2009 Toyota Matrix

The matrix has been good to us so far, but I am not used to such a low profile car. I have hit curbs because I am unable to see them. So far, it gets decent gas mileage and has been reliable. The back seats easily fold down making room for larger objects. People who have driven with us have said the back seat is spacious. We have had trouble with our CD player. It continues to read error or say there is a CD in place were there is not so it does not accept another CD. We use our AUX cable to listen to music on our phone or have a movie playing during distance driving. Lastly, when driving distances, it is very noisy inside the car. It makes having a conversation or listening to the radio quite difficult. We sometimes have a movie playing, but incredibly hard to hear even on maximum volume on the device and car.

- Lauren W

I love my practical functional hatchback.

2009 Toyota Matrix S

One of my favorite features is that it is a hatchback, which originally was a setback for me. It is completely practical. I work with teens, so I always have a full car. It is spacious. The seat are dark and made of fabric that is water resistant so I do not have stains. There is lots of legroom and space in the back for luggage because I also like to road trip. I have experienced some hiccups with repair, but none of it specifically due to the car, but more so parts and maintenance. I had a coil break which causes issues with accelerating and starting. I currently have close to 170,000 miles and some people think my car is a lot newer that it is. I love my car. It is practical and very functional for my stage of life.

- Danes G

Great, reliable, daily driver car

2009 Toyota Matrix S

I have had this car for 4 years and it still runs great. Others who have driven my car say that the brakes are great compared to other cars and I couldn't agree more. The gas is a little bit touchy though, you have to start out real slow before pushing the gas pedal down far. The only issue I have had mechanically with this car was the rear differential went bad and it was a $1700 fix. They guys at the shop that I had it done at said it should have never gone bad for the age of the car, so I must have just got a bad seed. Other than that I have no mechanical issues.

- Alicia M

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