What’s New: Toyota updates its Matrix for 2009 with aggressive exterior styling, a new interior design, standard front-side airbags and side-curtain airbags, standard antilock disc brakes, a touch-screen navigation system, and a larger but less powerful four-cylinder engine option.
What We Think: Some staffers like the styling, some appreciate the handling, some applaud the price, and some are OK with the XRS’s less powerful engine. Others feel the opposite, but there is agreement on the 2009 Matrix’s comfort and utility. Before signing yourself up for five years of payments, check out strong competition from Mazda and Saturn.
Toyota Matrix – 2009 Review:
Back in the “Good Old Days” of the automobile in America, there was a thing called a station wagon. Families bought them because they could carry several passengers and their belongings, and they drove like the sedans they were based on. Some people bought them because they could fold down the rear seat and carry a lot of stuff out of the weather. Somewhere between the breakup of The Beatles and when Clark Griswold bought the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, Americans fell out of love with station wagons. Chrysler brought out the minivan, which was new and modern, and the public was smitten. Station wagon? That’s squaresville and un-cool.
Two decades later, the minivan struggles with love lost. SUVs and crossovers are now the darlings of consumers in the 21st century, yet wagons are still around: they just go by different names. Crossover is the most popular name, which is why Toyota wants you to believe that the Matrix is a crossover utility vehicle. It’s not that the Matrix doesn’t share some attributes, but it really is a wagon and that’s just fine. What buyers of the Corolla sedan-based Matrix seek is just what buyers have wanted all along, a small car ride with room for more people and cargo. The 2009 Matrix delivers that in three flavors, mild, medium and semi-hot. There’s also good gas mileage, sharper styling and a nice set of standard features.
The Corolla-based Matrix was introduced in 2002 as a 2003 model, and for the first four years came in three different trim levels, with higher performance in the top two models. The past two years, only two models were offered and both came with the same four-cylinder engine.
The Basics: Model Mix
The 2009 Toyota Matrix comes in three flavors, Standard, S and XRS with all-wheel drive available only on the S. All models come with side-impact and side-curtain airbags, tire-pressure monitoring, air conditioning, cloth seats, six-way manual driver’s seat, four-way manual front passenger, 60/40 rear seat, power steering, tilt and telescoping steering wheel and a CD/MP3/WMA audio system with four speakers. The Standard Matrix comes with antilock brakes with assist and brake-force distribution, a 1.8-liter, inline-four cylinder engine which produces 132 horsepower and 128 lb.-ft. of torque, 16-inch wheels and a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic.
Available options for the Matrix Standard include 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels; the All-Weather Guard package – which adds rear seat heater ducts, heated rear view mirror and intermittent rear window wiper; satellite-ready audio unit with six disc changer, MP3/WMA playback and six speakers; keyless remote entry; stability and traction control with cut-off switch; and a power moonroof.
The mid-level Matrix S comes with the 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, which pumps out 158 horsepower and 162 lb.-ft. of torque. The S also changes out the audio system for one with six speakers and adds shift-activated power door locks, power windows with auto down for the driver’s side, remote keyless entry, a 115V AC outlet and front and rear underbody spoilers on the front-drive model, and fog lamps on the AWD version. Buyers who choose the front-wheel drive S have a choice between a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The AWD version only comes with a special four-speed automatic. The S AWD operates primarily as front-drive vehicle, and uses information from wheel sensors to distribute power. The system sends power to the rear wheels only when needed, and disengages AWD under braking so that ABS, stability and traction control function properly. It also comes with independent rear suspension.
There are two additional choices for audio systems, including a JBL system with XM Satellite Radio and seven speakers, and a navigation system with six-disc changer, satellite radio ready, XM’s NavTraffic and six speakers. A rear roof deck spoiler and auto-dimming mirror with compass rounds things out. The AWD takes all of those options and offers the front and rear under body spoilers that are standard on the front-drive version of the S.
The top of the line Matrix XRS comes only in FWD, but has the independent rear suspension found on the S AWD. In keeping with its more sporting orientation, the XRS rides on 18-inch alloy wheels, a strut-tower brace, stability and traction control with a cut-off switch, leather shift knob and steering wheel with audio controls, and a rear deck spoiler. As the top model, the XRS has fewer options, but they include the upgraded audio and audio/navigation systems, the All-Weather Guard package, power moonroof, and auto-dimming mirror with compass.
The 2009 Toyota Matrix went on sale in February with prices ranging between $16,850 for the Standard with a manual transmission to $22,510 for an XRS with an automatic transmission. A $660 destination charge is included.