2009 Toyota Matrix Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
July 19, 2009

Can't make up your mind between coupe, sedan, or SUV? The versatile, economical, and safe 2009 Toyota Matrix might be the solution.

To bring you this extensive review of the 2009 Toyota Matrix, the experienced auto enthusiasts at TheCarConnection.com consulted a wide range of published reviews. TheCarConnection.com's editors also included firsthand experience in this all-considered Bottom Line review.

The 2009 Toyota Matrix is a tall-hatchback version of the popular Toyota Corolla sedan and is sometimes called the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix; whichever name you want to use, it's been completely redesigned for 2009, with a new look, more standard safety features, and more power on tap from a new 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine.

The base engine is still an economical 1.8-liter four-cylinder, finessed to 132 horsepower. Both engines come with a standard five-speed manual or optional automatic, but the automatic has four gears with the 1.8-liter, five with the 2.4-liter. The Base model of the 2009 Toyota Matrix includes the 1.8-liter, but the S model and sporty XRS antes up to the 2.4-liter. There's also an all-wheel-drive S model, which includes the larger engine.

The 2.4-liter engine makes a substantial difference behind the wheel of the 2009 Toyota Matrix; it has noticeably more torque, making it a much better choice with automatic transmission. The 1.8-liter engine has enough pep with the manual transmission, and with the smaller engine, fuel economy is near the top of its class, at 26 mpg city, 32 highway.

Review continues below

Compared to the 2008 Matrix, the 2009 Toyota Matrix has a lower, sportier stance, though it keeps similar proportions; inside the seats are positioned a bit lower, and styling has been perked up with a matte-metallic treatment on the instrument panel.

The 2009 Toyota Matrix seats up to five people, theoretically, though only two adults will comfortably fit in the backseat. The rakish hatch impairs cargo space somewhat, but the folding seats and tall body afford quite a bit of cargo space. Ride comfort is a strong point; top XRS and AWD S models come with a fully independent rear suspension that may bring an even smoother ride without sacrificing handling.

Standard safety equipment on all 2009 Toyota Matrix wagons includes dual front, side, and curtain airbags, along with active headrests and anti-lock brakes. Stability and traction control is standard on the top XRS model, but optional on the other versions. The Matrix earns five stars in side-impact protection for front occupants and four stars for rear occupants in the federal government's crash tests, and it's been tested by the insurance-funded IIHS to Good results in frontal offset and side impact tests but just Acceptable in rear impact.

All versions of the 2009 Toyota Matrix include power mirrors, tilt and telescoping steering, and an auxiliary input jack—items that aren't always standard on small cars. The S version includes power windows and locks, a useful 115-volt power outlet good for laptops, cruise control, and a flat-folding front passenger seat, along with a spruced-up appearance, and the XRS brings big 18-inch wheels and a strut-tower brace. A DVD navigation system with XM NavTraffic is a noteworthy new option.

8

2009 Toyota Matrix

Styling

The 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix's styling might be more at home in the Scion lineup, but it does give Toyota at least one interesting and relatively sporty-looking model.

The 2009 Toyota Matrix, which is based largely on the Toyota Corolla, is the first of Toyota's second-generation Matrix models. This Toyota 2009 lineup is restyled and similar to the Pontiac Vibe, which was co-developed with GM, though anyone familiar with the previous Toyota Matrix will instantly recognize the new 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix.

The exterior of the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix is revised, but still quite similar to the old 2008 version. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com generally approve of the admittedly unorthodox design, which Motor Trend says is "self-described as a 'sport/utility with coupelike design.'" Edmunds simply calls the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix a "small wagon/five-door hatchback available in three trim levels—base, S and XRS." MotherProof reviewers are particularly fond of the appearance, musing that the 2009 Toyota Matrix "looks as if some thought actually went into the design." However, not all reviewers are so positive, as Car and Driver feels that "the XRS does look sharper, thanks to the fitment of a strut-tower brace and an independent rear suspension, but somehow the overall look comes off as less interesting than before." Whether or not you approve of the new look, this Toyota 2009 model has a lower, sportier stance than the first-generation model.

The interior of the 2009 Toyota Matrix scores pretty well in terms of styling, with MotherProof claiming that "the Matrix's climate and stereo controls are easy to use" and the same reviewers appreciating that they did not need "to read a 600-page dissertation on how to switch from the radio to the CD player." Edmunds reviewers approve of the "ergonomic cabin layout" that "continues to offer a sportier ambience than the Corolla."

The one major complaint with the 2009 Toyota Matrix's interior design comes from ConsumerGuide, where reviewers find that "indistinct markings on the speedometer sometimes require a second look away from the road," and although "the center portion of the dashboard is canted toward the driver," it is "not enough to prevent outside light from washing out the radio display." On the positive side, ConsumerGuide does acknowledge that this Toyota 2009's "climate controls are large, accessible dials," which prove relatively easy to use.

7

2009 Toyota Matrix

Performance

Fuel economy is disappointing for the small 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix lineup, but performance is perky enough.

Don't be fooled by the slick curves and sporty appearance of the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix; TheCarConnection.com's research shows that this hatchback, while practical, is far from the most entertaining daily driver.

The 2009 Toyota Matrix lineup is available with two engines, though neither offers a very high power threshold. Motor Trend reports that the "Scion xD's 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine is standard, and the xB's 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter is optional, except that it's standard in the AWD S." Reviews of both engines are average, although the more powerful 2.4-liter engine is clearly the favorite among reviewers. With the 2.4-liter version, MotherProof attests that this Toyota 2009 hatchback "kept up with traffic" and is "adequate in the power department, but she's not going to win any Most Zippy awards." ConsumerGuide agrees, finding that the "S and XRS have adequate acceleration with the automatic transmission, though liberal use of the throttle is required for merging and passing maneuvers." Edmunds contends the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix's 1.8-liter powerplant feels a little pokey accelerating off the line, but "the engine remains smooth all the way to its power peak." While the smaller engine is a bit more economical, Edmunds advises that "once you've tried the 2.4-liter engine, it might be hard to go back" to the 1.8-liter that Cars.com calls "a smooth, if unexciting, powertrain."

In addition to the choice of engine options, the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix offers up a few different transmission options. Cars.com points out that the base version of the Toyota 2009 Matrix comes with either a "5-speed [manual] or 4-speed auto," while the 2WD S and XRS variants get either a "5-speed [manual] or 5-speed auto." For the 2009 Toyota Matrix, Edmunds observes that "all-wheel drive is once again an option," though only on the S model. Selecting the AWD S automatically earns you a four-speed automatic transmission. ConsumerGuide reports that the "manual-transmission versions are noticeably livelier," while Cars.com raves that "the five-speed manual has a solid, hefty feel" with "throws [that] feel even more precise than the Mazda [3]." Despite the extra weight from the AWD system, ConsumerGuide tests show that "acceleration is little different in the AWD S."

Despite the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix's small size and low-displacement engine, reviewers are disappointed with the overall fuel economy of this Toyota 2009 model. MotherProof notes that the 2009 Toyota Matrix "wasn't as fuel-efficient...or cost-effective as I expected," and Edmunds adds that the Matrix suffers from "mediocre gas mileage with the 2.4-liter engine." The official EPA estimates for the 2009 Toyota Matrix are 21 mpg city and 28 highway for the manual-transmission 2.4, while the 2WD with the automatic gets a rating of 21/29 mpg. The AWD version of the 2.4-liter engine is by far the least frugal of the bunch, returning just 20 mpg city and 26 mpg on the highway. For those interested in maximizing their fuel economy, the 1.8-liter engine is rated at 25/31 mpg with the automatic and 26/32 mpg with the manual.

It's hard to find a performance consensus among professional reviews of the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix; while Motor Trend calls the Matrix "more fun to drive than either Scion or the Corolla, zipping around corners with controlled body roll," ConsumerGuide reports that "fast cornering triggers noseplow and body lean." Ride quality also receives vastly different reviews from different sources, with Cars.com noting that "the ride becomes a bit choppy over bumpy pavement," while Edmunds claims "the ride is quiet and refined." The one performance area that does earn unanimous praise is in braking, where reviewers agree with Cars.com's assessment that the "response is strong, and ABS never kicks in prematurely."

8

2009 Toyota Matrix

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix offers an impressive amount of utility, space, and build quality, but the materials aren't at the same level.

Toyota's trademark high-quality construction and practical layouts are on full display in the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix, which rates highly for both passenger and cargo space, as well as overall build quality.

Few five-seat hatchbacks are actually comfortable for five full-size adults, and while squeezing five grown-ups into the 2009 Toyota Matrix is still a stretch, four will fit quite nicely. Cars.com reports that the "front sport seats and a three-person bench seat give the [2009 Toyota] Matrix room for up to five people," and Edmunds confirms that the bench is actually an "adult-friendly backseat."

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com also appreciate the fact that the seats feature a fold-flat 60/40 split, which makes hauling cargo significantly easier. Up front, ConsumerGuide is pleased to find that the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix "makes good use of its tall design by furnishing generous headroom," and the "tilt and telescopic steering column and driver-seat height adjuster are comfort-enhancing standard features." Edmunds agrees with that assessment of the new steering column, reporting "the driving position is vastly improved in the '09 model, with credit going to the new telescoping steering wheel and increased seat-track travel."

Aside from generous passenger accommodations, this Toyota 2009 model benefits from a large and practical cargo area. MotherProof calls the 2009 Toyota Matrix's cargo space "a decent, day-to-day size, and there are grocery hooks in the back" that make running errands significantly easier. ConsumerGuide reviewers also point out that the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix's "front passenger seat folds flat on all but the base model for cargo-carrying versatility." In terms of overall space, Edmunds states that "there are 19.8 cubic feet of luggage capacity behind the rear seats and a seats-down volume of 61.5 cubes." The 2009 Toyota Matrix's cabin also offers significant utility, as ConsumerGuide finds that the "interior storage consists of a small glovebox, center console, and door pockets."

The 2009 Toyota Matrix is assembled with obvious precision, but ConsumerGuide notes that "all Matrix models look built to price" with a "notable lack of padded surfaces." ConsumerGuide adds that "few materials feel substantial, and the doors close with a tinny clang." On the positive side, Cars.com finds that the dashboard's "wraparound textures...look rich from any distance," and the "gauges and stereo controls have first-rate quality...and panel fit is generally excellent." Despite some positive reviews of the interior quality, Cars.com feels that the high-quality elements cause "the cabin's weaknesses to stand out even more." Those weaknesses include climate controls that are "awfully clunky, and the ceiling is a vast canopy of mouse fur."

One of the benefits of solid build quality is usually a quiet ride, but it appears as though Toyota has left some of the sound deadening out of the second-generation Toyota 2009 Matrix. ConsumerGuide reviewers report that the "2.4-liter engine is raspy while accelerating," while "wind rush and road noise rise markedly at highway speeds on all models." Cars.com agrees, noting that, "at highway speeds, road and wind noise are considerable, but the engine stays unobtrusive."

8

2009 Toyota Matrix

Safety

The 2009 Toyota Matrix has the selling points to satisfy most safety-conscious consumers.

The 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix easily meets all safety benchmarks, thanks to its impressive crash-test scores and long list of standard features, as well as an affordable stability system for lower-end versions. TheCarConnection.com's research shows that this Toyota 2009 model is no longer behind the small-car curve in safety equipment.

In government-sponsored NHTSA testing, the 2009 Toyota Matrix earns a perfect five-star rating in three out of four impact tests, with the only blemish coming in the form of a four-star rating for side passenger impacts. Insurance-industry-sponsored IIHS tests yield similarly high scores for the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix, with the vehicle earning the highest possible rating, "good," in both the frontal offset and side impact categories.

In addition to a very strong report card from the crash-testing agencies, the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix offers an admirable list of safety features. Edmunds reviewers report that "every 2009 Toyota Matrix comes with antilock disc brakes, though the S and XRS have larger discs all around" than the base version. MyRide.com adds that this Toyota 2009 model features "standard front-side airbags and side-curtain airbags," while Cars.com notes that "all five seats have head restraints, and active head restraints are standard up front." One other major positive for the 2009 Toyota Matrix is the fact that, as Cars.com points out, "an electronic stability system runs an affordable $250—compare that to $450 on the Rabbit, $440 on the Caliber and $650 on the outgoing Matrix. The system is standard on the Matrix XRS."

With all the great safety news regarding the Toyota 2009 Matrix, you might be wondering why the vehicle doesn't score a perfect 10 in this category. The short answer is that, as TheCarConnection.com's editors point out, visibility can be frustrating. ConsumerGuide reviewers also notice this unfortunate trait, stating that "visibility is poor to the rear corners," which can create a serious safety problem during lane changes and other merging situations.

7

2009 Toyota Matrix

Features

If high-tech features are your primary interest, you'll be better served by a number of vehicles other than the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix.

The second-generation Toyota Matrix lineup includes a few more technological goodies, but this Toyota 2009 model is still very far from an Acura-like level of feature availability.

The standard features found on the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix vary considerably according to trim level. Edmunds reviewers state that those opting for the base version of the 2009 Toyota Matrix will get "air-conditioning, a CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and power mirrors." Perhaps more noteworthy than what's included is what doesn't come standard on the base model of the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix; as Edmunds points out, "cruise control, keyless entry and power windows and locks are optional on this version." Cars.com reviewers report that stepping up to the Toyota 2009 Matrix in S trim earns you the privilege of "power windows and locks, cruise control, a fold-flat front passenger seat, keyless entry and a CD stereo," while the "XRS adds a leather-trimmed steering wheel with radio controls."

In addition to the relatively few standard features found on the 2009 Toyota Corolla Matrix, TheCarConnection.com's research shows that a number of options are available, especially on the S and XRS versions. MyRide.com reviewers point out a "touch-screen navigation system" is available for the higher-end versions of the 2009 Toyota Matrix, while "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." Furthermore, Edmunds reports that the options list for the S and XRS includes a "JBL sound system," which Cars.com says offers "decent sound, but it lacks a USB port for iPod integration, which Toyota says isn't even available as a dealer accessory." The 2009 Toyota Matrix's corporate cousin, the Scion xB, "has an iPod port standard," so Cars.com is at a loss to explain why Toyota omits the feature from the 2009 Toyota Matrix.

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December 6, 2015
For 2009 Toyota Matrix

Big disappointment

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I owned 2005 matrix and I thought the thing was bulletproof. Foolishly upgraded to a 2009 and I've been kicking myself ever cents. I have owned six Toyotas in my life. Two I hung onto for 10 years each.do I... + More »
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August 1, 2015
2009 Toyota Matrix 5-Door Wagon Manual FWD (Natl)

suited our needs easy to get into

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disappointed with quality. Back wheels had to be hammered off to change wheels. this was at the dealer and said was normal. Back brakes needed changing at 40M km then front brakes at 50M km. After brake change... + More »
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