To give context, my previous car was a 2003 Mazda Protege5 - 5-speed manual. That car had fantastic handling and it felt faster that it was. This car is a better car. It feels more solid, not as tinny as the Protege5. It is not as fun as my Mazda, but it is close enough. The rally style 5-speed manual shifter mounted on the Matrix's center console feels accurate with rifle bolt precision. Steering feedback from the electric unit was decent. The suspension is firm but comfortable, sporty but not a sports car suspension. The interior feels cavernous to my 5'8" frame. Acceleration is good from the 158 hp 2.4L engine. The car is not WRX fast, but fast enough. Passing on the highway is a breeze, thanks to the ample torque (162 lb-ft). It feels nice that the Matrix can still pull from only 1500 RPM in top gear. Front seats are comfortable as well as the rear seats. The rear seat is not that wide though. The rear seat can hold 2 people comfortably but 3 full sized adults will be cramped. The rear cargo hold is pretty large. The seat cloth is of good quality, but it would have been nice if there was a leather option. I compared the Matrix's rear cargo area to my friend's 2010 Scion xB and it indeed holds more cargo even than the xB, even though the xB has a more functional square cargo area. We verified this by stacking 32 count spring water bottle packs at a Wal-Mart in NJ. The Matrix could pack more water bottle packs than the xB. Who knew!?!? And this is with the rear seats up. BTW, the rear seats fold flat so you can effectively double your cargo capacity. That came in handy for my IKEA trips. The JBL audio system, JBL subwoofer and JBL speakers sound great, no need to upgrade for now. The overall fuel economy is 27 mpg, 80% highway. This car has been pretty reliable so far. I deducted a star because of the outward vision, engine and fuel economy. The front pillars are real think. Sometimes, you can't see people crossing near you in the city, very odd. Others point to the rear visibility as a problem, but Toyota has provided large mirrors, if adjusted properly will get largely get rid of the blind spots. The engine, though smooth, eats some oil, despite filling it with Mobil 1. You have to check your dipstick more often to make sure you are not low on oil. The fuel economy should be better for a 4-cylinder. In addition, the paint could have been more lustrous and there could be less hard plastic everywhere, but this is a Toyota, not a Lexus. There should not have been so much hatred from the automotive press for this car. The car handles well, is fairly comfortable, has good acceleration, good sound system, cavernous interior space for 4 people or for cargo. True the interior could have been more upscale considering the MSRP at the time, but that alone should not have drawn the ire of so many automotive journalists. I guess these journalists don't understand that regular people are fine with vehicles that can do many things well, which is what this Matrix does. True the Matrix is not as fast as 370Z, as fuel efficient as a Prius, or as good a people and cargo hauler as a Sienna, but that's OK. At least for me it is. Just test drive any vehicle before you completely pass judgment based on what the press opines.
I've owned my 2009 XRX Matrix since the 1st one came into the local showroom in Feb 2008. Positives: I get 27mpg in town & 30-35 on the freeway with the 2.4L engine. I'm 6'3" and have plenty of headroom. I love the smart gears which allow me extra power going up hills or lower gearing for the heavy snows. The storage is great and I've gotten lots of compliments on the rear seats. I love the peppiness and get up and go the car has when getting on the freeway. Cons: Yes, there is a lot of road noise and performance tires needed for the XRS trim are more expensive than regular tires and only last 36K-40K miles at the most. This is a great car. I plan on keeping it a long time.
If you had and loved the 2003-2008 Matrix or Vibe, you will most likely be disappointed in the body style that came out in 2009. The hatchback window doesn't open, the larger engine isn't as fuel efficient, and it doesn't have the roof racks. The clutch in my 2009 Matrix is very hard to engage. I had my 2003 Vibe for 7 years and had well over 200,000 miles on it before I totaled it. In my haste to get as close to the same car, I bought the 2009 Matrix. After five months, I'm trying to find a low mileage, pre 2009 Vibe or Matrix and sell the one I have now.
This car is great! Honestly the only thing I could want is more power!!!! But thats just my led foot and v8 love talking. I dont understand people saying the car has blind spots.... I haven't found one yet. I did add on the little 1inch bubble mirrors for extra help but I have always added that to all my cars. The get up and go rocks as long as you disengage the traction control... then you can screech the tires a bit. The ride in the xrs is a bit hard but ill a tribute that to the stiff sports suspension. Yah the car was a bit loud on the road but all Toyota's are. Add some dynamat from your local car audio shop and enjoy the car i did. Im 6'2" and have more than enough leg and head room in both the front and back seats.
I bought this car originally because I wanted to replace my old hatchback with something reliable and fuel efficient. So I went for the 1.8L up until now I had gotten what I paid for. The issues started when I went hit the 50000 mile mark. Since then I have been to the dealership service center over 5 times for major repairs. All of which are documented in Service Bulletins. The latest issue affects all matrix and corollas with the 1.8L engine and will not be covered after the 60000 mile warranty runs out. They actually have to go in, take apart the engine and replace engine components of the crankshaft assembly. That doesn't seem reliable to me.