2009 Toyota Matrix Review

Pros & Cons

  • Smooth and quiet ride, ergonomic cabin layout, adult-friendly backseat, perfectly flat load floor makes it an excellent cargo hauler.
  • Mediocre gas mileage with 2.4-liter engine, tepid driving dynamics.
List Price Range
$6,795 - $6,990

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The 2009 Toyota Matrix is a highly practical and refined compact wagon that will appeal to small families. However, even in sporty XRS flavor, its entertainment potential is low.

Vehicle overview

Although Toyota has traditionally marketed its Matrix as one of the sporty, fun cars in its lineup, most people have purchased this small wagon/four-door hatchback for a very different reason: practicality. The first-generation Matrix had a backseat large enough to fit three kids or a pair of adults, and its perfectly flat, plastic-coated load floor was suitable for all manner of cargo. Being related to the Corolla sedan also helped, as the Matrix enjoyed above-average fuel economy and a solid reputation for reliability.

You can look forward to more of the same in the fully redesigned 2009 Toyota Matrix. A new, larger engine option should attract the attention of buyers looking for more performance, but otherwise this is the highly rational Toyota Matrix you've always known. As in the past, the front-wheel-drive Matrix is closely related to the Corolla, itself also redesigned this year. The Matrix is 3 inches taller, however, and this provides extra headroom. Toyota will continue to sell a base Matrix with an economical 1.8-liter engine, but the midrange S (replacing last year's XR) and the high-line XRS trim levels get a 2.4-liter engine with significantly more horsepower and torque. In addition, buyers have the option of purchasing all-wheel drive on the S model, which upgrades to an independent double-wishbone rear suspension (from the standard torsion beam) to allow packaging of the AWD system's rear differential. The XRS has an independent rear suspension as well, but in this case, the objective is to improve handling: This sportiest version of the Matrix also has firmer springs and shock absorbers and a front strut tower brace.

In spite of these upgrades, the 2009 Toyota Matrix still isn't as engaging to drive as a Mazda 3 or the recently introduced Mini Cooper Clubman. That's not to say the Matrix isn't a capable small wagon, though. Handling is stable and secure, the ride is quiet and refined and there's ample passing oomph with the larger engine. These attributes, along with its spacious and ergonomic interior design, make it a strong contender against rivals like the Chevrolet HHR, Kia Spectra5/Rondo, Saturn Astra, Subaru Impreza, Volkswagen Rabbit and Toyota's own Scion xB. Among these four-door hatchbacks and wagons, the Rabbit, Impreza and Astra may still prove more appealing to shoppers who like to drive, but for those resolutely focused on practicality, the Matrix is once again a very strong candidate.

2009 Toyota Matrix models

The 2009 Toyota Matrix is a small wagon/five-door hatchback available in three trim levels -- base, S and XRS. All-wheel drive is optional on the midrange S. The base car starts you out with 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and power mirrors. Note that cruise control, keyless entry and power windows and locks are optional on this version of the Matrix. All of the above items are standard on the S, which also provides a rear window wiper, underbody spoilers, an upgraded stereo and a 115-volt utility outlet. The AWD version of the S loses the spoilers, but gains foglights and an independent rear suspension. The top-of-the-line Matrix XRS looks just like the front-drive S model, except for its 18-inch alloy wheels and rear roof spoiler. It also has sport-tuned suspension and steering, upgraded seat fabric and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. A sunroof and an in-dash CD changer are optional across the board. Optional on the S and XRS only are a JBL sound system, satellite radio, a navigation system (with real-time traffic capability) and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

2009 Highlights

Toyota's compact hatchback/wagon is redesigned. The new 2009 Toyota Matrix is the same size as the old one, but a new 2.4-liter engine makes it a better performer and all-wheel drive is once again an option.

Performance & mpg

On the base Toyota Matrix, you'll find a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. The S and XRS models upgrade to a 2.4-liter engine that makes 158 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. On the XRS and front-drive S, you can get a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. The AWD S comes only with a four-speed automatic.

Equipped with the 1.8-liter engine, the Matrix returns above-average fuel economy -- 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway with the manual and 25/31 mpg with the automatic. City mileage takes a dive if you opt for the larger engine: Ratings are 21/28 with the manual, 21/29 with the automatic and 20/26 with AWD.

Safety

Every 2009 Toyota Matrix comes with antilock disc brakes, though the S and XRS have larger discs all around. Also standard are front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Stability control is included on the XRS and optional on the lower trim levels.

Driving

As you'd expect, the Matrix feels a little pokey accelerating off the line when equipped with the base 1.8-liter engine. However, the engine remains smooth all the way to its power peak, and it's certainly the more frugal option. That said, once you've tried the 2.4-liter engine, it might be hard to go back. Its extra low-end torque makes for a more relaxed driving experience around town and when merging onto the highway. Ride quality is exceptional, and even the sporty XRS would make a quiet and comfortable commuter car. Around corners, the Matrix feels balanced and predictable. It's still not a very exciting car to pilot, though, and the electric-assist steering, while nicely weighted, is low on feedback. The upshot is that the 2009 Toyota Matrix is no Mazda 3 substitute, even in XRS form, but practical-minded consumers will appreciate its high level of refinement.

Interior

Inside, the redesigned Matrix looks and feels much like the original car, though obviously updated. It continues to offer a sportier ambience than the Corolla. The driving position is vastly improved in the '09 model, with credit going to the new telescoping steering wheel and increased seat-track travel. The controls are laid out to ergonomic near-perfection. In back, the tall, deep bench is comfortable for children and adults alike, and it folds completely flat in 60/40 sections. The one change that might disappoint some buyers is the deletion of the in-floor, adjustable cargo-track system, which Toyota says most owners weren't using. In its place, you'll find fixed tie-down points and rubber inserts designed to keep cargo from sliding around. There are 19.8 cubic feet of luggage capacity behind the rear seats and a seats-down volume of 61.5 cubes.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2009 Toyota Matrix.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Matrix - Better than the sum of it's parts
Ken Tejada,04/15/2016
XRS 4dr Hatchback (2.4L 4cyl 5M)
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.
Don't Believe the Negativity
matrix09lover,09/21/2013
XRS 4dr Hatchback (2.4L 4cyl 5A)
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.
Perfect for me
09trix,08/25/2012
XRS 4dr Hatchback (2.4L 4cyl 5A)
I got this car over a year ago to replace my first car, an Oldsmobile that broke down at least once a month. As a young girl in college, I wanted something reliable that also looked nice. I love the unique look of the XRS, the interior is comfy, and everything is easy to use. I know a lot of people aren't happy with the gas mileage in the 2.4L but it's fine for me, I get about 30mpg on the highway. I also LOVE how much space it has; I was able to haul a full-size mattress in it! The only complaint I have is that it's a little cheaply made... the paint flakes off the hood way too easily and the interior scratches very easily. Other than that, no complaints. This car is just what I needed.
Toyota onslaught of Service Bulletins
matrix1_8l,12/02/2011
4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)
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.

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated

More about the 2009 Toyota Matrix
More About This Model

The 2009 Toyota Matrix is supposed to be very influential, just as the original Matrix proved when it was introduced in 2003. This tall wagon-style compact based on the Toyota Corolla had a sport-utility flavor but drove like a car, making it one of the first crossovers with an affordable price tag. Its big backseat and dog-friendly cargo bay made utility kind of cool. Without the Matrix, the Mazda3 five-door, Scion xB and even the Audi A3 might not have achieved the coolness they have today.

So you can imagine our surprise when David Terai, chief engineer for the 2009 Toyota Matrix, tells us, "During extensive meetings all over the country with customers, owners and dealers, we found that the current Matrix was seen far too often as a small, conventional, practical wagon."

We're not sure why this is a bad thing. Maybe it has something to do with the plan to sell the redesigned second-generation Matrix to males in the 20-to-35-year-old range when the 2009 Toyota Matrix goes on sale in February 2008. Probably you don't want to be talking about kids or strollers in front of these guys.

Same Size, Two Engines, Three Trims
The 2009 Toyota Matrix has much the same dimensions as the one before, just as the made-over Corolla doesn't vary a bit from the one before. The rear track is wider by an inch, but that's it.

Inside, there's just as much space as before, although increased front seat-track travel and a standard telescoping steering wheel provide a vastly better driving position. Toyota reports a major increase in overall passenger volume from 96 cubic feet to 114 cubic feet and also claims a total cargo capacity increase from 53 cubes to 61.5 cubic feet, but we can't find it when we're sitting in the cabin.

Expected to account for 40 percent of sales, the base-model Matrix has a 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine good for 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels is standard, but the optional automatic transmission has just four forward gears.

More than 50 percent of buyers will choose the S, ostensibly to take advantage of its Camry-sourced 2.4-liter engine, which makes 158 hp at 6,000 rpm and 162 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission is again standard for the S model, but the automatic is now a five-speed as well. You can get all-wheel drive if you want, but you'll have to make do with a four-speed automatic.

That leaves just 5 percent of buyers for the 2009 Toyota Matrix XRS, the image car in the model lineup complete with an upgraded suspension and 18-inch wheels. This is the car Toyota will use to court that coveted male audience, not to mention current Mazda3 and Scion owners.

Stronger but Calmer XRS
If you've driven a 2003-'06 Matrix XRS (or its Pontiac Vibe GT counterpart), you'll remember it well. Motivating it was the Yamaha-built 1.8-liter engine from the now-departed Celica GT-S. You had to spin this hard-working little engine past 4,000 rpm to get any torque, and it was trying to do business in a chassis that was at best a reluctant co-conspirator. Schizophrenic was the only way to describe the result.

Toyota has largely resolved this contradiction with the 2009 Toyota Matrix XRS. The new 2.4-liter engine is more in keeping with the character of a small but chunky wagon, and it delivers solid, useful throttle response off idle. The power curve builds steadily through the midrange, and the engine revs smoothly and quietly.

Since AWD is not available for the XRS, our test car's manual transmission drives the front wheels. The clutch takeup could be a bit smoother off the line, but otherwise the gearchange is snappy, with a positive feel through the gates.

Toyota expects the XRS to get to 60 mph in the low 8-second range. No one's going to get excited over a number like this, though it puts the Matrix roughly on par with the four-door Volkswagen Rabbit, which has a 170-hp five-cylinder engine and takes about 8 seconds even to hit 60.

Fuel economy could be a sticking point for some, however, as the Matrix isn't able to deliver typical Toyota gas mileage when equipped with the 2.4-liter engine. With a manual gearbox, the Matrix XRS has a 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway rating, while automatics do one better on highway mileage.

More Chassis
While the drivetrain is kinder and gentler, the XRS suspension has more of an edge to it than before. The sportiest Toyota Matrix finally gets an independent rear suspension — a double-wishbone design — in place of the torsion beam used on most trims. (The AWD S model also has an independent rear suspension to enable the rear differential to be adapted to the package.)

In addition, the XRS has standard stability control, a strut tower brace up front, firmer springs and dampers at each corner, and 18-inch wheels with 215/45R18 tires. But these big wheels mean the XRS can't turn as tight a circle as other Matrix models with 16s — 38 feet versus 36.

Electric power steering is standard for every '09 Matrix. Although the steering ratio is pretty much the same on all trim levels, Toyota says it tuned the XRS for more positive on-center feel and a more noticeable build-up in effort off-center.

But Maybe Not More Speed
This all sounds encouraging, and indeed our Matrix XRS tester proved quite capable on back roads. Body roll is minimal, and the steering is nicely weighted just as Toyota said it would be. Even the feel of the brake pedal action is pleasantly linear.

For all its capability, the 2009 Toyota Matrix XRS fails to engage you in the process. This wagon can make time through the turns, but it doesn't give you much feedback through either the steering or the seat of your pants, so you're not inspired to pursue anything more stimulating than cruising speed.

As a commuter car, the Matrix XRS makes a lot of sense, given its compliant ride quality. But a car with a strut tower brace, big tires and a body kit should make you think of something more than a practical commute to work.

A Space for Living
Attractive, space-efficient interior design remains the best attribute of Toyota's compact wagon, even in XRS trim.

A three-spoke steering wheel and gauges in individual binnacles provide a suitably sporty ambience, and it's backed up by ample storage space, simple controls and quality materials. In addition, Toyota has reworked the exhaust packaging so front-wheel-drive models now offer a nearly flat floor, making it easier to seat three passengers across in back.

The one change that disappoints us is the deletion of the clever in-floor, adjustable cargo-track system, which we're told most owners weren't using. In its place you'll find fixed tie-down points and rubber inserts designed to keep cargo from sliding around.

As before, both the rear seats and the front passenger seat fold completely flat. The protective plastic coating on the seatbacks is even sturdier in the '09 model, so you can load up wet dogs and mountain bikes without a second thought.

Not the Car It Wants To Be
Despite its impressive levels of refinement, the 2009 Toyota Matrix XRS is not an athlete. Sure, the Matrix XRS is quicker and more agile than in years past, but it doesn't come close to matching the entertainment value of a Mazda3.

For us this is kind of disappointing, but we doubt it will bother the 70,000 people who will decide to purchase a Matrix in 2008. In base, S or XRS trim, this remains a perfectly practical small wagon that you'll purchase for rational reasons rather than emotional ones.

And there's no shame in that, because nobody does rational as well as Toyota.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Used 2009 Toyota Matrix Overview

The Used 2009 Toyota Matrix is offered in the following submodels: Matrix Hatchback. Available styles include 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 4A), S 4dr Hatchback (2.4L 4cyl 5A), XRS 4dr Hatchback (2.4L 4cyl 5A), S 4dr Hatchback AWD (2.4L 4cyl 4A), XRS 4dr Hatchback (2.4L 4cyl 5M), S 4dr Hatchback (2.4L 4cyl 5M), and 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M). Pre-owned Toyota Matrix models are available with a 1.8 L-liter gas engine or a 2.4 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 158 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2009 Toyota Matrix comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 4-speed automatic, 5-speed shiftable automatic.

What's a good price on a Used 2009 Toyota Matrix?

Price comparisons for Used 2009 Toyota Matrix trim styles:

  • The Used 2009 Toyota Matrix S is priced between $6,990 and$6,990 with odometer readings between 147626 and147626 miles.
  • The Used 2009 Toyota Matrix XRS is priced between $6,795 and$6,795 with odometer readings between 154449 and154449 miles.

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Which used 2009 Toyota Matrixes are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2009 Toyota Matrix for sale near. There are currently 2 used and CPO 2009 Matrixes listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $6,795 and mileage as low as 147626 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2009 Toyota Matrix.

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Should I lease or buy a 2009 Toyota Matrix?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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