2009 Toyota Matrix Review | The Truth About Cars

5 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2009 Toyota Matrix Review | The Truth About Cars

2009 Toyota Matrix Review

Do you know how many Matrices Toyota sold in the United States last year? That#8217;s not a rhetorical question; I have no idea. Toyota rolls the number into Corolla sales. No surprise there. The Matrix shares its underpinnings with the Corolla#8211; and the Pontiac Vibe (same car, different wrapper).

Even if the Matrix accounts for a fraction of Corolla sales, a fraction of a lot is a lot. And so, just as Toyota is bringing out the new Corolla, they’re unleashing the sequel to the Matrix. Let’s call it The Matrix: Rebloated.

Although the Toyota website gallery only shows blue pill imbibers the sporty version of the Matrix, the basic box ain’t bad. It’s still a tall, narrow, stumpy sort of wagon thing (a.k.a. a snail from outer space). The new sheetmetal swaps the “grandma’s high trousers” look for gangsta chic.

I’m not convinced about that swoopy swage line, and I’ve seen less steeply raked coffee tables, but at least there’s not an Echo in there.

The Matrix’ cabin is the eHarmony.com of interiors. Sure, it LOOKS OK. The radio head unit doesn’t make me cringe (i.e. no Ford-style digital toothpicks readout) and the steering wheel-mounted radio buttons are a plus at this price point.

The gauges are models of legibility. But when you actually meet the polymers in person, it’s time for an emergency phone call from your buddy. The silvery plastic sprinkled throughout the cockpit is just abominable, guaranteed to scuff-up and look like crap in a year.

In terms of practicality, the Matrix’ rear hatch opening is (like the Saturn Astra) narrow at the bottom, leading to inconvenient fumbling with large objects. The cargo area is even worse. While the rear seats fold flat, the seat backs and cargo area are plastered with “bureaucrat gray” hard plastic, offering less traction than Ron Paul.

And how about the scuffs, digs, scrapes, divots, lacerations, and other nasty marks that sliding hard goods will make as they rumba around the cargo area?

Our test car holstered the 2.4-liter four-cylinder mill currently doing its anti-Civic duty in the Camry, Corolla, Scion xB, Scion tC, RAV-4, and so on. The 158hp powerplant’s definitely a willing and smooth dance partner. But the Matrix’s 5-speed automatic transmission is hopped-up on blow. “WHAT? ME? YOUWANTMETOCHANGEGEARS?” Confused, hyper, and generally out of whack, the erstwhile slushbox was always in the wrong gear.

Switching to the optional manumatic mode improved smoothness slightly, but herky-jerky throttle tip-in and limited gas pedal feel still ensure a less-than-satisfying driving experience.

The Matrix’ steering and suspension are standard-issue ToMoCo; which is to say they’re solid and firm and more than merely adequate for drivers who aren’t in a hurry and have never driven a Honda. Take a corner too quickly and you risk scraping the Matrix’ side skirt on the pavement. Never mind.

The economy car’s greatest virtue is its ride. It delivers an ideal balance between soft and non-nauseating.

Aside from the usual prospect of excellent mechanical reliability and non-catastrophic resale value, there is very little about the new Toyota Matrix that’s inherently good. In fact, at the risk of jamming the red pill down your throat, it’s a terrible car. While we can quibble about quality, the biggest reason that the Matrix is a complete non-starter: Toyota sells not one but two competitors that are significantly better. (Not including the less-expensive, aforementioned Pontiac Vibe.)

If you still fancy a $22k Matrix (despite all that I’ve said here), please note that you can get the new Scion xB for less than $18k. Same platform, same 2.4 liter engine. The Matrix’ “advantages” over the killa B: an extra gear in its automatic transmission (which bites anyway), an optional sunroof and optional AWD#8211; for yet another $1100 and $1000 respectively.

And the Matrix offers a slightly more fuel efficient 1.8 liter engine (by a paltry four mpg city, two mpg highway).

So how about fuel economy? You could spend the same amount of money as you would on the Matrix 2.4 and enjoy vastly better fuel economy in the Prius.The Matrix’s entry level 1.8-liter engine (with the autobox) returns 25 city/31 highway. The Prius is rated at 48 city/45 highway.

Not only will you be able to swan about in the carpool lane, but the Prius is a flat-out superior automobile. It#8217;s a genuinely usable hatchback with a novel, space-age interior that offers its own variety of fun (passing pumps in a single bound).

Folks, this is pretty simple. You can get the same car for less money with the Scion xB. Or you can get more car for the same money in the Toyota Prius. Either way you win. And the Matrix loses.

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