2009 Toyota Matrix BaseView Vehicle Profile
2009-11 Toyota Matrix: Dull, but penny pinchers loved it
Penny pinchers loved compact’s durability and fuel-sipping habits.
“I’m sure it will be a reliable car, but it is uninspiring,” starts a grumbling post by a 2009 Toyota Matrix driver.
The owner goes on to kvetch about uncomfortable seats that show water spots, cup holders that don’t fit most cups and the need to spend money on a mat for the cargo area to prevent stuff from sliding around.
Yet the owner concedes the Matrix is probably a keeper. The clincher?
“My dog likes it.”
After a six-year production run that saw the original Corolla-based tall wagon mostly unchanged, the second-generation Matrix arrived for 2009 with the same wheelbase, but a little lengthier overall and about 90 kg heavier, despite the gym membership.
MacPherson struts held up the front suspension, while front-drive XRS and all-wheel-drive models featured an independent rear suspension using double wishbones instead of the standard (and cheaper) semi-independent torsion beam.
Inside, the driving position was vastly improved, thanks to the new telescoping steering wheel and increased seat travel. Unfortunately, much of the adventurous cabin design and shiny trim of the previous Matrix was replaced by dour, penny-pinching materials.
“Cheap interior feel, doors sound ‘tinny,’ matte-finish dashboard collects scuffs when you touch it and has rough seams,” reported one owner online.
Despite the slight reduction in cargo capacity with the redesign, owners praised the five-door Toyota for its utility and load flexibility. Finished in hard plastic, the stowage area can carry wet, gross items (like dogs) and wipes clean with a damp cloth. The rear seatbacks fold perfectly flat.
Poor rearward visibility was an oft-mentioned shortcoming: “The blind spot created by the large C-pillar, combined with the awkward angle and size of the third window makes the car very hard to see out of,” reads a post.
The base model made do with an economical 1.8 L four cylinder rated at 132 hp and 128 lb.-ft. of torque. The XR, XRS and AWD models used a larger 2.4 L four making 158 hp and 162 lb.-ft. of grunt — a more refined choice than the hyperactive mill plucked from the old Celica GT-S.
A five-speed manual transmission was standard and a four-speed automatic optional. On models equipped with the big four, a five-speed automatic was available (all-wheel-drive worked with the four-speed exclusively).
Every Matrix came with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, while the XR and XRS sported larger rotors and 18-inch wheels to accommodate them. Also standard were front-seat side airbags and full-length curtain airbags.
More standard safety features were baked into 2010 models, including traction control and an antiskid system. The 2011 lineup lost the XRS sporty variant.
ON THE ROAD
The quickest Matrix combination — the 2.4 L with the stick — yielded a 0-96 km/h acceleration time of 7.9 seconds. At the other end of the spectrum, the 1.8 L mated to the automatic produced an underwhelming time of just under 10 seconds.
Sadly, the Matrix is nowhere near as entertaining to drive as a Mazda3 or Golf, despite the independent rear suspension, firmer springs and shock absorbers, and front strut-tower brace that graced the XRS. The electric steering system felt heavy and numb, whether parallel parking or whizzing along at supra-highway speeds. At least the handling was stable and secure, and the ride was commendably quiet.
In terms of fuel economy, Matrix owners fall into two distinct camps: the skinflints who value economical operation are happy with the gas-sipping ways of the 1.8 L engine, while performance-oriented drivers generally disliked the fuel-swilling habits of the big four-banger. Fittingly, the latter group also detested the small gas tank.
WHAT OWNERS SAY
Toyota has earned a reputation for selling very reliable, if dull-as-dishwater cars — a characterization the Matrix doesn’t refute one iota. Canadians have embraced the Ontario-built Matrix because it’s reasonably practical, affordable and refuses to break down.
Reported sore points are relatively few: some broken radios, poorly sealed windshields, chipped paint and dashboard rattles. Owners of models donning 18-inch wheels and tires have experienced a few blowouts and bent rims.
It should be noted that the Matrix fell under Toyota’s massive floor-mat and accelerator-pedal recall a few years ago. The mat at the driver’s feet must be secured with clips to avoid entrapment under the pedals. That’s all owners need to fret about.
A recent recall identifies an improperly lubricated driver’s side power window switch that can develop sticky operation, which should be rectified using fluorine grease.
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2009-11 Toyota Matrix
WHAT’S BEST: Flat cargo hold, affordable all-wheeler, wears like an anvil
WHAT’S WORST: Dull to drive, interior scratches easily, big four not so frugal
TYPICAL GTA PRICES: 2009 — $12,000; 2011 — $16,000
Used Toyota Matrix All Used Vehicles
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