The 2009 Toyota Matrix, when equipped with all-wheel-drive, works as a practical car for people living in wintery regions. However, it forces some pricey tech trade-offs, and doesn't let you have it all.
Our S trim Matrix came with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, giving it decent pep in the city, but unimpressive acceleration at high speeds. This engine is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, which is a bit primitive by today's standards. The bottom line engine is a 1.8-liter four cylinder.
The ugly-duckling exterior look of the Matrix hides practical interior space, with easily accessible seats and a comfortable, upright driving position. The Matrix heralded the launch of Toyota's Scion brand, which offers cars often derided for their looks.
Our text Matrix came with all-wheel-drive, an option for the S trim that requires the four-speed automatic transmission. In our testing, the all-wheel-drive added some essential grip in slippery conditions.
The cargo area of the Matrix is covered in hard plastic, as are the backs of the rear seats. This covering lets you easily slide heavy objects into the car, and will be more resistant to damage than cloth.
We weren't impressed with the four speed automatic. The lack of extra gears meant the engine had to hold higher rpms at freeway speeds, resulting in unimpressive fuel economy. Other versions of this car come with a five speed manual or five speed automatic transmissions.
We were impressed that the volume adjusts automatically depending on the car's speed, but the audio quality was mediocre. As we turned the volume up, the speakers were quickly overwhelmed by the bass, producing a hum.