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Photos: 2009 Toyota Matrix S AWD

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.

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CNET Reviews staff
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The Matrix was launched as a tech car in 2002, complete with available navigation and an AC power outlet. Since then, it has added MP3 CD capability and Bluetooth cell phone integration.
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The Matrix is built on the Corolla platform. GM also licensed the design for the Pontiac Vibe.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Our Matrix had no cabin tech options, although it can be had with an upgraded stereo system and Bluetooth, or a navigation system.
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Also missing from our car was a multifunction steering wheel, a feature that comes standard in the XRS trim.
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The Matrix has a distinctive instrument cluster with a small LCD. This display was innovative in 2002, when the car was released.
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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.
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The head unit in our Matrix was rudimentary. It plays MP3 CDs in its single disc player, but you have to seek through folders or songs one at a time.
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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.
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The AC power outlet is turned on with this button, but it only works when the engine is running.
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The auxiliary audio input sits at the bottom of the stack, next to the AC power outlet. The AC outlet includes a hole for a ground pole.
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This navigation unit can be had in the car as an option. But if you get the navigation, part of a $3,000 package, you can't get the premium stereo.

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