Toyota will soon introduce a new second-generation offspring in the compact vehicle segment, the 2009 Toyota Matrix. For those of you that will be in the market for an economical, well-engineered compact car, the 2009 Matrix may be just what you’re seeking. The overall styling of the Matrix has changed, now having a wider, more menacing stance that fits well with its sportier, space-age look. Though the Matrix did not overwhelm its market in units sold when first introduced in the U.S., Toyota sees a vast opportunity for this affordable, sporty compact to regain its deserving hype.

The 2009 Matrix comes available in three different grades - Standard, S and XRS. The Matrix offers the option of all-wheel drive (AWD) in its S grade. The S and XRS models have an integrated large front underbody spoiler with a mesh fog lamp bezel and rear underbody spoiler that give the Matrix an edgy appeal. A rear spoiler comes standard on all XRS models. Its seats have been redesigned to accommodate the vehicle’s new lower profile while not sacrificing its comfort levels. The driver and passenger get new sport seats and a fold-down seatback table is available on the passenger’s seat adding to the interior’s functionality. The interior’s focal point, the instrument panel and center cluster, create a new-wave sensation in the cockpit. The “Optitron” gauges in the instrument panel feature bright, highly legible, white lighting and red needles. A large round speedometer is mounted in the center, with a tachometer to the left. To the right of the speedometer lies a combination gauge that includes a fuel indicator, an engine temperature indicator, and an LCD display that combines an outside temp indicator and odometer/trip meter.

A new three-spoke steering wheel enhances the rest of the new Matrix’s interior design. Several different audio systems are available. The Standard comes equipped with an AM/FM/CD four-speaker system. Also available are a six-speaker system and six-disc CD with JBL Premium Sound system, Bluetooth and navigation with “NavTraffic” capability. All systems are equipped with a universal mini-jack that allows drivers and passengers to listen to their portable music collection. The Matrix’s well designed, airtight cabin fared well in my opinion for capturing the natural acoustics for what is overall a moderate sound system. For the younger audience that Toyota is targeting for the Matrix many may find themselves looking toward aftermarket upgrades if a more booming sound system is desired.

Regarding road performance, the Matrix provides an adequately impressive ride. Based on the same platform as the Corolla, the Matrix handled the road well, though left us with a bit more to be desired regarding overall power. One of the engine’s advanced features is its use of Dual VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) that Toyota boasts helps it achieve outstanding fuel economy. Dual VVT-i continually alters the phase of each camshaft by operating the oil-control valve and controlling oil pressure on the advance/retard chamber of the VVT-i cam pulley through signals from the engine control computer. Estimated EPA fuel economy ratings are 26/32 city/highway mpg for manual transmission models and 25/31 for the automatic transmission model powered by a 1.8-liter engine. A four-speed Super ECT (Electronically Controlled Transmission) automatic is paired with the 1.8-liter engine. For those who crave just a bit more horsepower and torque, the Matrix is available with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 158-horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 162 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Like the popular Corolla, the 2009 Matrix has a rigid body structure that relies on high tensile-strength steels for its strength, rigidity and light weight. The Matrix scored a solid grade in stopping capabilities with its standard four-wheel disc brakes. The 1.8-liter engine is equipped with vented front 10.8-inch discs and 10.2-inch solid discs in the rear. Models equipped with the 2.4-liter engine feature 11.7-inch vented discs in front and 11-inch solid discs in the rear. AWD models come with 11.1-inch solid rear discs. The Matrix has standard 16-inch steel wheels with a six-spoke full wheel cover. Available wheels include 17-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels for the S grade, and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels with a twin five-spoke design are standard for the XRS grade.

Aimed at the MAZDA3 and Saturn Astra, the 2009 Matrix offers the performance and comfort necessary to compete in the compact car segment. Pricing has yet to be announced. Toyota is looking to release the 2009 Matrix to dealers in February 2008.


Copyright 2006 Automotive Rhythms Communications, LLC. All rights reserved.

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