The Toyota Matrix was one of the first small but tall compacts, and for 2009 it is redesigned for the first time. The Matrix S AWD with sport package spoilers, orange metallic paint and 17-inch wheels is an attention grabber, but it still drives like a compact. Now available with the 158-horsepower 2.4-liter engine from the Camry, the new mill gives the Matrix reasonable acceleration while still delivering fuel economy in the low to mid 20s. The new design has a steeper rake which adds to the custom look, but the tall roofline still gives the Matrix good functionality and usable cargo space. The cargo area, including the second-row and front-passenger seatbacks, has a hard surface, making it easy to clean. While the Matrix delivers a sporty look, it's not as sporty to drive, but it is a very solid and practical compact car. -Mike Meredith

The new Toyota Matrix is a robust economy car that wears its frugality on its sleeve. The plastics in the trunk, especially, have a cheap feel; although light and a little thin they do seem like they'll last. The updated exterior styling is a subtle improvement on the original, and affords a lot of space for bigger-than-average adults. The engine continues the theme of delivering more for your money with up to 32 mpg. Driving the Matrix doesn't disappoint, but neither does it surprise or impress. Not much fun for spirited driving - the steering seems a tad slow in sharp turns - the Matrix is certainly a good choice if you just want something to get you there. - Paul Hagger

With big SUVs quickly losing favor in the market, consumers are looking to make do with small cars. Luckily there are cars like the redesigned Matrix, which make great alternatives to the traditional SUV. While its outward appearance is quite compact, the Matrix is surprisingly roomy inside. The rear seat is usable for two adults, and the cargo space is more than adequate. For larger items, the rear seats easily fold flat providing a uniform hard plastic surface for easy loading. In addition to offering a very usable interior, the Matrix is quite fun to drive with responsive steering and impressive handling, owed partly to the available all-wheel drive. With its fresh styling and great versatility, the Matrix (or its Pontiac Vibe twin) should definitely be considered by those looking to get out of a bigger SUV. - Perry Stern

MSN Autos

© 2009 Microsoft

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