She was bright orange. She was a hatchback. But the 2009 Toyota Matrix S AWD wasn't as fuel-efficient (20/26 mpg city/highway) or cost-effective as I expected (just over $24K). She had a lot of work to do to win the heart of this Mom-reviewer.
First off, I don't mind loud colors on cars. I know nothing is more telling of the exact year of production than a sassy, of-the-moment color (teal, 1986), and at least bright orange is easy to find in a parking lot. But my friends' comments on that "crazy" orange color just about pushed me over the edge. I wonder if they would've been so vocal if I had bought an orange Matrix. The color certainly requires a skin that's thicker than your average car owner's.
Otherwise, I liked the Matrix's exterior. It's a sporty hatchback that looks as if some thought actually went into the design. It really stood out on the highway heading from Cheyenne to Laramie, Wyo., for a wedding. There aren't many cowboys in orange Matrices (that's the plural of Matrix, isn't it?).
As sporty as it looks, it didn't handle well on the highway. The wind and drafting from semis and large SUVs blew this little car all over the road. The Matrix kept up with traffic; it even exceeded the speed limit at times. Not by much, I swear. So she's adequate in the power department, but she's not going to win any Most Zippy awards.
On the inside, she's got a heart of gold. Her instrument panel and center stack have some nice curves, and all her accessories are within reach. Yep, I knew you'd like that sentence. Simplicity continues to win me over these days, and the Matrix's climate and stereo controls are easy to use. I was immediately comfortable with them, and I enjoyed not having to read a 600-page dissertation on how to switch from the radio to the CD player. And I was happy she didn't freak out and get all sensitive about her stain-resistant fabric when my daughter decided her vanilla scone was much more fun to play with than eat.
My family of four fit comfortably in the Matrix. In the backseat, my kids, who were sitting in their booster seats, fit well, but the Latch connectors were a bit difficult to get at. At least the connectors weren't totally recessed as well - a terrible combination.
The Matrix's cargo area is a decent, day-to-day size, and there are grocery hooks in the back. Not only do the second-row seats fold for more cargo space, but the front passenger seat folds, too. Now you can haul those long planks for that deck project you've been putting off, right?
So go ahead and check out the Matrix if you're considering a small car. The hiccup is you're going to pay a bit more for the Toyota (especially with the kind of sound system I had in my test car). If you keep the options to a minimum, you'll be better off budget-wise. She's fun around town - a good commuting car, really. But in the end, my hard, hard heart wasn't completely sold on the Matrix.
*For more information on the 2009 Toyota Matrix and its safety features, visit Cars.com. With questions or comments regarding this review, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LET'S TALK NUMBERS
Latch Connectors: 2
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 5
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Some-Good Times
2009 Toyota Matrix Review
Base price: $20,400
Price as tested: $25,120
Engine: 158-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder
Fuel: 20/26 mpg
Ground Clearance: n/a
Turning Radius: 36.7'
Cargo space: 19.8-61.5 cu. ft.
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver's side: n/a
Passenger's side: n/a
Front occupant: n/a
Rear occupant: n/a
Rollover resistance: n/a
Cars.com Expert Reviews
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