The Toyota Matrix falls somewhere between a compact car, a sport wagon, and a small crossover utility. When it came out in 2003, it was the only vehicle to combine car-like spirit and handling with the functionality of an SUV—all wrapped in an affordable package the size of a compact sedan. Moreover, it looked cool.

Five years later, the car market is crowded with similar vehicles from virtually every brand. The most notable competitors include the Dodge Caliber, Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Rondo, Suzuki SX4, Scion xB, Subaru Impreza, and Volkswagen Golf, to name a few. This segment of vehicles connects particularly with younger buyers interested in mix of style, versatility, performance, and affordability. The Toyota Matrix captures all these attributes in a well-balanced manner.

Compare the Matrix!

If you’re thinking about buying a Toyota Matrix, you might also consider a Scion xB or Mini Cooper Clubman. Compare these vehicles.

For 2009, the Matrix arrives as a second-generation redesign. It offers edgier, coupe-like styling, more passenger room, and an increase in performance—while remaining economical in terms of price tag and fuel efficiency. For these reasons, the new version is expected to be an even bigger hit with the Millennials and GenXers.

The Toyota Matrix is available in four models: the base, the S, the all-wheel-drive S, and the uplevel XRS. The XRS trim is the sportiest of the bunch.

Under the hood, the Matrix offers two new engines that boost power over the previous generation. There’s a 1.8-liter inline-four that produces 132 horsepower, and a very capable 2.4-liter four-cylinder outputting 162 horsepower. Both versions grant the Matrix the slight upshot of power it was missing in previous years. They also allow this little crossover to launch off the line more assertively. Power builds quickly and steadily, and engine noise is kept to a minimum.

These powerplants connect to one of three transmissions: a four-speed automatic, a five-speed automatic, or a five-speed manual gearbox. The good news is, whichever combination you select, you are going to end up with an efficient vehicle. Government fuel economy for the Matrix ranges from 20 city/26 highway for the all-wheel drive model, to 26 city/33 highway for the base model with a manual transmission. Expect combined fuel economy in the high 20s for the latter. And that goes for most of the other models and configurations as well. All of the EPA estimates are within a few ticks of each other, except for the all-wheel-drive model.

On the road, the Matrix drives like sporty coupe. It is agile and quick on the turns. There’s very little body roll or under-steer, which are characteristics typically found with SUVs. Its small, nimble nature makes it an excellent commuter vehicle, especially when having to perform quick lane changes. It also has a knack for fitting into tiny gaps found in both highway and city traffic. At the end of the day, the Matrix is just a fun little car to wheel around in.

Larger than the previous version, the Matrix seats up to five adults comfortably. The rear seat, especially, has been expanded to make more passenger room. The compromise has been a slight loss of cargo space, but not enough to notice. Overall, its functionality is still top-notch for those who like to throw in their stuff and hit the road.

Toyota Matrix Reviews

“You could spend the same amount of money as you would on the Matrix 2.4 and enjoy vastly better fuel economy in the Prius. The Matrix’s entry level 1.8-liter engine (with the autobox) returns 25 city/31 highway. The Prius is rated at 48 city/45 highway. Not only will you be able to swan about in the carpool lane, but the Prius is a flat-out superior automobile. It’s a genuinely usable hatchback with a novel, space-age interior that offers its own variety of fun (passing pumps in a single bound). Folks, this is pretty simple. You can get the same car for less money with the Scion xB. Or you can get more car for the same money in the Toyota Prius. Either way you win. And the Matrix loses.”

The Truth About Cars

“The Toyota Matrix is essentially a tall yet compact wagon, with a dash of sporty style thrown in to give this practical vehicle some “cool” factor. It’s typically been marketed toward younger car shoppers, though in actuality, buyers of all ages have been drawn to this car’s desirable mix of attributes.”


“The newest Matrix sticks to its original formula as a sporty crossover based on the now updated Corolla platform. Compared to its SUV-esque competitors, it’s more adept at carving canyons than traversing them, with a heavy emphasis on versatility. The fresh body lines of the 2009 edition provide a sharpened silhouette caching an all-new interior. While certainly not an elite sports car, the new Matrix hits its intended target by providing a compliant ride, quiet cabin and ample room for five adults. There is something undeniably hip and forward thinking about the Matrix’s aggressive rake and angular body lines.”

MSN Autos