2009 Toyota Matrix XRS

Versatile Interior

The Matrix interior is remarkably spacious for a compact car. The test car has standard cloth upholstery. Both the driver and front passenger seat have plenty of lower back support.

I was surprised by the amount of legroom in the second row. Since there is no tunnel through the floor, it's possible for three small adults to be comfortable in back.

A gate shifter on the center stack clears up floor space for extra cupholders, and a two-piece bin that stores small electronic items on top, and compact discs beneath. The five-speed automatic transmission includes a manual shift option.

Standard comfort and convenience features include air conditioning, power moonroof, halogen headlamps and front fog lamps, intermittent wipers, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power windows, door locks and keyless entry. The Matrix doesn't come with a roof rack, but the XRS grade includes fixed anchor mounts.

A 12-volt power point and 115-volt inverter at the base of the center stack allow passengers to charge and use electronic devices on the go. The optional navigation system includes a MP3 compatible audio upgrade, with pre-wiring for satellite radio. The $1300 option is most beneficial for buyers who want the enhanced audio capabilities, since aftermarket GPS systems do a adequate job for a fraction of the price.

Redundant volume controls on the steering wheel help the driver to stay focused on the road.  The tilt and telescopic steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag.

A large glovebox includes a storage shelf for the owner's manual: it's roomy enough to stash a purse or small pack at the trailhead. All four doors have map pockets with molded bottle holders.

Versatile Cargo Area

The second-row seats fold flat by releasing knobs on the outboard sides of the seatbacks. The cargo floor has a vinyl surface, which makes it easier to slide big cargo inside: it's also easy to clean. Cargo tracks contain tie-down loops to secure larger items.

A hidden cubby to the left of the liftgate can hold a purse, small pack or first aid kit. The spare and jack are in a compartment under the cargo floor, where they are easy to reach.

Standard Safety

The 2009 model has yet to undergo federal crash tests, but it comes well equipped with active and passive safety features: front, side and side curtain airbags, four-channel antilock brakes, vehicle stability control with traction control, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Base price on the Matrix XRS is $21,850, not including a $660 delivery fee. The new Matrix is available for test drives at Toyota dealerships nationwide.

2009 Toyota Matrix XRS

Likes: A fuel-efficient compact car with a versatile interior, including a large, easy-to-clean cargo floor. The larger engine on the XRS grade adds a welcome power boost, especially when driving in mountainous areas.

Dislikes: Underbody spoilers reduce ground clearance, making it hard to drive the car off-road.

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