DURHAM, N.C. — With five-door compact cars now being positioned as sporty hatchbacks rather than budget wagons, Toyota had to change the mission of the 2009 Matrix. That was no easy task, given that the Matrix is on the same platform as the plain-jane Corolla sedan.
The basics: The new Matrix is a half-inch longer and a half-inch lower than the first generation. The nose of the car is stubby, the greenhouse is narrower and the C-pillar more substantial, giving the new Matrix a hunkered-down appearance.
Powering the base model is a new 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. Unlike the previous generation's one-engine-fits-all strategy, the new Matrix also offers a hotter 2.4-liter four-banger as an option.
The small engine comes with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The larger engine can be mated to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Buyers who want an all-wheel-drive model get a 2.4-liter engine paired with a four-speed automatic.