2009 Toyota Matrix AWD
2009 Toyota Matrix AWD. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Toyota Matrix

Ottawa, Ontario – While I’m glad to have the Matrix’s Goodyear UltraGrip Performance winter tires, they’re far better suited to hard-packed snow and ice than deeper white stuff, and I suspect these tires wouldn’t be any better in loose snow than a decent set of all-seasons.

The Goodyears are mounted on the Matrix’s optional 17-inch wheels, and their rather wide 215-mm section width and tight tread pattern likely limits this tire’s ability to dig for traction in deep snow. I’d recommend mounting winter tires on a set of dedicated 16-inch wheels and tires in the Matrix’s base 205/55R16 size (a practice known as minus-sizing).

In a straight line, the Matrix’s traction control system works seamlessly. On the snowy side streets in my neighbourhood, a stab of the throttle results in smooth acceleration, with little of the side-to-side sliding you’d get without the traction aid working in your favour. The stability control system is quite effective, but the beeping that accompanies its interventions if the car begins to slide in a turn is annoying.

2009 Toyota Matrix AWD
2009 Toyota Matrix AWD. Click image to enlarge

The stability/traction control system offers two degrees of deactivation: one press of the button disables just the traction control program to allow for rocking a stuck vehicle free. The system re-activates once the vehicle reaches about 40 km/h. Press and hold the button for about five seconds, though, and both stability and traction programs go to sleep. Do this and you can actually have some fun with this car, as it will go into a four-wheel drift given enough open space and an aggressive stab of the throttle.

Despite only offering four ratios, the automatic transmission seems well-matched to the 2.4-litre engine. Unlike many small cars fitted with auto-boxes, this one positively leaps off the line, an effect no doubt amplified by the all-wheel drive system’s traction advantage. Passing power is impressive, too; if you do a lot of highway driving, the 2.4-litre engine might be the better choice in this car than the 1.8-litre found in lesser models.

Aside from giving up a fifth gear ratio in the Matrix AWD compared to the front-drive XR model that also uses the 2.4-litre engine, the four-speed all-wheel drive model also loses the five-speed’s manual shift option. Still, the shift gate is such that manually downshifting from fourth to third for extra engine braking is easy.

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