2009 Pontiac Vibe
Your thoughts might not immediately turn to the Pontiac Vibe when beginning your search for a reasonably priced crossover SUV
. However, we recommend taking a long look in the Vibe's direction. The 2009 Pontiac Vibe
is better than it's ever been, with a bolder exterior design and more standard features. Its energetic engine and sensible transmission separate its performance from the rest of the pack. The interior space is overwhelmingly practical and the seats are comfortable. The car's optional add-ons could frustrate you though - air-conditioning will set you back $950 and power windows, power locks and the like will also be an additional cost. Extras aside, we think the ease and drivability of the Vibe will win you over.
What's to Like
You've got to give the Vibe credit for being peppy. The steering has very little play to it at low speeds and the car accelerates quickly from a stop. The instrument panel is intuitive, and the passenger and rear seats fold down flat, giving you 49 cubic feet of interior space.
What's Not to Like
Rev the Vibe above 4,000 rpm and the engine sounds raspy. The interior is filled with low-grade plastics, reflective of the price of the car; and the climate control dials look like lids off a peanut butter jar.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Driving the automatic feels comfortable, as if you've owned the car for years. That's not to say it's boring, just lacking in high rev excitement that can be found in competitors. Saying that, off the line the Vibe is quick and around corners, it's surprisingly responsive. This car shines in urban conditions, playing easily with stop-and-go situations. Throw it into the Driver Shift Control, and it adds a fun, but slightly finicky, dimension to the drive. The car's drivability falters at high speeds though, with the lack of feedback in the steering and louder cabin noise. Run it over a rough road and the tough suspension will be apparent.
Engine and Drivetrain
The Vibe is available in a five-speed automatic, with Driver Shift Control, or a standard five-speed manual with a 1.8L VVT-i (variable valve timing with intelligence), four-cylinder engine. The all-wheel drive and GT version have a standard 2.4L four-cylinder engine. This is an option that we'd definitely recommend getting as it produces a viable 158hp and 162 lb-ft of torque versus the 1.8L's 132 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
Compared to the 2008 model, this year's Vibe has some competitive standard features as well as interesting options. If you're an audiophile, try the sun and sound package priced at $1,285. Included in the GT model, but optional in the others, it ups the sound to 320 watts and adds three speakers on top of the standard four. The trunk has a clunky, but handy, expandable cargo area, making grocery bag spills a thing of the past. Tack on an additional cost of $1,070 for the preferred package to get features like power windows, doors and locks, keyless entry and cruise control.
Key Technology Evaluation
One year of OnStar service and 3 months paid XM Satellite Radio come standard in the 2009 Vibe, things that were options in the 2008. An auxiliary input jack for mp3 players is also standard, but the jack is awkwardly placed, inevitably resulting in a wire hanging in front of the climate control dials. A useful feature in the Vibe is the household-style power outlet conveniently located below the instrument panel.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
The Vibe averages a respectable 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway with its 2.4L automatic. If you're looking at the base 1.8L, you'll be getting closer to 25 city/31 highway. It's great that the car can maximize space without being SUV-sized, but its green technology is still pretty limited.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Headroom for those over six feet tall will be a little tight, but legroom is ample and spacious seats support their occupants. For those whose car takes on moving van-like responsibilities, the rear-folding seats are a practical option for you. The instrument panel is clunky looking, but straightforward in its functionality.
No matter how it's photographed, the Vibe looks better in person, as its compact design incorporates angular lines into fluid overall features. A stout signature Pontiac grille and burly rear bumper give it some bite. The GT version has added exterior details such as a roof spoiler and rocker moldings and the all-wheel drive comes with a standard roof rack.
Market Segment and Pricing
At a base price of $15,710, the Pontiac Vibe will appeal to the younger crowd with its features like the standard auxiliary jack, as well as those who want a crossover for a reasonable price. While the accessory costs may dissuade some buyers, the pricing remains within competitive range of rivals like the Toyota Matrix
What We Think
A great car for those who need to feel at ease running errands or commuting to work. The Vibe isn't all peaches and cream though, and its few weaknesses manifest themselves within the pricey optional features and somewhat basic interior. Regardless, this crossover has positioned itself well in its class by providing a solidly performing car available under $20,000.