2004 Pontiac Vibe
This 2004 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The Pontiac Vibe has been one of the best small utilitarian vehicles since its introduction as an early 2003 model, although its base engine has lacked punch for good highway performance.
That drawback can be eliminated with a new dealer-installed supercharger package. There's also a new Sport Package that makes the Vibe look sexier.
The Vibe is generally fun to drive and is targeted at younger drivers. Approximately 53 percent of Vibes are bought by women, who arguably have a better eye for practicality than men.
The Vibe is billed as a "crossover" vehicle that has attributes of a car and small sport-utility vehicle. It's basically a tall, roomy compact wagon. Fairly trim exterior dimensions with short body overhangs help make the Vibe easy to maneuver and park. It only has a 102.4-inch wheelbase and is 171.9 inches long.
This Pontiac is offered with front- or all-wheel drive and basically only differs from the Toyota Matrix in styling and features.
However, the supercharger package boosts horsepower to 170. Offered only for the base front-wheel-drive Vibe and supplied by General Motors, it's expressly designed for the Vibe and has a good warranty. The package is priced at $2,995, with dealer installation costing extra.
However, that package requires the $325 Premium Monotone Appearance package, which has color-keyed body-side cladding bumpers and trim.
Better handling and an even sportier look are provided by $825 17-inch aluminum wheels with wider (50-series) tires.
The all-wheel-drive version comes only with the automatic transmission. It's 275 pounds heavier—and thus slower—than the 2,701-pound base front-wheel-drive version, although nobody will run you over if you avoid the fast lane on highways.
Hot Rod Version
The GT is for car buffs who like to race through the gears with a high-revving engine. While fun on highways or back roads, the GT can be a pain in town. The supercharger package thus is a strategic option for the Vibe, although it's fairly costly.
Anti-lock brakes cost $500 for the base front-wheel-drive version, but are standard on the other two versions of the Vibe. Other safety items include $575 front-seat side airbags. Side-curtain airbags aren't available.
Even the base front-wheel-drive Vibe is fairly well equipped, with such items as air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD player, dual outside power mirrors and a tilt steering wheel.
Occupants sit upright, but not high as in some crossover vehicles, despite that generous headroom. The general impression is being seated in a high car. Why not raise the seats a little?
Front seats provide good support, and the driver has a substantial "dead pedal" on which to rest his left foot. That's a small item, but it makes driving on long trips more comfortable—and also helps let a driver brace himself when zipping through curves.
Power window controls are nicely positioned on the driver's door. Small sound system controls are put above large climate controls, which are notchy. There's too much engine noise during hard acceleration, but the interior is otherwise quiet. Cupholders are substantial, and there's a decent amount of storage areas.
The Vibe has strong Toyota engineering going for it, and it's more stylish than the Matrix. All-wheel drive is an alluring feature to some folks, and the supercharger option gives the base engine a lot more punch. There's much to like here.