2006 Pontiac Vibe

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2004 Pontiac Vibe

This 2004 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

The Vibe gets significant power and appearance improvements.
Pros:
  • New power-boosting supercharger
  • Utilitarian
  • Generally fun to drive
Cons:
  • Lazy on highways with base engine
  • Occasional jerky ride
  • Noisy engines

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.

Roomy
There's plenty of room for four tall adults. The spacious cargo area can be enlarged via fold-down rear seatbacks and fold-down front passenger seatback. Headroom is towering, and it's easy to get in and out, although lower rear door openings are rather narrow.

This Pontiac is offered with front- or all-wheel drive and basically only differs from the Toyota Matrix in styling and features.

Horsepower Boost
The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 130 horsepower for the base front-wheel-drive Vibe and 123-horsepower for the all-wheel-drive version. This engine is fine in town, but gets lazy above 65 mph.

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.

Sexier Look
The $1,890 Sport Package has front and rear fascia extensions, side rocker panel extensions and two spoilers. The Vibe looks sporty to begin with, so this package is a definite cosmetic plus.

However, that package requires the $325 Premium Monotone Appearance package, which has color-keyed body-side cladding bumpers and trim.

Popular Extras
Popular options include the $1,150 Power group package with remote keyless entry, cruise control and power windows and locks. The power glass sunroof package includes a premium sound system. There's also a navigation system with a trunk-mounted 6-disc CD changer and 100-channel XM satellite radio.

Better handling and an even sportier look are provided by $825 17-inch aluminum wheels with wider (50-series) tires.

Affordable
The front-wheel-drive base Vibe is affordable at $16,485. The all-wheel-drive version costs $19,785 and isn't for off-road use. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, while a responsive 4-speed automatic is an $850 option for the base front-wheel-drive Vibe.

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
You'll more than hold your own in the fast lane with the hot rod $19,435 GT version of the Vibe. It's sold only with front-wheel drive and a rather notchy 6-speed manual transmission. Its 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine has 173 horsepower and is from the racy Toyota Celica GT-S coupe.

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.

Fuel Stingy
Estimated fuel economy is good—in the mid to high 20s in the city and in the low 30s on highways. No economy figures are yet available with the supercharged engine, but they should be good or Pontiac wouldn't offer a supercharger for this model.

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.

Good Roadability
Steering is quick enough, and the rather firm suspension is supple, although it allows a jerky ride on some roads. The brake pedal has a progressive feel, and stopping distances are OK

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.

Missing Markings
It's a style thing, but speedometer and tachometer markings are offset, as in a race car. For example, the 80 mph speedometer mark is where 60 mph would be on conventional speedometers. Also, some speedometer markings are missing, such as those for 30, 50 and 70 mph. Nobody cares about speedometer markings on race tracks, but they should all be there in 10-mph increments for driving on public roads.

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.

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BB01 - 7/27/2014 10:21:43 PM