2005 Pontiac Vibe
This 2005 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The 2005 Pontiac Vibe is a good combination of style and practicality. It's roomy and generally fun to drive, although its base engine has mediocre highway performance.
The Vibe is a 4-door hatchback with front- or all-wheel drive and a swing-up tailgate with a separate opening window. It's a "crossover" vehicle, offering attributes of a car, small station wagon and compact sport-utility vehicle. However, the all-wheel-drive system has no low-range gearing for tough off-roading.
List prices range from $16,915 for the entry Base front-wheel-drive version to $20,240 for the Base all-wheel-drive version. The front-wheel-drive $19,890 GT is the sportiest version.
The Base engine is a small 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 123-130 horsepower. Although heavier, the all-wheel-drive version gets 123 horsepower—when it could use at least 130.
The GT has a high-revving, sophisticated hot rod version of the 1.8 four-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower. It would be even better suited to the all-wheel-drive Vibe. However, that engine is from the racy Toyota Celica GTS coupe and really belongs in such a fast, sporty car—not in the economy-oriented Vibe.
A dealer-installed supercharger kit is offered for about $3,000 for the Base front-wheel-drive version and is said to produce about 175 horsepower. The kit is basically for the "fast and furious" crowd, which is better off with the Vibe GT.
Easy With Fuel
The Vibe GT appropriately comes only with a 6-speed manual gearbox, which must be shifted a lot for the best acceleration. One must pay $440 extra to upgrade from 16-inch to 17-inch wheels with wider tires, which should come as standard equipment for the GT, considering its extra power.
The 130-horsepower engine comes with a standard 5-speed manual gearbox or $850 4-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive version of the Vibe only is offered with the automatic transmission.
The best acceleration is gotten with the manual gearbox, but the responsive automatic is the most convenient transmission for most Vibe buyers—slightly more than half of whom are women.
Another new option is $745 head-protecting side-curtain airbags. Also newly available are $700 leather upholstery and the GM OnStar assistance system, which costs $695.
Base Vibes are fairly well equipped, with items including air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD player, power mirrors, a tilt wheel, a split-folding rear seat and fold-flat front passenger seat that allows 8-foot-long cargo when rear seatbacks also are flipped forward.
However, power windows and locks with remote keyless entry cost $850.
Many vehicle buyers insist on a sunroof. The Vibe's sunroof comes in a $840 "Moons and Tunes Value Package" that includes a premium sound system.
The dimensions of the Vibe make it easy to maneuver and park. The power steering is responsive, although it has a rather stiff feel that takes some getting used to. The ride is firm but compliant, although it sometimes becomes a bit jittery with the GT. Handling is nimble and is enhanced by the 17-inch wheels and wider tires. Stopping performance is good, and the brake pedal has a nice feel.
It's easy to get in and out through high, wide doors, which have large, easily grasped handles. The upright front seats are supportive, although the rear bench seat isn't especially comfortable on long trips.
Climate controls are large, but small sound system controls call for excessive driver attention while underway. The cargo area is roomy with rear seats in their normal position, and rear seatbacks easily fold flat to create a large, flat load floor.
The Vibe has proven Toyota components and is an attractive alternative to a compact wagon or sport ute.