2000 Pontiac Sunfire GT Convertible (287)

Overview:

This 2000 Pontiac Sunfire GT Convertible is more of a mid range car and certainly at the higher end of its closest competitors noted below. The coupe base price is $16,295 as compared to the “Rag Top” at $21,745. That is rather betwixt and between its competition range and the Chrysler Sebring Convertible that I tested the week before.

The Sebring I had, well equipped had a sticker price of $26,560. You’ll notice the $5 grand difference, but moreover the Sunfire is more a scaled down version of the Sebring with a lobbed of rear end.  That was the first thing I noticed and also the first thing I disliked about the car. Not that there was a lot to dislike, but the back end is just to short for my liking. Notwithstanding, it is a worthy contender. 

Since I’ve owned several convertibles (MGB, ’67 Camaro, ’91 Camaro) I tend to notice the structural integrity of convertibles. You know how they twist and feel “loosy-goosy”, well, both this Sunfire and the Sebring are great at making you forget you’re in a convertible when the top is up. They do such a nice job these days mostly because the headliner hides the convertible well. But also, the real glass rear window helps to remove the perception of being in a “Rag Top”. Plexiglas, no matter how good it is, it is still “plastic”.

The visibility is rather poor, which is something they haven’t figured out how to improve. Naturally, if you like the advantages of a convertible top, you’ll live with the poor visibility. But, of course, with the top down, visibility doesn’t get any better. And speaking of top up/ top down, this has a single lever in the center at the top of the window that operates the power top. If memory serves me at all, I recall this auto top works much like the $70,000 Jaguar XK8 that I drove in 1997.

Handling & Performance:

Typical small car zip around town control. It hugs the road much better than I expected from this price car. When my two brain cells think of handling they collide with each other and recall the Acura NSX and the Corvette and the Mercedes Benz E55 all with high tech suspensions that make you feel like you’re on rails. So I was pleasantly surprised with the handling characteristics of this relative “Pee Popper”.

Styling:

I don’t much care for the “Bobbed Tail” look but you can’t please everyone, right? Overall, it has decent lines.

Fit and Finish:

Not bad, but Pontiac tends to be “bulby” so your eye doesn’t tend to notice the seams as much as if the surface were smooth, like the Lexus for example.

Conveniences:

Pretty much manual stuff, like the air conditioning, seats, etc., but enough of it for the money. I prefer automatic transmissions for every day drivers since shifting tends to get tiresome after a bit. On the other hand it reduces the price $810 from the standard 4-speed automatic.

Cost:

Convertibles simply cost more to make but the leap in price from the coupe seems too great. It is also high enough that I’d be encouraged to look at other convertibles like the Chrysler Sebring where the price is not so far removed.

Recommendation:

Look at the Sebring and compare for yourself. The price difference may be small enough to justify the added luxury.

The competition:

Chevrolet Cavalier $13,160-19,830, Dodge Neon $12,490, Ford Focus $11,960-15,380, Honda Civic $10,750-17,545, Hyundai Tiburon $13,999, Mazda Protégé $11,970-15,145, Mitsubishi Mirage $11,757-16,947, Nissan Altima $15,140-20,390, Saturn SL $10,685-12,895, Subaru Impreza $15,895-19,295, Toyota Corolla $12,418-15,068.

Good News:

Standard cloth seats are nice on cold mornings. The 2.4 liter engine is very responsive and with the manual transmission it was better than the larger engine in the Sebring, for example. Nice one lever convertible top control which is quite good for this price car.

Bad News:

Floor mat design problem in that it not only slips when you get in, but when it does the clutch pedal catches on it to screw up shifting. The emergency brake handle is too close to the gearshift. Door pockets are inaccessible to the driver with the door closed. They seem to be there more for the folks in the rear seats.

Standard Equipment:

5-speed manual trans, power steering, power top, cruise control, stainless steel exhaust, dual air bags, power front disc/rear drum ABS brakes, theft deterrent system, rear spoiler, rally aluminum wheels, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, power windows/locks/mirrors, full headliner, stereo with CD player and tilt steering wheel.

Gas Stats:

23 City and 33 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $21,310.

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