2003 Pontiac Vibe GT (404)

Overview:

This week we’ll look at the 2003 Pontiac Vibe GT sport utility. New entrants usually draw a lot of attention and especially when they are unique and different.

You may know that the Vibe was developed in a joint venture between GM and Toyota, so the Vibe is mechanically identical to the Toyota Matrix. Styling however is a bit different with Vibe being the bolder. The other competitors noted are truly more station wagon like. Folks who like SUV styling and convenience, but want more economy will  find the Vibe a great match. I would even go so far as to say the Vibe will be considered as an alternative to the likes of Jeep Liberty and Ford Escape even though the Vibe falls somewhere between a small SUV and a station wagon.

I’ve heard it said that “Two heads are better than one, even if they are both cabbage”. Well, it seems getting GM and Toyota together may have developed a better SUV for the times. I predict these will sell well.

General Info:

Parts –  USA

Assembly –USA

Class:  – Compact

Cars: – Aztek, Bonneville, Firebird, Grand Am, Grand Prix, Montana, Sunfire, Vibe.

Handling & Performance:

Fun to drive. A good town car and very capable on the open highway where it is comfortable and smooth. Very SUV like with the advantage of getting upwards of 10 mpg better mileage than a full size SUV and about 4-5 mpg more than the smaller Liberty and Escape.

The engine in the GT is 180 hp but you can also opt for a 130 hp version of the Vibe. Also, the GT only comes with a 6 speed manual transmission.

Styling:

Bold and gutsy which seems to be a new trend by car makers who are breaking away from the “Boorrring” batch of computer generated clones we’ve had to endure over the past couple of decades.

Fit and Finish:

Good in this price range and class.

Cost:

Good and all those noted here are but a freckle apart in cost. Personal preference will be the distinguishing factor more than dollars in the market share battle of the makers.

Consumer Recommendation:

Limited number of competitors so you should test drive them all. But check out the Jeep Liberty and the Ford Escape as well for a better comparison. As for me, in this grouping I’d go for the Vibe. But I would look hard at the Liberty and Escape.

The Competition:

(6) Pontiac Vibe $16-20,000, (5) Chrysler PT Cruiser $16-23,000, (2) Ford Focus Wagon $17-18,000, (1) Mazda Protege5 $16,000, (3t) Subaru Impreza Wagon $17-23,000,        (3t) Toyota Matrix $15-19,000.

* – ranking is based on cost, cu ft, number of features, warranty and gas mileage.

   

Matrix                                      Vibe

Good News:

Great addition to this segment of the market, Jointly developed with Toyota, built in America, distinctive styling, fun to drive, good on the road.

Bad News:

Engine noise in cockpit, shifter not as crisp and clean as it could be.

Standard Equipment:

1.8 liter inline 4 cylinder 180 horsepower engine, 6-speed manual transmission, power moon roof, 200 watt audio system, power windows, door locks, remote keyless entry and cruise control.

Gas Stats:

21 City and 28 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $19,340.

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