2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD

Economy meets utility

2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
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It has become abundantly clear that we are a society that doesn’t accept compromise. Love TV, but hate commercials? Tivo your favorite shows and watch them whenever you want. Can’t decide between three side dishes at Denny’s? Get em’ all!

FAST FACTS

1. While the Vibe AWD does come standard with the larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder it is only available with a four-speed automatic, while a five-speed is offered on the GT model.

2. For 2009 the Vibe is all-new with a vastly improved design that is certainly much sportier than its predecessor.

3. While the Vibe might be able to boast a 26/32 mpg (city highway) rating, that is for the 1.8-liter version. The 2.4-liter engine does 21/28 mpg and AWD model we tested manages just a 20/26 mpg rating.

The same holds true for cars. Driving an SUV has become socially akin to smoking in a restaurant, minivans are boring, station wagons are too 1986, and sedans aren’t big enough to carry an entire family and their baggage. So what is a person to do? Enter the crossover.

The crossover was designed to be the ultimate automotive non-compromise, allowing for the capability and utility that most people enjoy from a minivan or SUV but also the handling and driving characteristics of a car. Plus, they are better on gas than SUVs, so your neighbors with the dreadlocks who wear Birkenstocks all year round may stop giving you dirty looks every time you drive by.

The Vibe is the mechanical sibling of the Toyota Matrix and is based on the Toyota Corolla's E-platform. For 2009 the Vibe is all-new and offers an updated appearance and better performance. “With the 2009 Vibe, we knew we wanted to take everything we liked about the original and push it to the next level - more power, more style, more versatility,” said Craig Bierley, Pontiac’s Marketing Director, before adding, “It has the interior room and cargo capability expected of a larger SUV, but with the precise handling characteristics you would expect from any Pontiac.”

AWD VIBE ONLY AVAILABEL WITH 4-SPEED AUTO

While access to the Vibe begins at $16, 265, my loaner was the AWD model, which in addition to adding a great deal of traction and stability, also drastically raised the price to $21,110. The AWD trim hasn’t been seen on the Vibe since 2006 and considering the price it’s not hard to see why. Another huge strike against this particular model is that it is only available with a four-speed automatic transmission.

The base powerplant for the new Vibe is a reworked DOHC 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 132 horsepower and 128 ft-lbs of torque. The GT and AWD models get a DOHC VVT 2.4L inline-four putting out 158hp and 162 ft-lbs of torque. The acceleration was surprisingly peppy but came at the cost of poor fuel economy.

The base Vibe with the manual has excellent fuel economy with a 26/32 mpg (city highway) rating. The larger engine also has reasonable numbers with a 21/28 rating. My AWD tester, however, wasn’t even close to its 20/26 EPA rating – making it a most inefficient choice.

Both the base and AWD models ride on 16-inch wheels and tires, with the option of 17-inch rims, while the Vibe GT comes with 18-inch alloy wheels. Like it’s stable-mate, the

REDESIGN: FROM A WAGON TO A SPORT-LOOKING HATCH

Matrix, the '09 Vibe has all-new styling and a revised interior. "The new Vibe's design is sporty yet completely functional," with, "clean lines, minimal overhangs and wheels pushed to the corners give the vehicle a muscular stance," said Chief Designer Ron Aselton. These changes certainly worked as the Vibe/Matrix is far more aesthetically pleasing than the first generation. The Vibe now looks like a sporty hatchback, rather than a raised station wagon. Many potential owners will also find comfort in the standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability and traction control, a tire-pressure monitor and six airbags throughout the cabin.

GRIPES: STIFF SUSPENSION AND PLASTIC TRUNK FLOOR

In terms of ride quality, it seems as though the engineers took the sporty aspect of the Vibe too far. Sure the car corners nicely but the suspension setup is just too firm. Bumps in the road not only result in cabin noise, they also made me feel like I was on the jilted end of a teeter totter. In addition to that gripe, I must point out that the cargo area and rear seat backs are made entirely of plastic. As a result, anything you place in the trunk that isn’t inherently grippy will get tossed around a lot. This wasn’t a constant issue mind you - just whenever I happened to accelerate, brake or turn. The seats do however fold down to offer a large loading area if you have more possessions to move than passengers.

PLUS

Powerful 4-cylinder
All-wheel drive stability
Sleek new look

MINUS

Four-speed automatic transmission
Plastic interior throughout
Harsh, noisy ride

THE VERDICT

The 2009 Pontiac Vibe is economical, easy to park and big enough to carry a small family and their stuff. It offers a competitive base price and plenty of standard features. When it comes down to it, the Vibe is a utilitarian device for moving people and their things. My suggestion would be to go with the economy version or check the GT box and avoid the AWD version unless you absolutely need it.

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