Extreme styling!

2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD Review

By Luc Gagné
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD Review

Summary Rating: 66%

Styling

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Accessories

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Space and Access

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Comfort

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Performance

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Driving Dynamics

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Safety

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General Appreciation

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The second-generation Pontiac Vibe is a life-size Hot Wheels. The "extreme" lines of this small wagon are indeed reminiscent of the cartoonish toy cars of our childhood. Such styling is clearly aimed at a specific group of drivers, namely the young and young-at-heart. As a result, Vibe sales jumped 32 percent in 2008. However, this design likely won't age very well due to its radical nature.

The "extreme" lines of this small wagon are indeed reminiscent of the cartoonish toy cars of our childhood.

Early last year, compact hatchback buyers were treated to a completely redesigned Pontiac Vibe -- not to mention its Japanese cousin, the Toyota Matrix. These two cars continue to share platforms and powertrains. Their driving dynamics are also pretty much the same, as are their prices when you compare similarly-equipped models. So, for the most part, my comments about the Vibe also apply to the Matrix.

Of course, we're not talking about identical twins here. Unlike, say, the Chevrolet Aveo5 and Suzuki Swift+, the Vibe and Matrix are styled differently. In my eyes, the latter looks cleaner and better executed due to a more careful approach to design. There's a minuscule glass section inside the C pillars and the rear window seems better integrated, giving the Matrix at least one more point on a scale of 100 compared to the Vibe! (That's a disputable argument, I know...)

All-wheel drive!
My tester, however, clearly stood out thanks to a new all-wheel drive system. That should make the Pontiac quite popular in areas hit by major snowfalls.

The Vibe AWD is pitted against the Subaru Impreza, Suzuki SX4, Jeep Compass and, of course, the Matrix AWD. Both the Vibe and Matrix carry a higher base MSRP than the Impreza (about $500) and Compass ($2,000). Interestingly, Dodge no longer offers the four-wheel drive Caliber R/T.

The Vibe AWD is one of three models in the lineup. Like the GT, it uses a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine that proves much more capable than the 1.8L unit of the base model. With 158 horsepower on tap, my tester also fared quite well in the power department, as said competitors range from 143 to 172 horsepower.

Like the GT, it uses a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine.

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