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#6

in 2009 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $8,293 - $10,611
Original MSRP: $16,100 - $20,875
MPG: 21 City / 28 Hwy
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2009 Pontiac Vibe Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

According to most reviewers, you should turn to the revised 2009 Pontiac Vibe if you want a stable performer, but you'll have to look elsewhere for sporty or thrilling performance.

  • "Although sportier than before, the Vibe still isn't as athletic as the MAZDA3." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Vibe is agile but not flingable, as one might expect from a compact car with sporty pretensions." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The Vibe's all-wheel drive is a plus in the safety department, but it cost me in fuel economy. I got about 22 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving -- a little surprising because the Vibe is a relatively small vehicle." -- Mother Proof

Acceleration and Power

Plenty auto reviews say the Vibe's modified 1.8-liter engine is a better performer than in previous years, but the 2.4-liter engine is a better choice for more spirited driving. On the other hand, several writers note no powertrain combination of the new Vibe is as sporty as some of the class leaders.

  • "What you first notice about the Vibe is that it is quiet and gratifyingly smooth at step-off, although it idles at so few revs -- presumably to save fuel -- that a few embarrassing stall-outs transpire before you get the hang of it." -- Car and Driver
  • "The 1.8-liter engine was peppy and powerful enough for the hills of our test drive route, but the 2.4-liter engine made the car even more fun and pleasurable." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "While we appreciate the silky nature of the Toyota's 2.4L engine, we would have preferred a bit more power than what it had to offer." -- Autoblog
  • "The gearlever snicks readily from gate to gate, though gearchanges could be snappier were it not for the Vibe's lazy throttle action. ... We also drove a base 1.8-liter Vibe with the automatic. With only four forward speeds, each upshift drops the engine too far out of the fat part of its torque curve even in around town driving. Our advice is to stick to the manual gearbox, or upgrade to the larger engine if you need an autobox." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

The 2009 Vibe does not have exceptional road dynamics, but it delivers a competent ride for the affordable small car class.

  • "Despite its taller stance and wagon-like shape, the 2009 Pontiac Vibe drives and handles like a compact sedan." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "On the road, the car's Corolla-based chassis handles bumps and pot-holes adequately and is a bit stiffer than the 2008 model, but this GT is no sports car." -- Autoblog
  • "The new Vibe's ride and handling are pleasant: nothing exciting in terms of cornering power, but nothing harsh or uncomfortable about the ride, either. In general, the Vibe drives like a competent compact sedan -- say, a Toyota Corolla." -- Dallas Morning News
  • "Steering feel is generally good, and lean in corners is well checked. Like the Matrix, Vibe is subject to crosswind wander at highway speeds." -- Consumer Guide

All Wheel Drive

The Pontiac Vibe with all wheel drive transfers up to 45 percent of the car's power to the rear wheels when necessary. For the most part, test drivers had a positive experience with the system in good or bad driving conditions. 

  • "During the foul-weather conditions in which we drove it, the Vibe gripped the curvy, wet roads and took the turns well." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "In good conditions, the system is virtually transparent to the driver. Any different feel you notice on a test drive not done in a blizzard is apt to be caused by the extra weight and not the AWD system." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "Though AWD usually means a car will hold better when the roads are dry, Vibe tends to settle back into economode in corners despite optional...17-inch all-season radials designed for better handling." -- Chicago Tribune

Next Steps: 2009 Pontiac Vibe

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