Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Pontiac Vibe Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Pontiac Vibe Overview

Body
Hip, Hot and Best of All, Affordable

The Pontiac Vibe was introduced last year and almost overnight it has become a success. Its cool styling, sophisticated suspension and powertrains and reasonable price give it a broad appeal across many demographic groups. There are very few cars out there that both a Dad and daughter can look at and say "That car rocks!"

The Vibe is the result of a joint effort between General Motors and Toyota known as NUMMI. Toyota provides the Vibe's engine and platform while GM handles the car's styling and interior. The result is a dynamic small car that has the versatility of a wagon, the interior room and visibility of a small SUV and the handling characteristics of a small sports car.

The Vibe comes in three trims: base, AWD (all-wheel drive) and GT. The base and AWD models use a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that churns out 130 horsepower. The little 1.8-liter engine is a willing participant when combined with the 5-speed manual and front-wheel drive, but it feels taxed when burdened with the added weight of the AWD's extra running gear and standard automatic transmission. Though the Vibe's acceleration is well within the bounds of reason, the extra push you need for passing at highway speeds—especially when the car is fully-loaded—requires you to run the tachometer past the 5000 rpm mark to get the necessary horsepower. Of course, with the 5-speed manual, getting the most out of the 1.8-liter engine is not as difficult and gives you the joyful feeling you're doing more than just steering the car.

The powerhouse Vibe is the GT model. Though equipped with the same 1.8-liter engine, the GT uses a system known as VVTL-i or Variable Valve Timing and Lift with Intelligence that dramatically improves the 1.8-liter's power output. The VVTL-i design allows the engine to breathe much easier thus producing more power while still maintaining minimal fuel consumption; the result is a gain of 50 horsepower over the base engine. The GT also comes with a standard 6-speed manual transmission. While we think you'll love the feel, you will probably notice that the shift lever tends to want to stay in the center of the gearbox, requiring you to pull it toward you when shifting into first and push it away when engaging 5th and 6th; this feeling is exaggerated by the shifter's placement in a pod-like extension of the lower dashboard.

After a few times behind the wheel, you will quickly adapt to the shifter at which point you can really enjoy what the Vibe has to offer. The GT and base Vibe share the same suspension, though the GT does have larger wheels and tires. Both models handle beautifully, with instantaneous feedback from the steering wheel and a level ride devoid of pitching and lean. The GT's engine sounds like a jet turbine winding up for take off. It's a sound you'll come to enjoy making again and again. Driving the Vibe is made easier by its high seating which gives you a great view in all directions. The Vibe's tall roofline also provides excellent headroom (nearly 41 inches) for passengers both front and rear.

As fun as it is to drive, the Vibe also has a practical side. Its short front and rear overhang make it the ideal car for those who struggle with parallel parking. The Vibe's long rear doors allow easy entry and exit for passengers as well as the loading and unloading of cargo. The rear seats employ an ingenious system that allows the seat bottoms to move forward while the seat backs fold flush to create a flat cargo floor; the back of the rear seats are covered by the same plastic that covers the rear cargo floor creating a single durable shelf on which you can pile bikes, luggage or gear.

The Vibe's interior is equally as handsome as its exterior. The driver's seat is height adjustable as is the tilt steering column. The seats themselves are covered in a soft charcoal-colored cloth that also adorns the door panel. The Vibe's dashboard is a modern work of art, with deeply recessed pod-like gauges surrounded by aluminum trim. A really cool feature is the 115-volt outlet that allows you to plug in ordinary household appliances like a laptop computer, a hair dryer or TV. The standard audio system is an AM/FM stereo with CD, which can be upgraded to a DVD-based navigation system/high end audio unit.

Standard equipment on the Vibe includes air conditioning, rear defroster, power mirrors, tilt wheel, fog lamps, 15-inch wheels and a split/folding rear seat. The GT model adds 17-inch alloy wheels, side body cladding, front and rear anti-lock disc brakes, auto headlamps, illuminated entry, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 6-speed manual transmission and a rear-window wiper. Options include a power moonroof, power windows and door locks, cruise control, upgraded audio and front-side impact airbags.

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