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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Pontiac Vibe Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Pontiac Vibe Overview

Pontiac's Hip, Hot Hatchback

The Vibe is an important car for Pontiac, representing a concerted effort by GM's performance-oriented division to regain a major part of the youth market. With the Grand Am aging fast and the much-loved Firebird no longer in existence, it falls on cars like the Vibe to hold down the fort until the next generation GTO and convertible coupes make their way to the showroom floor. That the Vibe shares much of its interior and mechanical layout with the Toyota Matrix is no secret; the two were designed and built in a joint venture between GM and Toyota. What is surprising is just how well the Vibe wears its Pontiac-inspired sheet metal. From its split-nostril grille to its racy five-spoke wheels, the Vibe screams Pontiac from every angle.

The Vibe is offered in only one body style, that being a five-door wagon. Actually the Vibe isn't really a wagon, nor is it a hatchback; it's a combination of the two that for the time being defies categorization. Pontiac says the Vibe is in its own individual segment, and that's a definition we feel is as good as any we could offer. Outside of its twin at Toyota, you really won't find anything quite like it anywhere else in the market.

There are two Vibe models to choose from: the base and GT. Each has its own engine and transmission and varying options that help differentiate one from the other. The base Vibe rides on a front-wheel drive platform and is powered by a peppy 130-horsepower 1.8-liter engine. When combined with the five-speed manual, the base Vibe proves quite a fun ride, with good off-the-line acceleration and enough power to move you to 70 mph with little fuss. After 70, the engine begins to lose steam, requiring frequent downshifts to perform passing maneuvers.

The Vibe also offers the option of four-wheel-drive. This feature greatly improves the Vibe,s already excellent traction, and may prove particularly attractive to those who have to deal with snow on a regular basis. The Vibe's four-wheel-drive system is permanently engaged, employing a viscous-coupling center differential that routes power to the rear wheels should the front begin to slip. Once traction is regained, the system reverts back to front-wheel drive. You should note that Pontiac offers the four-wheel-drive Vibe only with an automatic transmission, so though you gain a lot more grip, you lose some driving fun.

An interesting option offered on the base Vibe is a supercharger kit being produced by GM's in-house SPO division. The supercharger option can be added on by your dealer and is said to increase horsepower by nearly 35%. We have not had a chance to drive a supercharged Vibe, but we'll keep you posted once we lay our hands on one.

If you don't want to go the supercharger route, then we recommend the Vibe GT. Though the GT's engine carries the same 1.8-liter displacement as the base model, its advanced variable valve timing (VVTi) and modified heads conspire to produce a potent 173-horsepower; the base five-speed is replaced by a slick six-speed manual. Pontiac claims that the Vibe GT can run the 0-60 mph sprint in about 8 seconds and we can confirm that once the tach climbs over 5000 rpm, the Vibe GT goes like nobody's business. You will find that although the GT's engine has plenty of go, it needs to be reved high before you feel the bulk of the engine's power.

On the road, you'll find that the Vibe rides and handles like a small sports car. The steering response is direct and linear, with no trace of torque steer. The Vibe is tightly sprung, so it does not lean, roll or pitch like a tall wagon, yet somehow it returns a pleasantly smooth ride. The GT gets bigger wheels and tires and a stiffer suspension that somewhat diminish the aforementioned ride, but greatly improve the vehicle's ability to round corners at high speeds.

Inside, the Vibe is loaded with visual eye-candy, from the pod-mounted center shifter to the cool aluminum dash trim and glowing orange instrumentation. The driver's seat is height adjustable as is the steering wheel, making it easy for drivers of all shapes to find a comfortable perch. The Vibe's long rear doors make it possible to exit and enter without bumping into the doorframe and there is a good deal of real useable space behind the second row seat. One really nice feature is the flush folding passenger seat that can double as a level work place to layout your lunch or just make room for your surfboard.

The Vibe's tall roof provides excellent head room both front and rear and even six footers will find they are welcome. When not being used to haul people, the Vibe's rear seats can be folded flush to form a large flat floor; the backs even have protective plastic moldings so you won't have to worry about ruining them.

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