Compact car; Built in USA
  • 4-door wagon
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $4,000 – $9,500*


2003 Pontiac Vibe


2004 Pontiac Vibe


2005 Pontiac Vibe


Pontiac Vibe interior

Pros:
  • Cargo room
  • Fuel economy
  • Rear-seat room
Cons:
  • Engine noise
  • Instruments/controls (navigation-system operation)

Any example of this Pontiac/Toyota crossover is a good alternative to a small wagon or compact SUV. High utility, good road manners, Toyota-reliable engineering, and available AWD are assets. On the down side, there’s no surplus of power from the engines, which are needlessly noisy. GTs are harsher and high-strung in nature.

Overview

Pontiac’s new crossover compact wagon shared its basic design with Toyota’s 2003 Matrix. Vibes were built in California rather than Canada and differed in styling and features, but they used the same Toyota-sourced platform and 1.8-liter four-cylinder engines.

Vibes came in base trim with front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and in sportier GT form with front-drive only. Front-drive base models had 130 horsepower and either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Engines in AWD models produced 123 horsepower, driving only an automatic transmission. Vibe GTs held a 180-horsepower engine and a six-speed manual gearbox. Unlike the similar Matrix XRS, Vibe GTs were not available with an automatic transmission.

AWD Vibes were not intended for off-roading, and had the same ride height as their 2WD counterparts. Antilock braking was standard on AWD and GT models, and optional for the base 2WD Vibe. GTs included rear disc brakes rather than drums. Front side airbags were optional; curtain side airbags were not offered.

All Vibes had a separate-opening window in a swing-up tailgate, standard 16-inch wheels, fog lamps, tilt steering wheel, CD player, and air conditioning. A household-type two-prong power outlet sat in the dashboard. GTs added alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and special trim.

Front-drive Vibes could be equipped with optional 17-inch wheels. A power window/mirror/lock package, with keyless entry, also was optional. So were antitheft and navigation systems, a sunroof, and in-dash CD changer. Vibes competed against vehicles as disparate as the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Focus wagon, Subaru Forester, and Volkswagen Jetta wagon.

Yearly Updates

2004 Vibe
Vibes entered their second season with a line of dealer-installed appearance and performance accessories available. One of them was a supercharger for 2WD base models, which boosted horsepower to 175. During 2004, output of the GT’s engine dipped from 180 to 170.
2005 Vibe
A tire-pressure monitor joined the standard-equipment list for AWD and GT Vibes. Front and rear styling was freshened for 2005. Leather upholstery and GM’s OnStar communication system now were available.
2006 Vibe
No 2006 changes of significance for the Vibe.
2007 Vibe
Vibe lost its all-wheel-drive and sporty models for 2007. Vibe now came only in base trim with front-wheel drive and 126 hp. Gone is the AWD version and the sporty, 164-hp GT model.
2008 Vibe
The 2008 Pontiac Vibe carried over with no major changes.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

Regular front-drive Vibes used a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produced 130 horsepower, mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. With AWD, the base engine was rated at 123 horsepower. The Vibe GT held a 180-horsepower version of the 1.8-liter (later rated at 170), driving a six-speed manual gearbox.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/109
Engine HP 123-130
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 118-125
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
29/36
28/33
26.6
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 170-180
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 127-130
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual

25/30

24.8

Road Test

Both engines need high rpm to deliver decent power–especially the GT version. In fact, 130-hp models have more usable torque at much lower rpm, and feel almost as strong as the Vibe GT and equivalent Matrix XRS. Pontiac said the base manual-transmission 2WD Vibe needed about 9.5 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph. Heavier AWD models take about 11.5 seconds to achieve that velocity.

Test 2WD models with the 130-hp engine and automatic transmission have averaged 26.6 mpg. AWD versions with 123 hp averaged 25.4 mpg. A Vibe GT with manual transmission averaged 24.8 mpg. Premium-grade gasoline is recommended for the GT; regular for other Vibes.

Ride quality varies somewhat according to model and equipment, but it’s acceptable with 16-inch wheels. AWD models are more jittery over patchy pavement and freeway expansion joints. Optional 17-inch tires increase harshness further yet.

For a relatively tall wagon, the Vibe corners without undue body lean. Handling is good with standard 16-inch tires, and nimble with optional 17s. Gusty crosswinds cause mild wander, but steering is crisp, responsive, and direct. ABS-equipped models have good stopping performance.

Both engines are loud at full throttle and not so hushed in gentle cruising, either. A general mechanical buzz is felt through the seat, steering wheel, and pedals. Wind rush and coarse-surface tire thrum are fairly constant, too.

Although the dashboard design is mostly good, gauges are a bit small and sit within deep, dark tunnels. So, they’re not that easy to see in some daytime conditions and their bright trim rings can reflect in the windshield. Red night lighting is not universally appreciated. Pontiac’s optional navigation system absorbs some audio functions, has undersized buttons, and is overly complex. Cabin finish and materials are sturdy and appropriate for the Vibe’s new-vehicle pricing.

The fine driving position is slightly higher and much more upright than in typical small cars. Front head room is great even with a sunroof, but long-legged drivers might want more rearward seat travel. Seat comfort is good overall, but spirited cornering reveals a lack of lateral bolstering. Outward visibility is slightly cluttered over-the-shoulder, but good otherwise.

Backseat comfort is nothing special, but two adults enjoy good head clearance. Chairlike height allows sufficient knee and foot room, unless front seats are well back. Entry/exit is easy enough, though the lower opening is rather narrow and doors should open wider.

Cargo space is fine for this car’s exterior size. The rear seat folds in an easy one-handed motion, to create a flat load floor. The right front seat also folds to carry extra-long items. Tie-downs are available in the cargo bay, which also has built-in tracks for securing gear. Under-floor bins, slots and pockets provide ample small-items storage.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2004 base Vibe 2WD w/auto.

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 4
40%
Fuel Economy - 7
70%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 5
50%
Quietness - 4
40%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Rear - 7
70%
Cargo Room - 7
70%

Other

Value - 9
90%

Total: 60

Specifications

4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.4 171.9 69.9 62.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
53.2 13.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.6 39.8 41.8 36.3
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.4 171.9 69.9 62.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
53.2 11.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.6 39.8 41.8 36.3
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2003 Vibe 4-door wagon

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: Automatic transmission may shift harshly from 1-2 or may slip or may feel like it goes into neutral, which is caused by metal chips or clutch debris in the accumulator valve or shift solenoids. (2003-05)
Door handles
Description: Door latches may freeze in cold weather and mechanisms should be lubricated with GM Super Lube. (2003-07)
Engine stalling
Description: The engine may not start after running at normal operating temperature or, if it does, may stumble and miss due to a glitch in the powertrain control module. (2005-07)
Oil leak
Description: If an aftermarket air filter, that is wetted with oil, is used it can cause drivability and transmission problems should any excess oil get onto the mass airflow sensor. (2003-04)
Electrical problem
Description: When using a portable music player (e.g. iPod) there may be noise in the car’s speakers whenever the vehicle’s power adapter is used and a ground loop isolator (from Radio Shack) is required between the device and the power outlet to prevent the noise. (2005-07)
None
Description: The plastic lug nut covers tend to fall off and applying a bit of gasket sealer is the suggested method for retention. (2003-05)
None
Description: The oil baffle inside the valve cover is easily damaged if force is used to insert a spout of funnel when adding oil. (2004-09)
Check-engine light
Description: The oil fill nozzles used at some fast lube shops can bend the baffle under the oil fill hole causing engine noise and a possible check engine light. (2003-04)
Interior trim
Description: The cigarette lighter may come out of the dash and replacing the lighter lamp lens improves retention. (2003-04)

Recall History

2002-2004 Vibe
Description: Passenger-side frontal airbag inflator may rupture upon deployment and spray metal fragments at the passenger.
2003-04 Vibe with power windows
Description: The bolts that hold the driver- and front-passenger-door glass may loosen and come off, causing the glass to separate from the window regulator. This may cause the glass to bind and shatter. Dealers will replace the bolts with newly designed bolts.
2005-08 Vibe
Description: The engine control module (ECM) for the subject models equipped with the 1ZZ-FE (LV6) engine and two-wheel drive may have been improperly manufactured. There is a possibility that a crack may develop at certain solder points or on varistors on the circuit board. There are a variety of warnings and consequences associated with the defect. The engine-warning lamp could be illuminated, harsh shifting could result, the engine may not start, or the engine could shut off while the vehicle is being driven. An engine shutoff while the vehicle is being driven increases the risk of a crash. Dealers will inspect the production number of the ECM and replace the ECM if necessary. This service will be performed free of charge.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.