Sporty/performance car; Built in USA
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door coupe
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $9,000 – $18,500*


2006 Pontiac Solstice


2006 Pontiac Solstice


2006 Pontiac Solstice


2006 Pontiac Solstice

Pros:
  • Acceleration (GXP)
  • Ride (base model)
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Turbo lag
  • Cargo room
  • Control layout
  • Engine noise
  • Driver and passenger seats

Dynamically capable and emotionally evocative, Solstice entered the market as a worthy competitor for the Mazda MX-5. Overall, it matches Mazda’s roadster for performance, handling, and style–though not for practicality or powertrain punch. Of course, its uninspired engine performance, budget-grade interior materials, lack of refinement, and compromised ergonomics won’t matter much to buyers who love the idea of an affordable, fun-to-drive American sports car. The turbo GXP is notably faster, but otherwise suffers the same drawbacks as the base Solstice.

Overview

Pontiac introduced its first true sports car for 2006: a four-cylinder, two-seat competitor to Mazda’s MX-5 (Miata). The Solstice roadster shared its new rear-wheel-drive architecture with the Saturn Sky, which arrived later–for the 2007 model year. Solstice had first been seen as a concept car at 2002 auto shows.

Solstice roadsters had a manual-folding soft top with a heated glass rear window. Sole engine was a 177-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder, shared with several General Motors compact cars. A close-ratio five-speed manual transmission with “short throws” was standard. A five-speed automatic arrived as an option later in the model year.

Weight distribution was close to 50/50, front/rear. Motorcycle-inspired gauges and race-inspired sport bucket seats greeted the Solstice driver, who faced a rake-adjustable steering wheel.

Four-wheel disc brakes and 18-inch alloy wheels were standard. Antilock braking, power windows and door locks, cruise control, and air conditioning were optional. Other options included a limited-slip differential, leather upholstery, satellite radio, and GM’s OnStar communications system. Side airbags and an antiskid system were unavailable.

Additional Solstice competitors included the Mini Cooper convertible, and even the more costly Honda S2000.

Yearly Updates

2007 Solstice
A high-performance GXP edition joined the 2007 lineup. Equivalent to the Red Line version of the new-for-2007 Saturn Sky, the GXP used a 260-horsepower turbocharged engine. Antilock braking, power windows and locks, leather upholstery, and cruise control were standard on the GXP and optional for the base Solstice. An antiskid system was standard on the GXP, but unavailable for the base model. The GXP featured specific suspension tuning. Side airbags remained unavailable on any Solstice model.
2008 Solstice
Newly standard on all Solstices were OnStar assistance and a “premium acoustic headliner” designed to reduce engine and road noise in the cabin.
2009 Solstice
A 2-passenger coupe with removable roof panel joined the lineup for 2009. A midyear addition was the Street Edition with the base engine along with leather upholstery, sport suspension, and polished alloy wheels. A wireless cell-phone link was newly available.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

Only a base-model Solstice was offered in 2006, with a 177-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Either a five-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic could be installed. Launched for 2007, the high-performance GXP held a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produced 260 horsepower, offered with either transmission.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/145
Engine HP 177
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 166
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
20/28
22/26
20.8

Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 260
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 260
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
22/31
21/29

Road Test

Acceleration is generally satisfying in base form, stronger yet from the GXP. Slow-to-rev but fast to turn coarse, the standard four-cylinder is no high-performance engine. Still, Solstice is quick enough off the line to lend credence to Pontiac’s claim of 0-60 mph acceleration in 7.0 seconds–with either transmission. Expect plenty of pep for most needs, though highway-passing power is modest. The turbo delivers strong power after an initial delay for turbo lag. Automatic transmissions elicit no real penalty. The manual gearbox’s shifter has positive throws, but less-than-fluid engagement.

Fuel economy is about on par for a small sports car. Regular Solstices averaged 23 to 25.2 mpg in mostly highway driving. In city/highway driving, a manual-shift model averaged 20.8 mpg. An automatic Solstice averaged 18.1 mpg in mostly city runs. Pontiac recommends premium-grade fuel for both engines.

For a sports car with 18-inch tires, the Solstice is impressively compliant and composed over most bumps. No float or wallow occurs on high-speed dips and swells, though the ride gets “busy” on rippled freeways–jiggly on wrinkled pavement at highway speeds. Solstice suspensions are tuned slightly tauter than the Saturn Sky’s but the difference is hard to detect. The GXP’s sport suspension is tauter yet and transmits somewhat more impact harshness.

Pontiac hits the mark for sporty fun, especially in GXP form. Responsive steering provides just the right degree of road feel. Quick and well balanced through turns, the Solstice maintains good grip, even in bumpy corners–though large bumps can upset the GXP. Solstices are also confidently stable at highway speeds and in strong crosswinds.

Engines get buzzy or boomy, depending on rpm–loud enough to drown most tire noise. No high-tech engine sounds here, and the buzzy exhaust note is a constant companion. Top-down wind rush challenges conversation. Test cars have had some panel squeaks, plus annoying top-up wind whistle from side windows due to poor sealing.

Basically spartan, the dashboard holds simple, easily accessed controls–but some are awkward to reach in the tight cockpit. Gauges sit in deep tunnels and have overstyled graphics, making them hard to read even in daylight. For some drivers, they may be obscured by the steering-wheel rim. Impractical cupholders demand an awkward rearward reach. Frequently-touched cabin surfaces are padded, but decor is otherwise dominated by hard plastic, thin-feeling panels.

Tighter for six-footers than Mazda’s MX-5, the Solstice offers acceptable leg space and good top-up headroom. Larger occupants may want more shoulder room. Shorter drivers will find the seating position quite low, but there’s good lateral and lower-back support, despite absence of lumbar adjustment. Low seats also make entry/exit a chore. The double-hump rear bulkhead obstructs vision over the shoulders and rearward for shorter drivers, and the top-up view to the sides isn’t great–though the rear view generally beats most convertibles. The top cannot be lowered or raised without getting out of the car to manipulate the folding mechanism, rear-roof pegs, and trunklid.

Cargo space is meager at best. The fabric top lowers into the trunk, which has a lid hinged at the rear, leaving room for little more than a briefcase. Top-up, there’s enough space for one large golf bag or two small ones. Top-down, most usable volume is sacrificed. Precious little interior small-items storage space is available, even by sports-car standards.

Ratings

Model Tested: Pontiac Solstice (base) w/manual

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 - 6
60%
Fuel Economy - 6
60%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 9
90%
Quietness - 2
20%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 0
00%
Cargo Room - 1
10%

Other

Value - 5
50%

Total: 43

Specifications

2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
95.1 157.2 71.3 50.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
5.4 13.6 2
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.5 42.8
2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
95.1 157.2 71.3 50.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
5.6 13.6 2
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.5 42.8
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2006 Solstice 2-door convertible

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 4
80%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
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

Air conditioner
Description: There may be a growling or buzzing noise when the A/C is on caused by either loose A/C compressor bolts, the evaporator tube rubbing on the dash or a buzzing thermal expansion valve (early production). (2006-08)
Air conditioner
Description: The air conditioning may vary with vehicle speed, getting warmer the faster you go, requiring a more efficient A/C condenser. (2006-07)
Engine stalling
Description: Intermittently, the engine may not start, may start and die or may have long crank times due to twisted terminals in the fuse block connector under the hood. (2006-08)
Keys
Description: The key may be hard to remove from the ignition and an improved lock cylinder is available. (2006-09)
Vehicle noise
Description: The shifter may rattle against the trim ring requiring the trim piece be glued in place. (2006)
Convertible top
Description: Numerous problems with the convertible top include a top that does not seat properly to the car body, rattling from the trunk when stowed, water leaks at the rear window, and/or difficulty raising or lowering the top. (2006)
Convertible top
Description: The convertible top may not go all the way up or may not stow properly because the drive link socket comes loose. (2006-07)
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. (2006-07)
None
Description: Fluid may leak from the rear differential requiring the original vent cap be replaced with a vent hose. (2006-07)

Recall History

2006-07
Description: The rear axle pinion seal may experience a fluid leak. Dealers will replace the pinion seal.
2008
Description: Seatbelt stud fasteners may break in the event of a crash and may not restrain the occupant as intended, increasing risk of injury to the occupant. Dealers will inspect the studs and, if necessary, remove the stud and install a bolt.

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.