Compact car; Built in USA
  • 4-door hatchback
  • transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $8,500 – $13,800*


2009 Pontiac Vibe Front


2009 Pontiac Vibe Rear


2009 Pontiac Vibe Interior


2009 Pontiac Vibe Profile

Pros:
  • Available all-wheel drive
  • Cargo room
Cons:
  • Controls/instruments
  • Noise
  • Ride quality (GT)

Frankly, this wagon comes across as cost-cutting crude in places and is less fun to drive than it looks. Even so, Vibe is a versatile, practical compact. Available all-wheel drive is a nice find in this class. GT models offer sportier moves, but sacrifice too much ride comfort in the process. One potential demerit is the fact that the Pontiac brand has faded into non-existence; but that could actually trigger used-Vibe prices downward to tempting levels.

Overview

Close kin to Toyota’s Matrix, the 2003-2008 Pontiac Vibe was a compact wagon with front-drive or all-wheel drive. For 2009, the Vibe was redesigned with freshened styling, more power, and new features. This season also saw the return of all-wheel drive and sport-themed models. Vibe was a four-door wagon that shared its basic design with the also-redesigned 2009 Toyota Matrix.

The 2009 Vibe was almost identical in size compared to the prior generation. Front-drive models were offered in base and GT trim levels. Also available was the AWD Base wagon. Base 1.8 versions had a 132-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Base 2.4, AWD Base, and GT models got a 158-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder. On the base and GT, a five-speed manual transmission was standard. A four-speed automatic was optional on the base 1.8 and standard on AWD versions. A five-speed automatic was optional on front-drive Vibes with the 2.4-liter engine. Standard safety features included antilock brakes, traction control, an antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front side airbags. GM’s OnStar assistance also was standard. All Vibes had 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks. An available pop-up cargo organizer provided divided storage compartments and bag hooks. Rivals included the Chevrolet HHR, Chrysler PT Cruiser, and Dodge Caliber.

Yearly Updates

2010 Vibe
Largely unchanged for 2010, the Vibe was destined to disappear soon. General Motors chose to phase out the Pontiac brand by the end of calendar 2009. Therefore, 2010 would be the Vibe’s final (abbreviated) model year before fading away.

Engines

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

Two engines have been available in the Vibe. Base 1.8 models contain a 1.8-liter, 132-horsepower four-cylinder engine, working with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Other models get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that generates 158 horsepower, teamed with a five-speed manual, four-speed automatic, or five-speed automatic transmission, depending on model. All are front-drive except the AWD model, which has the 2.4-liter engine and four-speed automatic.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 132
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 128
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

26/32

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 132
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 128
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic

25/31

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/144
Engine HP 158
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 162
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

21/28

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/144
Engine HP 158
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 162
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic

20/26

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/144
Engine HP 158
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 162
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

21/29

20.5

Road Test

With manual shift, at least, the base 1.8-liter engine offers adequate acceleration. The 2.4-liter engine is noticeably stronger from a stop, with better-than-average merging and passing punch. The manual transmission has smooth shift action and a light clutch. The automatic transmission shifts smoothly and is downshifts quickly for added thrust.

Fuel economy could be a bit better. A test GT with automatic transmission averaged 20.5 mpg-a little disappointing for a front-drive compact car. An AWD model averaged 28.8 mpg in mostly highway driving. All Vibes use regular-grade gasoline.

Base models with 16-inch wheels exhibit good bump absorption over most road blemishes.

In GT trim, Vibe has 18-inch wheels and a sport suspension, which tend to magnify imperfections even on pavement that looks smooth. As a result, the ride is “busier” than it should be.

Base Vibes are competent handlers, but not really sporty. The GT is more agile, yet not as amenable to spirited driving as one might expect of a compact car with sporty pretensions. Steering feel is generally good in both models. Like Toyota’s Matrix, Vibe is subject to crosswind wander at highway speeds.

Neither engine is a paragon of refinement. In fact, both grow loud and coarse under heavy throttle, though they cruise fairly quietly. Wind and road noise intrude at highway speeds.

Gauges are buried in tunnel-like housings, and their red markings can be difficult to read in some light conditions. Climate controls are large and handy, but a few audio functions are less obvious and slightly out of reach.

As in Toyota’s Matrix, the interior is dominated by hard-plastic surfaces. Climate-control dials move with coarse resistance. Not all testers have considered the silver-painted dashboard appropriate, even in this price class.

Inside the Vibe, the cockpit-inspired cabin design imparts a slightly closed-in feel. Legroom and headroom are fine. Visibility is generally good, but the view aft is compromised by thick pillars.

Headroom and legroom in the back seat are sufficient for two adults, but knee space is tight. That seat is too firm for long-trip comfort.

Split-folding rear seatbacks and (if installed) the available flat-folding front passenger seat provide versatile cargo-carrying options. The available cargo management system is worth seeking out in a secondhand Vibe, as it offers numerous options for keeping smaller items from rolling around; included are a pop-up “cage,” segmented under-floor storage bins, and shopping-bag hooks. Cabin storage includes a generously-sized glovebox.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2010 Pontiac Vibe 2.4 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 - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 5
50%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 5
50%
Quietness - 4
40%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 5
50%
Cargo Room - 7
70%

Other

Value - 6
60%

Total: 51

Specifications

4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.4 171.4 69.5 61.0
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
49.4 13.0 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.5 39.4 41.6 36.2
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2009 Vibe 4-door hatchback

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

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

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Rear Passenger Injury - 4
80%

HLDI

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

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

Trouble Spots

Doors
Description: The driver’s side storage compartment latch fails and a stouter design cover and latch assembly was released. (2009)
Manual transmission
Description: Harsh downshift from second to first gear when coming to a stop requires reprogramming the powertrain control module. (2009)
Wheels
Description: The center caps pop out of the wheels and redesigned caps are available that need not be glued in place. (2009)
Paint/body
Description: Paint on the edge of the spoiler chips due to hitting the liftgate. (2009-10)

Recall History

2009-10 w/ 1.8-liter engine
Description: For certain vehicles sold in specified states, when driving under unique conditions in extremely low ambient temperatures, intake manifold suction port for brake vacuum can become locked due to freezing of condensation; could lead to increased stopping distance.
2009-10
Description: Sliding surface of friction lever inside accelerator-pedal sensor assembly may become smooth; if condensation occurs, as from heater operation when pedal assembly is cold, friction of pedal operation may increase, making pedal harder to depress, slower to turn, or possibly even stuck in partially depressed position.
2009-10
Description: Accelerator pedal on some vehicles could stick in wide-open position, due to being trapped by an unsecured or incompatible driver’s floor mat.

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.