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1996 Pontiac Sunfire

1996 Pontiac Sunfire
Fun-to-drive starts with what you see.

By Michelle Krebs

Review Pages
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1. Overview
2. Walkaround and Interior
3. Driving Impressions
4. Summary, Prices, Specs

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Overview

Few recent General Motors introductions have been as well received as the new Pontiac Sunfire and Chevy Cavalier.

Completely restyled and re-engineered for the 1995 model year, the two new cars marked the end of a 13-year run for their predecessors. Because of its good sales record, Chevy decided to stick with the Cavalier name. Pontiac, however, decided to drop the Sunbird name in favor of Sunfire. The Sunbird wasn't a strong player, and product planners felt the more aggressive styling of the new car, with its strong hints of Firebird, deserved a name that would reinforce the family ties.

The Sunfire and Cavalier are available as coupes, sedans and convertibles. The Sunfire model lineup consists of the SE coupe (base price $11,504), SE sedan ($11,674), SE convertible ($17,734) and GT coupe ($13,214), which comes with a performance engine and boy-racer appearance. Similarly, the Cavalier lineup includes a pair of 2-door (base coupe and snazzy Z24), two sedans (base and LS) and the LS convertible.

For 1996, both the Sunfire and Cavalier have GM's 2.4-liter Twin Cam 4-cyl. as the optional engine (standard in Sunfire GT and Cavalier Z24), which replaces the previous 2.3-liter Quad 4 engine. It's the same engine, with more displacement and a pair of balance shafts to smooth out vibrations.

In addition, a 4-speed automatic transmission with traction control now is available on all models, and all have standard daytime running lights as well as GM's PASSlock anti-theft system. Remote keyless entry and steering wheel radio controls are available on all models for 1996 as well, and a number of refinements also were made to the ride and steering.

However, the most significant change for 1996 is availability. In 1995, GM's Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant, which makes the Sunfire and Cavalier coupes and sedans, was plagued with startup production problems that limited availability of the cars. Those problems apparently are behind the plant, and the supply of Sunfire and Cavalier models in dealer showrooms should be vastly improved for 1996.


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