The 2009 Pontiac Vibe is a new, second-generation design that shares most of its mechanical parts with the Toyota Matrix. The Vibe is more refined, visually cleaner and appears to have more equipment for the money than its predecessor. The lineup features an array of models with a choice of engines and all-wheel drive making the Vibe attractive to a variety of drivers. It's a logical, flexible compact that should appeal to everyone from high-schoolers to empty nesters.
Virtually every component on the 2009 Vibe is new or heavily revised. The standard 1.8-liter engine is more powerful and efficient than its predecessor, and a larger 2.4-liter is available. An all-wheel-drive version is available and, like the engines, this particular system has been proven in hundreds of thousands of vehicles. Given Toyota's engineering history these cars should prove reliable and cost-effective.
The new 2009 Vibe is larger than last year's model, though at 172 inches it is still a reasonable size and makes good use of the real estate occupied. It will carry four people, five if some are kids. It can carry pets, the occasional wakeboard or even a mountain bike with the front wheel off.
All Vibes use regular unleaded fuel and rate at least 20 mpg in the city. The 2.4-liter AWD and the GT push 30 mpg on the highway, while the 1.8-liter engine and five-speed manual gets an EPA-rated 26/32 mpg City/Highway. We preferred the five-speed manual with the 1.8-liter, which made it fun to drive and responsive, but we preferred the 2.4-liter with the five-speed automatic.
One could argue the Vibe is an alternative to compact hatchbacks (Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, VW Rabbit), the short van/big hatchbacks (Mazda5, Kia Rondo), small crossovers (Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage/Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue), and all the other little runabouts less easy to categorize (Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevy HHR, Dodge Caliber, Scion xD, Suzuki SX4). Some of those may be faster, bigger, or less expensive than the Vibe, but the Vibe represents a good balance of all and will fill many needs without many expenditures.
The 2009 Pontiac Vibe is offered three ways: Vibe, AWD, GT.
The base Vibe uses a 1.8-liter engine and five-speed manual gearbox and includes cloth upholstery, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, AM/FM/CD stereo compatible with MP3/WMA files, input jack and XM satellite radio, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, electroluminescent gauges with tachometer, power mirrors, intermittent wipers, stability control, engine immobilizer, and 16-inch steel wheels. Options include air conditioning ($950), six-speaker radio upgrade, preferred package ($850) with power locks and windows, keyless entry, and cruise control; smoker's package, and cargo cover. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional ($850). The 2.4-liter engine is optional ($400) and can be ordered with a five-speed automatic ($1050).
Vibe AWD (all-wheel drive) comes with the 2.4-liter engine and a four-speed automatic because it is integral with the drive system; it also comes with an independent rear suspension and larger rear brakes. Options include the preferred package ($1,070) with power locks and windows, keyless entry, cruise control, and variable intermittent front and rear wipers; the Sun & Sound package ($1285) with moonroof, 320-watt Monsoon sound system, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter; fog lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, and antitheft system.
Vibe GT uses the 2.4-liter engine and five-speed manual. Rear brakes are larger yet, the wheels 18-inch alloys, the suspension is firmed up a bit, and it gets sportier seats, features like power windows/locks and cruise control, more aggressive bodywork, fog lamps, and rear spoiler. GT options consist of five-speed automatic transmission ($1050), sunroof ($700), antitheft system ($295); cargo cover and engine block heater.
Safety features on all models include front airbags, front side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, antilock brakes with brake assist, tire pressure monitors, and daytime running lights.