Jeep Renegade is the newest entry in the burgeoning small compact crossover...
2003 Pontiac Vibe
When Pontiac first revealed the Vibe, it did it with slam poets describing the vehicle's appeal. If you don't know what a slam poet is, you're probably not in the target market for the Vibe GT, although you still may be a customer for the entry-level model.
Innovative and interesting, the Vibe was built in response to research into what the youth market wants in a vehicle in the early years of the 21st Century. So this five-door hatchback has a roomy interior, a creative cargo-carrying system and even a standard 110-watt electrical outlet so occupants can plug in a laptop computer or video game unit. Speaking of those laptops, GM used the Internet to let potential customers name the Vibe's colors, which include Lava, Satellite and Envy.
For those who want a sport compact but don't want to do all the work themselves, Pontiac offers a Vibe GT model. There's also an all-wheel-drive version.
But regardless of the buyer's age or model chosen, the Vibe may offer the best of at least two automotive worlds: it was conceived by General Motors but is built with Toyota components and assembly standards. (Toyota did its own exterior styling for the Matrix, its version of the car for the North American market. However, for the Japanese market, Toyota simply sells right-hand-drive versions of the Pontiac-styled Vibe as the Toyota Voltz. See separate review of the Toyota Matrix at nctd.com.)
Three models are available: The base Vibe ($16,900), the Vibe GT ($19.900) and the Vibe AWD ($20,100).
The base Vibe is amazingly well equipped with air conditioning, a CD player, a two-prong household-style power outlet (as well as two standard automotive power outlets), the rear cargo track system with adjustable tie-down anchors, a height-adjustable driver's seat and a rear hatch that features a glass window that can be opened without having to open the entire hatch. A 130-horsepower four-cylinder engine is adequate to the car's basic transportation tasks.
The Vibe GT is a factory-built sport compact with a 180-horsepower engine and a six-speed manual transmission. It also gets four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, 16-inch cast alloy wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The Vibe AWD is powered by the same engine as the base Vibe, but it produces only 123 horsepower and is available only with an automatic transmission. But it has an independent double-wishbone rear suspension and standard anti-lock brakes.
With so much standard equipment, the option list is brief, but you'll want anti-lock brakes ($500) on the standard Vibe, and you should consider the Moon and Tunes value package ($500) that includes a power glass moonroof and 200-watt audio system and the power group value package ($600) that includes power locks, windows, rear hatch release, cruise control and remote keyless entry. A four-speed automatic transmission (standard on the Vibe AWD) is available on the base Vibe ($800). Other options of note include 17-inch wheels ($800 on the base model and $400 on the GT) and in-dash six-CD changer, which is available as a stand-one option ($300) or which comes as part of a DVD-based navigation system ($1,600).