- Versatile layout
- Easy to maneuver and park
- Smooth ride
- Lacks enough power for hills or full loads
- Noisy interior
- Interior materials feel cheap
- Safety features are expensive options
With especially reliable Toyota bones and a style that's still quite fresh after five years, the 2008 Pontiac Vibe is worth a look.
The Pontiac Vibe is a tall hatchback (or wagon, depending on your perspective) that's closely related to the Toyota Matrix and based on the Toyota Corolla sedan. The 2008 Pontiac Vibe is carried over with no changes, as it will be replaced in early calendar-year 2008 with a completely redesigned 2009 model.
The 2008 Pontiac Vibe is available in only a single model for 2008. It's powered by a 126-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, with the choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic. All Vibes have front-wheel drive; the all-wheel-drive model was discontinued after 2006.
With either transmission, the engine has just enough power to keep up with traffic and feel somewhat perky. But with a full load or in hilly terrain, it feels somewhat underpowered. Fuel economy is a plus, though; with the manual, the 2008 Pontiac Vibe is rated at 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway.
The 2008 Pontiac Vibe has a simple but proven small-car layout, with struts in front and a torsion-beam axle in back; front disc and rear drum brakes provide stopping power. The suspension is firm but soaks up most roughness from the road, and handling is more direct and responsive than small SUVs.
Inside, the 2008 Pontiac Vibe is more spacious than its small-car footprint might suggest. In front, there's a low but upright seating position that affords a decent view out and around the vehicle, making parking quite easy, and in back, the seats can accommodate adults with enough headroom, though legroom can be tight. The seats fold forward to a large, flat cargo floor that's made of easy-to-clean plastic and has built-in tie-downs. The window opens separately from the hatch, which some may find handy.
Standard equipment on the Vibe includes air conditioning, a CD sound system, and a useful 115-volt AC power outlet. But other items that are now commonly standard, such as power windows and cruise control, are optional on the 2008 Pontiac Vibe. Major options, many of which are grouped into packages, include alloy wheels, upgraded audio, power windows and locks, a sunroof, and an alarm system. XM Satellite Radio is available as a stand-alone option, but neither an iPod interface nor a Bluetooth hands-free interface is available.
Safety features don't come easy on the 2008 Pontiac Vibe. Front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes are all optional on the Vibe, and electronic stability control is only offered as an option, with automatic transmission. In federal crash tests, the Pontiac Vibe earned good four- and five-star ratings for frontal impact, but only three- and four-star ratings for side impact. With the optional side airbags, the Vibe's side performance improved to a straight four stars.