- Torquey 2.4-liter engine provides good power in AWD and GT
- Commendable fuel economy
- Roomy hatchback body style
- Difficult visibility due to wide rear pillar
- Quite small cargo area with backseats up
The small-hatchback competition is growing, but with a new look, upgraded powertrains, and bolstered safety features, the new 2009 Pontiac Vibe should be a top choice.
A complete redesign, along with an expanded safety-feature list and more power from a newly available 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is the big news in the 2009 Pontiac Vibe. The base engine is still a 1.8-liter four making 132 horsepower, but the all-wheel-drive and GT models come with the more powerful engine.
Both engines come with a five-speed manual transmission, but a four-speed automatic is optional with the 1.8-liter and a five-speed auto on the 2.4-liter. The all-wheel-drive system that's available on the 2009 Pontiac Vibe is a new electronically controlled system that can send up to 60 percent of power to the rear wheels and now includes the 2.4-liter engine. Fuel efficiency is good, especially with the 1.8-liter engine, which returns ratings as high as 26 mpg city, 32 mpg highway with the manual transmission.
On the outside, the previous Vibe's "ribbed" design has been replaced with smooth sheetmetal. The new look extends to the interior of the 2009 Pontiac Vibe, which is a bit more upscale than the previous Vibe and slightly roomier for passengers, though a little tighter for cargo. Several storage cubbies allow space for odds and ends, and there are now a total of eight cup holders. The Vibe can carry up to five people, though space in the backseat isn't tremendously roomy; four average-sized adults will fit just fine, and the 60/40-split seat folds forward flat to expand the cargo area. And it's easier for the driver to get situated; telescopic steering adjustment is now standard across the line.
The 2009 Pontiac Vibe GT is especially well equipped; it includes a 320-watt Monsoon sound system, plus various sporty styling cues, fog lamps, and a chrome exhaust tip. A rear cargo organizer is offered on all but the base model.
The Vibe has a very extensive list of safety features, considering its low price. All Vibes include front side airbags, side curtain bags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. The federal government has tested the 2009 Pontiac Vibe, but only in side-impact protection, and it earned five stars for the front-seat occupants but four stars in back.