The Car Connection Pontiac Vibe Overview
The Pontiac Vibe was a compact five-door hatchback model sold from 2003 to 2010. Through two generations, it was a twin of the Toyota Matrix under the skin, although no sheetmetal was shared between the two vehicles and the Toyota always garnered higher prices--both new and used--despite its essentially identical running gear and mechanical components.
The first-generation Vibe was launched in the summer of 2002 as a 2003 model. Its basic running gear shared elements of the high-volume Toyota Corolla, as well as the Toyota Matrix, but it offered an unusual feature for a compact hatchback: optional all-wheel drive. Three models of the first Vibe were offered: a base trim level, the all-wheel-drive mid-level version, and a sportier Vibe GT model at the top end of the range.
The base engine was a 132-horspower 1.8-liter Toyota four-cylinder, with a standard five-speed manual gearbox and an optional four-speed automatic transmission. The sporty GT model used a more powerful 164-hp version of the same engine, fitted with a six-speed manual transmission. The Vibe was slightly restyled for 2005, after just two years on the market, and both the all-wheel-drive model and the Vibe GT were dropped for 2007.
The second-generation car debuted late in 2007, offering a new and more powerful 2.4-liter engine and the return of both the all-wheel-drive option and the GT model. But the new Vibe launched (as a 2009 model) right into the teeth of the economic recession in the middle of 2008. It was to have a short life, as the redesigned Vibe was almost immediately caught up in the 2009 bankruptcy of General Motors. The government-backed restructuring plan for GM involved selling or killing four of its eight brands, Pontiac among them.
Vibe production ended in August 2009, though the car stayed in production long enough for a handful of 2010 models to be built--making it Pontiac's sole 2010 model. (The joint GM-Toyota plant in Fremont, California, where it was made now builds Tesla Model S electric cars.) Toyota moved assembly of its Matrix from California to Ontario, Canada, where it stayed in production and was sold in the U.S. for a full five years--from 2009 through 2013.
Like its Toyota siblings, the Pontiac Vibe was never among the most fuel-efficient cars in its segment. The first 2003 Vibe with the standard engine and five-speed manual was rated at 28 mpg combined, which dropped to 25 mpg with the automatic transmission. The second-generation 2009 model retained the 28-mpg rating for the base model, but an optional 2.4-liter engine fitted with the automatic fell to a dismal 22 mpg combined.