2008 Pontiac Vibe Review

Consumer Reviews
1 Review
The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 5, 2008

With especially reliable Toyota bones and a style that's still quite fresh after five years, the 2008 Pontiac Vibe is worth a look.

As the new-car experts at TheCarConnection.com assembled this review on the 2008 Pontiac Vibe, they consulted with a number of review sources. And to further help you make a smart decision, TheCarConnection.com's editors have included their impressions from driving the Vibe.

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.

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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.


2008 Pontiac Vibe


With the 2008 Pontiac Vibe, consumers are buying an older, but still attractive, overall design.

The styling of the 2008 Pontiac Vibe is getting a bit long in the tooth, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com still praise it for being a distinctly Pontiac take on the traditional wagon design.

The exterior styling of the 2008 Pontiac Vibe, which Edmunds describes as "a compact, five-passenger wagon that comes in a single trim level," first debuted five years ago, but it still earns respectably high marks in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Cars.com reports that the Pontiac Vibe features "a sleek wedge profile and short overhangs," and overall, they feel that the Pontiac Vibe "displays basic styling cues that suggest an SUV." Car and Driver mentions that the 2008 Pontiac Vibe has a "sporty appearance," and while much of the design and architecture is shared with the Toyota Matrix, Automobile says "a double-kidney grille and cats-eye headlamps lend a Pontiac face to the Vibe." Edmunds reviewers also contend that, between the Pontiac Vibe and the Toyota Matrix (which shares its mechanicals), "the Vibe is the more handsome of the two with its chiseled lines and distinctive trademark grille."

The interior of the 2008 Pontiac Vibe wins praise from reviewers, although a few more complaints arise here as well. Edmunds appreciates that "the upward architecture with its elevated seating makes for a spacious cabin," while Kelley Blue Book reviewers note "inside, the Vibe is loaded with visual eye-candy." That eye candy includes "chrome-trimmed gauges in the driver-oriented cockpit" that Cars.com says "feature the traditional red Pontiac backlighting." On the negative side, ConsumerGuide mentions that the Pontiac Vibe's "smallish, deep-set gauges aren't easy to read in some light conditions," and they also point out "the navigation system absorbs some audio functions, has undersized buttons, and is overly complex."

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2008 Pontiac Vibe


The 2008 Pontiac Vibe won't win any drag races, but you can happily speed by gas stations beckoning thirstier vehicles.

The 2008 Pontiac Vibe boasts a sporty and aggressive exterior, but the bite on the Pontiac Vibe's engine simply doesn't come close to matching the visual bark.

All 2008 Pontiac Vibes come equipped with "a 1.8-liter 126-horsepower four-cylinder" engine, according to Edmunds, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the Pontiac Vibe is significantly underpowered. Although Edmunds reports "acceleration is respectable as long as you don't mind winding the engine up past 4,000 rpm," other reviewers aren't so nice. ConsumerGuide reviewers say that the Pontiac Vibe's "small engine needs high rpm to deliver any sort of power," but even then, "passing punch is mediocre at best." As far as enthusiast drivers are concerned, Kelley Blue Book warns that "fun is conspicuous by its absence, particularly with the deletion of the 170-hp engine option last year."

The Pontiac Vibe is also available with one of two transmission choices; Edmunds states that these are "a standard five-speed manual transmission" for those who like to shift for themselves or "an optional four-speed automatic." ConsumerGuide contends the "automatic transmission is smooth but has to shift frequently." Edmunds adds that "with the automatic, off-the-line punch is softer" than the already-slow manual. With the standard manual, Car and Driver reviewers lament the "poor pedal placement."

Fortunately, both transmission options offer impressive fuel economy, especially for a car that is as practical as the 2008 Pontiac Vibe. Edmunds says that "fuel economy is excellent" on the Pontiac Vibe, and the official EPA estimates for the automatic transmission are 25 mpg city and 31 mpg on the highway. With the manual, those numbers inch up, to 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. ConsumerGuide manages to exceed those numbers, with one of their test Pontiac Vibes averaging "a frugal 36.3 mpg in mostly highway use."

What the 2008 Pontiac Vibe lacks in off-the-line acceleration it manages to atone for when it comes to handling. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are impressed with the Pontiac Vibe's road manners, and ConsumerGuide says "for a tall wagon, Vibe corners without undue body lean." Kelley Blue Book reviewers love that "the steering response is direct and linear, with no trace of torque steer," and also offer praise for the "pleasantly smooth ride." Edmunds finds that "a supple ride makes the Vibe a good companion whether handling commuting duty or road tripping." However, most reviewers note that braking without the ABS isn't ideal, and ConsumerGuide remarks "the optional ABS is a purchase we strongly recommend."

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2008 Pontiac Vibe

Comfort & Quality

Excellent storage room and build quality, especially for a GM vehicle, are the highlights on the 2008 Pontiac Vibe.

The 2008 Pontiac Vibe is proof that small cars can pack an impressively spacious cabin inside their tiny dimensions. The Pontiac Vibe doesn't stop there, however, as Pontiac designers have carved out a well-built, comfortable, and functional interior for the Pontiac Vibe.

According to Automobile, the 2008 Pontiac Vibe boasts a "relatively spacious cabin that will hold five adults." Most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com might disagree with the "five adults" assertion, but even ConsumerGuide reports that "two adults enjoy good head clearance" in the backseats, while the "chairlike height affords sufficient knee and foot room unless the front seats are well back." Aiding overall comfort for rear passengers is the fact that the Pontiac Vibe's "long rear doors make it possible to exit and enter without bumping into the doorframe," according to Kelley Blue Book. For occupants sitting in the front bucket seats, ConsumerGuide points out that the Pontiac Vibe offers "great headroom even with the sunroof, but long-legged drivers may want more rearward seat travel." Speaking of headroom, Automobile claims that, with "40.6 inches up front, 39.8 inches out back," the Pontiac Vibe "beats some luxury cars." Seat comfort isn't bad either, though ConsumerGuide warns "spirited cornering reveals inadequate side bolstering."

The small exterior of the 2008 Pontiac Vibe also hides quite a bit of cargo space, and because of that, Car and Driver reviewers declare the Pontiac Vibe's "utility index is relatively high." Cars.com is impressed that "both the front passenger seat and the 60/40-split backseat fold flat, creating a level, easy-to-clean plastic load floor for cargo up to 8 feet long." With just the rear seats folded, the Pontiac Vibe is able to "offer 54 cubic feet of usable cargo space," says Edmunds, and even with all the seats up, Kelley Blue Book finds that "there is a good deal of real useable space behind the second row seat." ConsumerGuide also loves that "the liftgate includes a handy separate-opening window," and inside the cabin of the 2008 Pontiac Vibe they note "small-item storage is ample."

One area where many consumers may be surprised to find the Pontiac Vibe scoring well is in terms of overall quality. The consensus in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com is that the 2008 Pontiac Vibe is incredibly well put together. Edmunds points out that build quality is "excellent, as most of the interior bits and pieces are sourced from Toyota." Automobile also reports that because the 2008 Pontiac Vibe "is based on the Toyota Matrix, it has the kind of tight panel gaps and quality fits and finishes that few other GM products have." ConsumerGuide adds that the Pontiac Vibe's "cabin finish is good, and sturdy materials are in line with prices." Other reviews praise the materials as well, and Kelley Blue Book in particular loves the "stylish aluminum dash trim."

Unfortunately, the 2008 Pontiac Vibe's excellent build quality can't mask the ever-present road noise. ConsumerGuide considers the noise level "disappointing," noting "there's constant, marked wind rush and coarse-surface tire noise." Car and Driver also cites the significant "roof-rack wind noise" as one of the Pontiac Vibe's low points.

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2008 Pontiac Vibe


In the 21st century, consumers shouldn't have to check options boxes to add anti-lock brakes or side airbags to cars like the 2008 Pontiac Vibe.

Today's safety-conscious consumers have come to expect several features to be standard equipment on the vehicles they buy, whether that vehicle is a $12,000 Chevrolet or a $150,000 Mercedes-Benz. Unfortunately, many of those safety features that have become virtual necessities are not standard on the 2008 Pontiac Vibe, and the lack of certain airbags shows in crash-test ratings.

The 2008 Pontiac Vibe has not yet been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has had the opportunity to test the Pontiac Vibe both with and without the optional side airbags. The difference is noticeable in the crash-test results, as a Pontiac Vibe without additional airbags scored only three stars in the NHTSA side driver impact test, while a test conducted with the side airbags boosted the score to a perfect five-star rating. The side passenger rating is four stars whether the airbags are included or not. In terms of front impact protection, the 2008 Pontiac Vibe earns a perfect five-star rating for front impact driver protection, and the NHTSA also awards the Pontiac Vibe four out of a possible five stars for front impact passenger protection. Despite its tall stance, the 2008 Pontiac Vibe also scores a respectable four stars in the rollover category.

The crash-test ratings for the 2008 Pontiac Vibe certainly aren't terrible, but many reviews read by TheCarConnection.com take exception to the fact that, as Edmunds puts it, "major safety features are available as options only." According to ConsumerGuide, those optional safety features include "antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, side-impact and side curtain airbags, and GM's OnStar communication system." ConsumerGuide adds that the only standard safety features available on the Pontiac Vibe are "dual front airbags" and "daytime running lights."

Fortunately, driver visibility is a safety plus on the 2008 Pontiac Vibe. ConsumerGuide reviewers are quick to point out that the Pontiac Vibe's "fine driving position" affords outward visibility that is "slightly cluttered over the shoulder, good otherwise." Edmunds confirms that opinion and praises the "'command of the road' view out the windshield afforded by this Pontiac's taller seating design."

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2008 Pontiac Vibe


The 2008 Pontiac Vibe is more basic than buyers might expect, but it offers options like satellite radio.

The 2008 Pontiac Vibe offers a few compelling options, but overall, the standard and optional features list is very lackluster.

The 2008 Pontiac Vibe comes in only one trim level, and as such, all vehicles with the Pontiac Vibe label sport the same standard features. Kelley Blue Book lists some of those standard features as "air conditioning, rear defroster, illuminated entry, fog lights," and "automatic headlamp control." ConsumerGuide adds that a "split folding rear seat, power mirrors," and "AM/FM/CD player" come standard on the 2008 Pontiac Vibe. Also on the standard features list is a unique item that most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com appreciate: a "console-mounted 115-volt outlet" that Kelley Blue Book says "allows you to plug in accessories without the need for a 12-volt adaptor."

The options list on the Pontiac Vibe isn't very lengthy, and it mostly centers on package items, but it includes several features worth mentioning. Among the most noteworthy are "lots of options for audio junkies," according to Car and Driver, which ConsumerGuide says include a "Monsoon sound system" and "AM/FM radio w/in-dash 6-disc CD changer." Edmunds reviewers cite as one of their favorite options the "optional Preferred Package, which provides full power accessories, cruise control and keyless entry." From the stand-alone options list, Kelley Blue Book states that consumers can opt for "XM Satellite Radio" and a "power glass sunroof," along with "17-inch alloy wheels" for those who want to add a little more flair to their Pontiac Vibe. Bluetooth, iPod connectivity, and a navigation system are unavailable for the 2008 model year, though GM’s OnStar service is offered.

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a small station wagon with unsurpassed utility. I put everything from household furniture to an old 36-inch non-flat screen TV into the back, and it swallows everything ! I get 28 miles to the gallon on... + More »
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