What's New for 2000
Redesigned front and rear fascias for a sportier appearance, a new five-speed manual transmission and the availability of the premium Monsoon audio system lead Sunfire's upgrade list for 2000. There are also restyled rocker-panel moldings, new wheels and exterior colors, as well as a revised instrument panel cluster, floor console and upholstery.
Pontiac's Sunfire is poised to take on the Cavalier, Escort ZX2, Neon and assorted import compacts by offering value, sporty styling and capable performance in a well-rounded package. Wearing revised front and rear fascias with integrated lamps, Sunfire is available as a coupe or sedan SE (base) trim, and as a coupe or convertible in the GT (uplevel) series.
Dual airbags, ABS and an anti-theft system are standard equipment. Base models come with a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine. Power is rated at 115 horsepower, and can be fed through the standard five-speed manual or optional three- and four-speed automatics. GT models get a slightly larger 16-valve four-cylinder, good for 150 horsepower. The GT's 2.4-liter, twin-cam motor is optional on the SE, and we highly recommend it, particularly mated to this year's new, smoother-shifting Getrag five-speed manual transmission.
Equipped with the bigger engine and a stick shift, a Sunfire is downright speedy when compared to other four-banger compacts. The automatic raises acceleration times by about a second in the dash to 60 mph. Options on the Sunfire include sharp new alloy wheels, a power sunroof and a variety of uplevel sound systems, including the 200-watt Monsoon unit. Equip an SE Coupe to the gills, watch the price soar to the mid-18s, and suddenly Sunfire isn't such a hot deal. But fiddling with the options sheet should land you a sporty, well-equipped coupe priced at around $16,000.
The move to more aggressive-looking fascias and rocker-panel moldings was intended to boost Sunfire's image with young buyers. That goal also fueled the move to better sound systems, as well as improvements in interior functionality, features and storage space for things like compact discs or cassettes. And Pontiac even adds a racy decklid spoiler (optional on sedans).
Our only complaint about driving the Sunfire is that when it is pushed to its limits, it tends to exhibit an excessive amount of body roll, especially the heavier convertible version. We think the ragtop and GT models should offer a more sporting suspension to back up the car's sporty looks. On the plus side, all the well-equipped models we've tested so far carried an affordable price tag.
We think the Sunfire has what it takes to succeed in the crowded compact marketplace. Feature for feature, Sunfire makes a strong argument against purchasing its slightly larger stablemate, the Grand Am, or its more pedestrian twin at Chevy dealers, the Cavalier. If you're interested in a Sunfire Convertible, this'll likely be you last chance, as it is rumored to be dropped later this year. But even if you're left to choose from only the coupe or sedan, the Sunfire deserves a look.