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The 2006 Pontiac Vibe blends performance, practicality and affordability into a tastefully styled, but still fun sport wagon package. Here's one Pontiac that hits its mark.
Comfortable ride, unique features, roomy backseat, versatile cargo area, good gas mileage, available stability control.
All-wheel-drive version is sluggish, Toyota's version likely to have better resale value.
Available Vibe Models
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Not much changes for the Pontiac Vibe in 2006. The optional DVD-based navigation system has been discontinued, while leather seating is a new item on the options list.
The Pontiac Vibe blends the handling of a small sedan with the practicality of a five-door hatchback. It's geared toward young buyers who want a stylish, practical vehicle but don't need or want a gas-guzzling SUV. Related to the Toyota Matrix, the Vibe is a jointly developed vehicle that shares most major components with its Japanese cousin.
At just 171 inches long, the Pontiac Vibe is slightly shorter than your typical compact sedan, but its body is taller and wider, which gives it a more spacious and functional interior. The rear seats fold completely flat to open up just over 54 cubic feet of cargo space, while the durable plastic load floor offers adjustable tie-down points via built-in floor tracks. The front-passenger seat also folds flat to function as an impromptu work table for the driver or to aid in loading longer items. Drivers sit higher in the Vibe than in most sedans but not so much as to make entry and exit a chore as in many SUVs.
Red backlit gauges with chrome-trim rings highlight a sharp-looking instrument panel, while the rest of the interior features straightforward climate controls, a well-placed stereo for easy access and even a 115-volt outlet for plugging in electronic devices. The Vibe's sporty looks are backed up by a well-sorted suspension that delivers a comfortable ride around town and responsive handling. Front-wheel drive is the standard layout, but all-wheel drive is available for negotiating the roads during inclement weather. The top-level GT version offers optional 17-inch wheels and tires for the performance-minded buyer in addition to its standard six-speed manual gearbox and peaky 170-hp, four-cylinder engine.
Lesser models make do with a detuned version of the GT's engine -- performance isn't as lively but most buyers will find the power band more user-friendly. Capable competitors like the PT Cruiser, Impreza, and Mazda 3 share many of the Vibe's attributes. The Vibe doesn't quite match any one of those vehicles in its specific areas of expertise, but it does offer a well-rounded package that delivers a little bit of everything without sacrificing practicality or fun. Add in the unique interior features and multiple drivetrain configurations, and the 2006 Pontiac Vibe certainly makes a strong case for itself as an attractive yet practical sport wagon that won't break the bank.
The four-door, five-passenger Pontiac Vibe comes in three levels of trim: base, AWD and GT. Without any options added, all three are pretty frugal in terms of standard features. Every Vibe comes with air conditioning, CD audio, tilt steering and 16-inch wheels (alloys on the GT). Potential buyers should seriously consider getting the Preferred package as it adds power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; and keyless entry. There's also a Sun and Sound package with a power sunroof and an upgraded audio system. Order both, and Pontiac will throw in OnStar. For 2006, Pontiac has also made leather seating available as part of a new Premium package. Other Vibe option choices include satellite radio, an exterior-enhancing Sport package and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Pontiac Vibe has two different engines available. Base models come with a 1.8-liter, 130-horsepower four-cylinder mated to either a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic. All-wheel-drive versions come with the automatic only, and due to different exhaust routing, make just 122 hp. Top-of-the-line GT models get a 170-hp version of the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder and a standard six-speed manual transmission; an automatic is not available on the GT.
Seat-mounted side airbags for front occupants and full-length side curtain airbags are optional across the line. ABS brakes are standard on AWD and GT models, and optional on the base model. GT models also gain standard four-wheel disc brakes. For added security, stability control is offered on base models equipped with the automatic transmission. In governmental crash tests, the Pontiac Vibe earned a perfect five stars in frontal-impact testing, five stars for side impacts involving front occupants and four stars for side impacts involving rear occupants.
The Pontiac Vibe features an interior that is both stylish and functional. Chrome-ringed gauges and metallic dash trim spice things up in front, while in back, the 60/40-split bench seat provides roomy accommodations for adult passengers and folds completely flat to create 54.1 cubic feet of usable cargo space. Other useful features include a front-passenger seat that folds flat for carrying extra-long items, a 115-volt AC power outlet for plugging in household devices and a completely flat cargo floor with adjustable tie-down anchors.
The Pontiac Vibe offers an elevated driving position that affords a great view of the road, but the ergonomics can be a bit awkward for some. The handling isn't particularly sporty but it is responsive, while the ride quality is smooth and comfortable on a day-to-day basis. Acceleration from the base motor is a bit sluggish, especially with the added weight of the all-wheel-drive system, but the GT is fast for a compact wagon, provided you're willing to take advantage of its higher-strung engine.
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