Full 2008 Pontiac Vibe Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Pontiac Vibe remains unchanged.
Making inexpensive and practical transportation cool is not an easy task, somewhat akin to asking the president of a high school math club to get freaky at a hip-hop dance club. But unlike President Poindexter, though, the 2008 Pontiac Vibe manages to be both smart and edgy at the same time.
When it debuted five years ago, the Vibe was one of the first entries in the tall, sport compact wagon segment. Combining SUV, minivan and compact sport sedan themes, it featured qualities such as an elevated driving position, generous passenger room, a versatile cargo area and sporty design. Impressive fuel economy along with an easy-to-handle price tag furthered this Pontiac's allure.
The Vibe also benefited from good family genes. A platform twin to the Toyota Matrix, the Vibe's running gear and most of its cabin design is from Toyota, which bodes well for long-term reliability and durability. The exterior styling is where the two differ, and to our eyes the Vibe is the more handsome of the two with its chiseled lines and distinctive trademark grille as opposed to the Matrix's bland nose and bulbous body.
Being shorter than the typical compact sedan, the Vibe is a snap to parallel park and maneuver in tight spots. Also driver-friendly is the "command of the road" view out the windshield afforded by this Pontiac's taller seating design. The upward architecture with its elevated seating makes for a spacious cabin, especially for rear-seat passengers. The cargo area is versatile too, with a plastic load floor that can be quickly wiped clean, along with a fold-flat front passenger seat that allows long items to be carried inside.
Though the 2008 Pontiac Vibe is now one of the oldest compact wagons in terms of design, we feel it's still a good choice. Rivals such as the Chevrolet HHR, Dodge Caliber, Mazda 3 and Scion xB share many of the Vibe's attributes, most notably remarkable space-efficiency. All have their strengths -- the Chevy boasts cool retro styling, the Caliber offers all-wheel drive, the Mazda is known for its sporty handling and the redesigned Scion has edgy youth appeal -- but the Vibe makes no apologies here. Even now, in the twilight of its lifecycle, the 2008 Pontiac Vibe offers an appealing mix of practicality, affordability and fun.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Pontiac Vibe is a compact, five-passenger wagon that comes in a single trim level. Standard features include 16-inch wheels, air-conditioning, a CD player and tilt steering. Most buyers will probably want the optional Preferred Package, which provides full power accessories, cruise control and keyless entry. There's also the Sun and Sound Package with a sunroof and an upgraded audio system. Spring for both and you're eligible to order OnStar as well. Other options include leather seating, satellite radio, 17-inch alloy wheels and a Sport package (which includes a monochromatic paint scheme, 16-inch alloy wheels and an in-dash six-disc CD changer).
Powertrains and Performance
A 1.8-liter 126-horsepower four-cylinder mated to either a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic is the Vibe's lone engine choice. With the manual gearbox, acceleration is respectable as long as you don't mind winding the engine up past 4,000 rpm. With the automatic, off-the-line punch is softer but otherwise acceleration is satisfactory. Though it's smooth, the engine can get a bit noisy when kept on the boil, however. Fuel economy is excellent, with the more realistic 2008 estimates putting it at 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway for manual transmission-equipped models. (The automatic is a few mpg less.)
Virtually all the latest safety features can be had on the 2008 Pontiac Vibe, though they will cost you extra. Front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, stability control and antilock brakes are all optional. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the Vibe earned a perfect five stars in frontal-impact testing for the driver and four stars for the front passenger. Side impact testing (with the optional airbags) by that agency resulted in five stars for the front and four stars for the rear.
Interior Design and Special Features
Spicing things up inside the Vibe are chrome-ringed gauges and metallic accents. When not providing roomy seating for passengers, the 60/40-split rear folds completely flat to offer 54 cubic feet of usable cargo space. Increasing the capacity further is a folding front passenger seat that allows long objects to be transported inside, a 115-volt A/C power outlet and a durable plastic cargo floor with adjustable tie-down anchors. All displays and controls are simple and intuitive, including those for the often-used climate control and audio systems. Build quality is also excellent, as most of the interior bits and pieces are sourced from Toyota.
Although the 2008 Pontiac Vibe's handling isn't as entertaining as that of the decidedly sporty Mazda 3, it is responsive and composed. Body roll is minimal and turn-in is fairly crisp. A supple ride makes the Vibe a good companion whether handling commuting duty or road tripping, and freeway cruising is unstrained at higher speeds.