Full 2010 Pontiac Vibe Review
What's New for 2010
After a thorough makeover last year, the 2010 Pontiac Vibe is unchanged.
The 2010 Pontiac Vibe is based on the Toyota Matrix, which is, in turn, a close relative of the Toyota Corolla. Those are pretty good genes for a compact hatchback to start with, and the Vibe makes the most of them. Sharing most of the Matrix's interior and mechanical components, the Vibe boasts a compliant suspension, intuitive cabin controls and plenty of cargo capacity, making it one of the more compelling choices in this segment.
Compared to its sibling, the Vibe sets itself apart with unique exterior styling, including Pontiac's trademark dual-grille design. Its sheet metal is far more stylish than the typical economy car's, its tall body imbues the cabin with a spacious feel and its convenient hatchback design means you can haul a lot of stuff. This cargo-carrying capacity is one of the Vibe's biggest draws -- it can haul almost as much as some compact SUVs. Yet its fuel economy with the base 1.8-liter engine is still quite good at 28 combined mpg. The Vibe costs a grand or two more than a run-of-the-mill budget hatchback, but its verve and versatility make it well worth the extra coin.
It's worth noting that GM's restructuring process could mark the end of Pontiac. If the brand is axed, this will negatively impact the Vibe's resale value. Still, there's no doubting the Vibe's fundamental goodness. Certainly, you'll want to shop around some -- other good choices include the Hyundai Elantra Touring, Mazda 3 Scion xB, Subaru Impreza and Volkswagen Rabbit. Each of these cars has its own particular set of merits, but for a compact hatchback or wagon offering practicality and style in equal measures, the 2010 Pontiac Vibe stands tall.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Pontiac Vibe is a compact hatchback available in two trim levels -- base and GT -- with different equipment levels depending on the drivetrain. The base front-wheel-drive Vibe comes standard with the 1.8-liter engine, 16-inch wheels, power mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a four-speaker CD audio system with satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack, and not much else. When the 2.4-liter engine is specified on the base model, air-conditioning joins the equipment roster. The all-wheel-drive base model keeps the 2.4-liter engine and adds a sportier independent rear suspension in place of the standard torsion-beam setup, but the equipment list is otherwise unchanged. The GT employs the independent rear suspension and adds a rear spoiler, 18-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded 320-watt Monsoon audio system with MP3 playback, full power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, leather and cloth sport seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel (with audio controls) and shift knob.
Air-conditioning is a stand-alone option on the base model with the 1.8-liter engine. For all but the GT there is the available Preferred package, which provides full power accessories, cruise control and keyless entry. Also available on non-GT models is the Sun and Sound package, which includes a sunroof, the GT's audio system and the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The sunroof is a stand-alone option for the GT. Additional options include a luggage rack and a rear cargo organizer.
Powertrains and Performance
The base 2010 Pontiac Vibe is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. All other Vibes feature a 2.4-liter four with 158 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on all but the AWD, which comes with a four-speed automatic. The latter is optional on the base Vibe. Pontiac upgrades Vibes with the 2.4-liter engine to a five-speed automatic.
Estimated fuel economy with the 1.8-liter engine and four-speed automatic is a respectable 26 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined, but it drops to 21/29/24 with the 2.4-liter and five-speed automatic (20/26/22 with AWD). In track testing, we hustled a Vibe GT with the five-speed auto from zero to 60 mph in a decently quick 8.9 seconds.
The Vibe comes with antilock disc brakes, OnStar, stability control and a full complement of airbags (front-seat side and full-length side curtain). In government crash testing, the hatchback scored a perfect five stars for frontal and front-seat side impacts, dropping to four stars for rear-seat side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Vibe its highest rating of "Good" in both frontal-offset and side-impact crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the Vibe is styled to please, with a visually interesting dashboard layout that is nonetheless eminently user-friendly. A telescoping steering wheel and ample seat-track travel allow drivers of all sizes to get comfortable, and the controls are both intuitive and attractive. In back, the tall, deep bench is inviting for children and adults alike, and it folds flat in 60/40 sections to accommodate up to 49 cubic feet of cargo. The optional rear cargo storage system is a cinch to use and does an excellent job of anchoring grocery bags.
Through the turns, the 2010 Pontiac Vibe is reasonably responsive, particularly on models with the independent rear suspension. While it's not as entertaining as the decidedly sporty Mazda 3, the Vibe GT shines as one of this segment's more engaging choices, thanks in large part to its capable engine. Whether handling road trips or daily-driver duty, this Pontiac is an amenable companion.