Used 1996 Pontiac Sunfire Coupe

1996 Pontiac Sunfire
List price range
1996 Pontiac Sunfire

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

Pontiac has a winner here. The Sunfire is poised to take on the Neon, Cavalier, Escort and import compacts by offering excellent value, sporty styling, and reasonable performance in one well-rounded package. For 1996, Sunfire is available in coupe, sedan and convertible body styles.

Dual airbags and ABS are standard equipment on the Sunfire. Base models are powered by a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine that was carried over from the old Sunbird. GT models get a twin-cam motor good for 150 horsepower. The twin cam is optional on the SE, and we highly recommend it, particularily mated to a five-speed transmission. However, one benefit of the automatic is the standard traction control system that comes with it.

Equipped with the twin cam and a five-speed manual transmission, the Sunfire is downright speedy; about as quick as the Neon Sport Coupe and Escort GT. The automatic raises acceleration times by about one second in the dash to 60 mph. Options on the Sunfire include sharp alloy wheels, a power sunroof, and a variety of sound systems, among others. Equip an SE Coupe to the gills and suddenly the Sunfire isn't such a value at $17,000. Creative fiddling with the options sheet should result in a well-equipped sport coupe priced under $15,000.

Though it's less than one year old, Pontiac has made several improvements to the Sunfire for 1996. The 2.4-liter twin-cam engine replaces last year's rare 2.3-liter Quad 4 motor, and the traction control-equipped four-speed automatic is new. PASSLock anti-theft is standard on all 1996 Sunfires. Ride and steering have been improved, and two new paint choices are available. Daytime running lights are newly standard, and buyers can now order remote keyless entry and steering wheel radio controls.

We think the Sunfire has what it takes to succeed in the crowded compact marketplace. If anything, the Sunfire makes a strong argument against purchasing its slightly larger stablemate, the Grand Am. If a sporty coupe, sedan or convertible is on your shopping list, check into the Sunfire.

1996 Highlights

Traction control, remote keyless entry and steering wheel radio controls are newly available. Old Quad 4 engine dumped in favor of new 2.4-liter twin-cam engine. Two new paint choices spiff up the exterior.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1996 Pontiac Sunfire.

Overall Consumer Rating

Most helpful consumer reviews

Owned for 18 years, 261,000 miles,still love it
Kathleen Robb,04/20/2018
As long as you change the oil every 3,000 miles and keep it maintained, it will be the most reliable car you ever had. Sporty and quick, handles extremely well on icy roads as long as you know how to drive with common sense. Very precise steering, handles extremely well in sudden maneuvers as long as the driver can. I have owned this car for 18 years and plan to drive it for 18 more. It is the most reliable car I have ever owned. I would recommend using only AC Delco brand or GM approved/stock parts when replacing anything. Trust me, if it says AC Delco, they mean it and it is worth it. I also only use premium unleaded gasoline everytime I fill up.
Constant problems from day one - LEMON!
Rattles in the dash and trunk that no mechanic could figure out and/or fix, replaced wiper motor twice, horn fuse busted within 10K miles, I am on my THIRD HEAD GASKET (Pontiac has had to pay for each), alternator went early, engine mounts replaced at about 45K miles, rear defrost broke by 75K miles, sometimes have to stop the car when it snows since the wipers (no matter if they are old or new) don't apply enough pressure to clear, have been driving for 2 years with an "unfixable" loose/rattle noise from the back, air conditioner doesn't cool car when hot out until you have been driving for 15- 20 minutes (been checked), sounds like a diesel!
Good car, good gas mileage.
I have had this car for 4 months+ now, and it's a good car. When we got it, the brake system was all messed up by some fake mechanic and "couldn't be fixed." Took about 3 days and a new ABS module to fix it. It's my everyday car, and gets 30mpg, sometimes more. I'm not sure if it has any mods or anything on it. If you have someone in the passenger seat or a large cup in the cup holder, good luck shifting into 5th gear. The interior is rather small. The seats are okay but I wish they had an adjustable height. I think I'm just spoiled from my last two cars (upper-class sedans). This one has manual windows, locks, etc, the AC doesn't even work because the fuse is missing, but its a great car.
Just Keeps on runnig
I didn't buy this car as a sports car. I mean I had a Corvette that I traded in on a Iroc-Z Camero that I sold to buy this car. So no its not fun or full of performance but it did exactly what I bought it for. It gets great gas mileage and runs and runs and runs over 280,000 miles. Yes it has had to have some new parts Starter,alternator,coil packs,etc but, all parts were fairly inexpensive and ridiculously easy to replace. As far as I am concerned this has to be one of GM best cars ever produced. With the push for high mileage cars this is one GM should be bringing back.
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Features & Specs

22 city / 33 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
120 hp @ 5200 rpm
20 city / 30 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
150 hp @ 6000 rpm
See all Used 1996 Pontiac Sunfire Coupe features & specs


IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1996 Pontiac Sunfire
Used 1996 Pontiac Sunfire Coupe Overview

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Find a used Pontiac Sunfire for sale - 6 great deals out of 19 listings starting at $17,226.

Find a used Pontiac for sale - 2 great deals out of 15 listings starting at $15,133.

Find a used certified pre-owned Pontiac Sunfire for sale - 3 great deals out of 19 listings starting at $10,998.

Find a used certified pre-owned Pontiac for sale - 10 great deals out of 17 listings starting at $25,165.

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Should I lease or buy a 1996 Pontiac Sunfire?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Pontiac lease specials
Check out Pontiac Sunfire lease specials