Used 1997 Pontiac Sunfire Coupe

1997 Pontiac Sunfire
List price range
1997 Pontiac Sunfire

Pros

  • Good looks, zippy powertrain (Twin Cam), comfortable interior, standard ABS, standard traction control with automatic transmission, good value

Cons

  • Weight, buzzy powertrain (2.2-liter), excessive body roll.

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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 assorted import compacts by offering excellent value, sporty styling, and reasonable performance in one well-rounded package. For 1997, 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, particularly mated to a five-speed transmission. However, one benefit of the four-speed 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. 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 $18,000. Creative fiddling with the options sheet should result in a well-equipped sport coupe priced around $15,000.

Pontiac has concentrated on the convertible model for 1997. A four-speed automatic is standard, though buyers can opt for a manual transmission when stepping up to the twin-cam engine. Controlled-cycle wipers, rear window defogger, and cruise control all move from the options list to the standard equipment list of the SE Convertible. All Sunfires meet 1997 side-impact standards (surprise), and coupe models have a new front seatbelt guide loop. Three new colors debut, and the optional sports interior can be trimmed in Patina/Redondo cloth. Color or pattern, Scully?

Last year, we drove a Sunfire SE Convertible for a week, and only had complaints about excessive body roll, an ineffective climate control system when the top was down and the windows were up, and very weak stereo speakers. Otherwise, our twin-cam five-speed test car was a hoot, prompting a friend with a 1991 Mustang LX 5.0 automatic to quip "I better get some different gears in this thing. I can't have Sunfires keeping up with me." Best of all, our well-equipped test car came in under $20,000.

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.

1997 Highlights

SE convertible gets a higher level of standard equipment, including an automatic transmission. Coupes get a new front seatbelt guide loop, and a new Sports Interior trim debuts called Patina/Redondo cloth.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Pontiac Sunfire.

Overall Consumer Rating

Most helpful consumer reviews

still going
xxx,05/25/2009
I bought this car with 27 thousand miles on it, now I have 177 thousand miles on it. I had the oil changed every 10,000 miles if its lucky. The quality of this car is amazing. The only things ive had to replace is the bright/dim switch and a water pump. Anything else is routine. (tires, brakes, battery) everyday I go out to drive it it starts. Astounding car and still gets about 30 mpg
310,000 km and no complaints
Brian,09/16/2009
I love my car. 13 years, 310,000km and no reason to even look at something new. This car runs perfect like the day it was new. New Brakes, Tires, Battery, AC compressor, Waterpump, tuneups but that is expected. Very reasonable and no complaints from me. 2.4 Quad 4 has done very well for me.
Very reliable and great gas mileage
Max,10/08/2006
All I've replaced are tires, the water pump and belt @112,000 miles, did a tuneup & I change oil every 4000 mi. It has 137,000 miles & I've had it since 72,000. I'm 6'1 200 lbs & sit pretty comfortably. It takes off fast and cuts around tight curves like a gt should. I plan on keeping this car until it dies since I av. 300-350 miles per week going to work. It's paid for, so why not. It started squeaking last month & I think it is either the wheel bearing or strut. I'm still surprised that I can gun that lil red devil and make my head snap into the seat. Its a 5 speed with no performance add-ons, not even K&N. Maybe I should do that and upgrade the chip :D *Best car I've ever had and I'm 34.
No thanks
ktrud,05/27/2010
My first car when I turned 18. Bought it at 86,000 mi and sold it at 107,000. Only had it for a little over two years. Cute for a girl, thank god I have a dad to fix all its problems or I'd be in debt for sure. Blew head gasket twice. All the plastic vents broke. Constantly leaked antifreeze after replacing reservoir twice. A/c compressor made loud hissing noise when not activated. Interior buttons and knobs all very cheap and heater core went out. Plastic trim in the interior broke off. Paint started to rust and peel off even though car was kept in the garage.
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Features & Specs

MPG
20 city / 30 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
150 hp @ 6000 rpm
MPG
22 city / 33 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
120 hp @ 5200 rpm
See all Used 1997 Pontiac Sunfire Coupe features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
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
    Poor

More about the 1997 Pontiac Sunfire
Used 1997 Pontiac Sunfire Coupe Overview

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 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
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