1997 Pontiac Sunfire Review

Used Sunfire for sale
List Price Estimate:$465 - $1,099
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Pontiac Sunfire model years
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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Good looks, zippy powertrain (Twin Cam), comfortable interior, standard ABS, standard traction control with automatic transmission, good value
  • Weight, buzzy powertrain (2.2-liter), excessive body roll.

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 Used 1997 Pontiac Sunfire.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

4.75 out of 5 stars
still going
xxx,05/26/2009
SE 2dr Coupe
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
4.63 out of 5 stars
310,000 km and no complaints
Brian,09/17/2009
GT 2dr Coupe
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.
5 out of 5 stars
Best Buy For The Buck
Tanja B,06/09/2002
SE 2dr Convertible
This car is really fun to drive, and incredibly reliable. It is no joke when I say that this car has NEVER broken down on me. Thsi year I had to replace the shocks, and I am now having minor problems with the power windows.This is the very best and most reliable car I have ever owned. I bought it used in 1997 with 400km on it.
3.5 out of 5 stars
It is a reasonable car. Not very fast
Eagles,07/21/2002
SE 4dr Sedan
Overall I think the 1997 Pontiac Sunfire has a reasonable performance. For the most part it has been reliable. The engine does not have a whole lot of pep anymore because of its 83,000 miles. But it runs okay and the exterior is in pretty good condition.

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver1 / 5
    Passenger2 / 5
  • 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 Overview

The Used 1997 Pontiac Sunfire is offered in the following submodels: Sunfire Sedan, Sunfire Coupe, Sunfire Convertible. Available styles include SE 4dr Sedan, SE 2dr Convertible, GT 2dr Coupe, and SE 2dr Coupe. Pre-owned Pontiac Sunfire models are available with a 2.2 L-liter gas engine or a 2.4 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 150 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 1997 Pontiac Sunfire comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed manual.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Pontiac Sunfire?

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Which used 1997 Pontiac Sunfires are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 1997 Pontiac Sunfire for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 1997 Pontiac Sunfire.

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Find a used Pontiac Sunfire for sale - 10 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $12,536.

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Find a used certified pre-owned Pontiac Sunfire for sale - 12 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $8,588.

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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
Check out Pontiac Sunfire lease specials