2009 Pontiac Vibe Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Roomy backseat, comfortable ride, versatile cargo area, peppy performance, generous standard safety features, reliable Toyota powertrain.
- Lackluster acceleration in base model with automatic, Toyota's version is likely to have better resale value.
The 2009 Pontiac Vibe remains a smart choice for an affordable, practical and sporty compact wagon.
In the past, small wagons were practical and affordable and not much more. If you wanted driving excitement, you were pretty much out of luck. The Pontiac Vibe, however, was one of the first entries in a new class of tall, compact sport wagons to change all that. Sure, it had the practical parts covered via an elevated driving position, remarkable passenger room, a versatile cargo area and impressive fuel economy. But it also had sporty styling, respectable performance and a cool-looking interior.
Once again a semi-identical twin to the Toyota Matrix, the redesigned-for-2009 Pontiac Vibe shares the Toyota's interior and mechanical components -- a genealogy that promises long-term reliability and durability. Unlike the identical cabins (furnished by Toyota), the exterior styling is unique to each model, with the Pontiac retaining its trademark dual grille theme. Pontiac says the steering and suspension were also specifically tuned for the Vibe.
In addition to the new styling, the '09 Vibe (available in base, AWD and GT trims) brings a new engine for all but the base trim. Replacing the high-revving but ill-suited 1.8-liter engine in previous GTs is a torquey 2.4-liter four-cylinder. It's the same one that's used in the Toyota Camry and Scion xB and is perfect in the real world for cut-and-thrust city traffic and freeway merging. The previous base-level 1.8-liter inline-4 carries over, though it's been heavily updated to provide a bit more power. All-wheel drive is available again, as well.
Other changes this year include a full complement of standard safety features and a newly standard telescoping steering wheel. Combined with increased front seat track travel, the new Vibe promises a more comfortable driving position for a greater range of body types. The interior retrains its driver-oriented layout and design, though now updated with easier-to-use controls, better materials and improved fit and finish.
If you're shopping for a small wagon or hatchback, there are more choices than ever, including the Chevrolet HHR, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza and Scion xB. They share many of the Vibe's attributes, most notably an impressive amount of passenger/cargo space within a small footprint. The Chevy boasts cool retro styling and an available high-performance SS variant, the Mazda is known for its sporty handling and the boxy Scion has edgy youth appeal and the most interior space. If you don't dig the Vibe's styling vibe but appreciate its other attributes, Toyota's near-identical Matrix may fit your fancy. But the 2009 Pontiac Vibe makes no apologies here. With its peppy performance, solid handling, low price and high level of practicality, the Vibe is a smart choice.
2009 Pontiac Vibe models
The 2009 Pontiac Vibe is a compact four-door hatchback/wagon that essentially comes in two trim levels: base and GT, though the base can also be had with all-wheel drive (AWD).
The base Vibe features include 16-inch wheels, a four-speaker audio system (with satellite radio, a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack) and a tilt/telescoping steering column. Most buyers will probably want the base with the 1SB package, which adds a more powerful engine, a rear cargo organizer and a fold-flat front passenger seat. The AWD version adds all-wheel drive, sport suspension (with independent rear setup), a luggage rack and air-conditioning. The GT is outfitted like the AWD minus the all-wheel drive and adds a rear spoiler, 18-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded 320-watt audio system with MP3 playback, full power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, leather/cloth sport seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel (with audio controls) and shift knob.
For all but the GT there is the available Preferred Package, which provides full power accessories, cruise control and keyless entry. A Sun and Sound package is available for the two middle trims and includes a sunroof, the GT's audio system and the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. À la carte options for the lower trims include air-conditioning, the rear cargo organizer and an anti-theft system.
Performance & mpg
The base 2009 Pontiac Vibe is powered by a 1.8-liter 132-horsepower four-cylinder engine. All other trims feature a 2.4-liter four with 158 hp. 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, while the 1SB and the GT offer an available five-speed automatic.
With the smaller engine coupled to the manual gearbox, acceleration is respectable as long as you don't mind winding the engine up past 4,000 rpm. The new 2.4-liter delivers solid, useful throttle response off idle and through the midrange, and the engine revs smoothly and quietly. With the 2.4, the run to 60 mph is estimated at around 8 seconds, about average in its class.
The Vibe comes with antilock disc brakes, OnStar, stability control and a full complement of airbags (front-seat side and full-length side curtain).
Through the turns, the 2009 Pontiac Vibe (especially in AWD and GT form with their sport suspensions) is responsive and composed, if not quite as entertaining as the decidedly sporty Mazda 3. Body roll is minimal, steering is nicely weighted 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.
All displays and controls are simple and intuitive, including those for the often-used climate control and audio systems. Build quality is also very good, with most of the interior bits and pieces sourced from Toyota. Thanks to the Vibe's tall architecture, there's plenty of room for passengers. The rear seat is split 60/40 and all but the base trim feature a flat-folding front passenger seat to allow long items to be carried inside. Max cargo capacity is 49.4 cubic feet, which is about mid-pack in the segment. All trims but the base also feature a rear cargo organizer that's handy for holding grocery bags upright and secure.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
NHTSA Overall Rating
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverallNot RatedDriver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverallNot Rated
- Side Barrier RatingOverallNot RatedDriver5 / 5Passenger4 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront SeatNot RatedBack SeatNot Rated
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of RolloverNot Rated
- Side Impact TestGood
- Roof Strength TestNot Tested
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintAcceptable
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
Used 2009 Pontiac Vibe Overview
The Used 2009 Pontiac Vibe is offered in the following submodels: Vibe Hatchback. Available styles include GT 4dr Hatchback (2.4L 4cyl 5M), 4dr Hatchback AWD (2.4L 4cyl 4A), 4dr Hatchback (2.4L 4cyl 5M), and 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M). Pre-owned Pontiac Vibe models are available with a 2.4 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 158 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2009 Pontiac Vibe comes with front wheel drive, and all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic. The Used 2009 Pontiac Vibe comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 5 yr./ 100000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 100000 mi. powertrain warranty.
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Should I lease or buy a 2009 Pontiac Vibe?
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.