1997 Pontiac Sunfire GM Twin Cam, L4 2.4 liter
A sedan with a cramped interior, but a great engine
First 50,000 kilometers are rather nebulous because I got this from my mother. IIRC, we had some issues with the alternator, and one of the electric windows. We tried to fix it at the car dealer, but official dealers in Mexico are usually overpriced and sometimes change parts gratuitously to charge more money, so we had issues with the car for some time.
At 50,000 km we replaced the battery. We used an unofficial battery (LTH, not Delco) rated for medium sedans, so far with good results.
At roughly 65,000 km we replaced the engine mounts from old age (8 years). By that time we had already switched to an unofficial repair shop that has already been proved reliable by a family friend.
At around 75,000 km the microcontroller was damaged. We had it replaced along with a couple of popped hoses from old age (10 years).
At 90,000 km my brother drove into a ditch and destroyed two injectors, two spark plugs, one of the mounts and a section of exhaust. The towing crane's driver latched the car improperly and ripped apart the oil pan. The Sunfire remained in the repair shop for about two weeks. Against all odds, it survived with performance completely unaltered!
At 100,000 km we replaced a damaged power steering pipe from previous incident, and fixed a couple of oil leaks caused by normal wear and tear (11 years).
At 111,111 km we fixed the air conditioning. Old age (12 years) had rusted both condenser and evaporator, so we had them replaced. The rest of the system was intact.
This car is much more than a family sedan. It's bona fide Detroit muscle!
Its 2.4 L, inline-4 GM Twin Cam engine boasts an extremely solid performance, with constant, smooth acceleration along the entire powerband, and the 4-gear automatic transmission not only has a great response, but thanks to its powerful engine, it never shifts unnecessarily to a lower gear.
Even though my family already has more recent cars, I outright refuse to drive them because I just love the kick I get when I step on the gas pedal!
This car was made in 1997, when cars still had mechanical components; the throttle body, for example, is driven by a cable that connects it directly with the pedal. Therefore, maintenance is rather inexpensive and readily available.
The engine is quite reliable for its old age IMO, being the only two serious malfunctions the damaged microcontroller and all the damage it took when it was driven into a ditch.
The engine is even quite rugged: it can run on regular water instead of antifreeze, with minimal amounts of oil available, with no signs of malfunction. It's a greatly reliable car, and definitely a great money investment.
This would be the only low point I would have against this car. The seats are neither too flabby nor too hard, just right, the red and orange lights and the interiors make the car look actually kinda modern, and the driving posture is comfortable.
However, the back seat is quite cramped, and sitting there is uncomfortable. I usually have to move my seat forward so the passengers can have enough room for their legs.
Not much to bring home about. Dealer service in Mexico is invariably and universally overpriced, slow, sometimes unreliable, and they gratuitously replace parts to sell more. It pretty much comes down to whether you know or not a reliable service shop.
While this car is certainly not as expensive as a large truck, it's not a cheap car either. Driving 20 km five days a week, 10 downhill and 10 uphill, one full tank of gas usually lasts for two weeks, plus an extra for a couple of weekend nights out. The 50 liter tank costs $400 pesos ($30 USD) to fill, which means an average of $800 pesos / $60 USD per month. It may not seem much, but compared with a Civic that can run on $40 monthly dollars, it's not cheap either.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 2nd July, 2009