2005 Pontiac Vibe from North America
Utility, reliability and economy in one smart looking package
It has the typical scratches for a 9 year old car spending its life in kid schlepping duty. The same is true for the interior. Even though the seller did a decent job cleaning it, it will need a once over.
One bulb in the radio display was out and made the clock unreadable. I soldered new ones in ($10.68). There is a thread on the GenVibe.com forum detailing the process.
The fog lights were broken. I bought a pair on eBay for about $65.00. They are easy to replace. A protective shield would be a good idea.
The left front strut is leaking slightly. I am planning on replacing the struts with Monroe OESpectrum units.
The driver's side inner fender has a hand size hole in it.
This describes the base trim, with ‘Moon and Tunes’ (moon roof and 7 speaker stereo), salsa red exterior, black interior.
The car made a lot of noise, road noise mostly. It needed a new set of tires because the Goodyear American Eagles on it were worn unevenly. I bought a set of Michelin Defender tires and had the alignment corrected (about 700.00). It made a huge difference in the noise level.
The ride is rough. I hope to get some relief with new struts. Road holding is good, steering a little bit too light. The car demands some attention when driving. A bump in the road can move the steering wheel. Cross winds make constant correcting a necessity. This may actually help in staying awake during late hour trips. It is not fast but will keep up with traffic. The engine noise is acceptable at low speeds. In other words: if you're looking for performance or comfort, look elsewhere. Check out a Vibe GT if you need more performance. Stay away from the Vibe altogether if you're looking for comfort.
Fuel economy is in the 27 to 31 MPG range; it may drop in the winter’s cold.
The car is very reliable. Typically it starts at the first turn. When hot it may take two attempts to start the engine.
The brake pedal feels a bit soft and I noticed that the car sometimes pulls to the right when touching the brake. I will have the brake fluid replaced and I will check the brake caliper sliders for corrosion. The brakes stop the car safely and they are noise free.
The front seats, in particular the driver’s seat, lacks lumbar support. Part of the problem is the seat adjustment. At first I slumped into the seat, meanwhile I raised the seat height, which also affects the angle of the seat surface. Raising the seat made it more level. That in turn required reclining the back a little more, which opens the angle at the hip. These adjustments helped, but did not solve the problem all the way. I fashioned a lumbar support from a piece of upholstery foam and placed it into the backrest under the cloth. This was surprisingly easy to do: unsnap the J-hooks at the bottom of the backrest while sitting in the rear. Go to the front, recline the back rest all the way and put the foam piece under the cloth. Close the J-hooks. If your lower back aches, you owe this to yourself.
While experimenting with the adjustments, I noticed that it is impossible to get the proper distance to the pedals and the steering wheel perfectly right. If you move the seat forward so the wrist will line up with the top of the steering wheel, then your feet are too close to the pedals. Push the seat back to get the spacing to the pedals right, then the steering wheel is too far away. The compromise that works for me is to align the top of the steering wheel with my knuckles and keeping the seat back rather upright. This is a Vibe idiosyncrasy; you have to live with it or get another car.
The A/C and heat work reasonably well. I changed the cabin air filter, which seemed to be the original 9 year old filter because it was completely black with dirt. Now there is notably more airflow at the lowest fan speed.
The instrument panel is well laid out and easy to read. The red and white lighting may be not to everyone’s liking. I got used to it quickly. I have no complaints, but some are disappointed that the odometer stops counting at 299999 miles. It appears these cars outlived the manufacturer’s expectations.
The car’s body is ingeniously designed with a focus on utility. The rear seats fold down to create a flat surface for cargo, and there are tie down hooks. The rear window flips up. You could let a long object stick out the back. There is an AC outlet to run a laptop or a coffeemaker. There are various cubby holes and storage compartments throughout the car. The side pockets in the front doors should be a little wider, so it is easier to retrieve things from the bottom.
‘Moon and Tunes’ is referring to the moon roof and the Monsoon 7 speaker stereo with single CD player and equalizer. Some owners find it too cheap for their enjoyment. It may be cheap, but it is a good cheap system. Keep in mind: the car lacks noise insulation everywhere. I have dealt with the noise by adding lots of sound deadeners and insulation in the trunk area, in the doors and on the floor pan. With every step the noise was reduced and the stereo’s inherent sound qualities came forward. In fact at first I increased the bass, and now after adding insulation I have to dial the bass and the volume back. I really enjoy this system because it works reliably and it sounds great. I can hear the whole frequency range clearly, and in some of my old CDs I heard the lowest frequencies for the first time. At the volumes that I prefer, this system produces a very enjoyable sound quality.
This car is like a dog: you will love him, but he can get annoying too. While I am talking about a dog: I found plenty dog hair under the cover in the trunk, hinting at a Golden Retriever as regular passenger. Our English Springer will be confined to the trunk area. I cut a rubber mat to fit the floor and cut a VersaPad (a plastic panel with a 1 1/8” grid, farm supply) to size, creating a dog barrier that can be tied to the head rests of the rear seats. This car invites you to make little modifications to make it personally yours.
I have chosen this car because the Ford Windstar was too large for us empty-nesters, yet I still needed a wagon to provide a compartment for the dog. Wagons are hard to find; you are almost forced to get into a SUV or crossover vehicle. For short distances and scooting around in town, the Vibe is excellent. For longer distances, the seating position is just too awkward to fully enjoy the ride. I continue to look for another wagon. But the Vibe will stay with the family.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 2nd September, 2014