The all-new 2003 Pontiac Vibe is the result of a joint venture between Pontiac and Toyota, which carries a talent for producing practical, reliable, and affordable cars. While the Vibe doesn’t look to have the same resale value as some in class rivals, it is a picture of style, affordable performance with a surprising amount of features and above average handling. It may not end up being a class leader, but it is well worth a look for buyers seeking an economy car that offers practicality, smart design, good features, and some nice performance.
Body Styles: wagon
Engines: 1.8-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: five-speed-manual, four-speed-automatic
Models: Pontiac Vibe, Vibe GT
The 2003 Pontiac Vibe is an all-new model. It is intended to combine the best attributes of an SUV, a station wagon, and a small van.
The 2003 Pontiac Vibe is like a wagon with SUV and van attributes. It comes in two trims: base and GT. The base starts off with 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rack, rear wiper, power door mirrors, front fog lamps, and four-wheel independent suspension. The GT trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels and a spoiler, which is an option for the base trim.
The 2003 Pontiac Vibe GM hasn’t been hitting home runs when it comes to exterior design and style. It actually breaks from tradition by offering some real style and a nice look. Pontiac describes it as ""purposeful and athletic, smooth, sculpted and muscular."" Suffice it to say the Vibe has some real curb appeal, a result that is surprising for an economy vehicle and even more surprising for an economy vehicle made by GM.
The 2003 Pontiac Vibe base does offer some standard features despite being an entry-level economy car. It provides tilt steering wheel, air-conditioning, and an audio system with a CD player and power steering. The GT trim adds leather trim on the steering wheel and shift knob. Stand-alone options available for all trims include cruise control, power windows, remote keyless entry, navigation system, power moonroof, remote CD player, and extra speakers for the audio system.
The 2003 Pontiac Vibe seats five, and the design manages to offer a decent amount of cargo space for a compact car. The split, fold down rear seat can make for some real room to haul things adding practicality and utility. The interior offers decent ergonomics like the exterior with some leather and chrome accents. The amount of features included and available is more than consumers expect in this price range, and the cabin is comfortable, another surprise for an economy car.
Performance & Handling
The 2003 Pontiac Vibe comes with a base engine that is a 130-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 125 lb-ft of torque and hooks up to a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission. That engine produces 123 horsepower when the vehicle is equipped with all-wheel drive, and these models come with the automatic gearbox only. The Vibe GT uses a 180-horsepower version of the 1.8-liter power plant that produces 130 lb-ft of torque and features variable valve timing. This engine teams with a six-speed manual transmission, and premium fuel is recommended for the GT. The overall performance is respectable, especially for an economy car that uses a four-cylinder. It also handles most traffic situations reasonably well.
The 2003 Pontiac Vibe has solid handling with crisp and direct steering. For a taller car, there isn’t that much lean during cornering. The brakes do a nice job, and the grip is rather good as well. Stepping up in wheel size adds to the nimble nature. The ride quality is acceptable since it’s jittery over smaller bumps and gets worse with the larger wheel sizes.
The 2003 Pontiac Vibe gives anti-lock brakes as a standard safety feature on the all-wheel drive and GT models while offering it as optional equipment in the base. Basic fare such as electronic brake force distribution and child seat anchors are on all models. The GT also gets all-disc brakes, while seat-mounted side-impact airbags are optional on all trims. The IIHS has not performed crash safety tests, but the NHTSA tests give five out of five stars for side-impact front, passenger, and driver safety. It scores four out of five stars for side-impact rear and rollover safety.
EPA Fuel Economy
Pontiac Vibe: 25/33 mpg city/highway
Pontiac Vibe GT: 22/28 mpg city/highway
- Sharp handling
- Unique features
- Very practical design
You Won't Like
- All-wheel-drive version lags in performance
- Some rivals offer better resale value
Affordable blend of style, performance, and practicality that hits the mark.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Mazda Protege5
- Ford Focus
- Toyota Matrix
- Subaru Impreza
- Subaru Forester