New for 2005, and unique to Canada, the Pursuit is Pontiac’s version of the Chevrolet Cobalt. It replaces the Sunfire, but only in sedan form; unlike the Cobalt, the Pursuit is not available as a coupe, or with a supercharged engine.

The Pursuit comes in two lines, base and SE (an upper-line GT to match the Cobalt’s LT trim line was originally planned, but did not make the final cut). It’s based on GM’s global Delta platform, already in use by the Saturn Ion and overseas Opel models. The Delta architecture gives the Pursuit a stiffer, quieter chassis that’s an improvement over the old Sunfire. A five-horsepower increase and better handling produce a car that feels more “mature” than the outgoing model but is still fun to drive, and while it’s slightly smaller than the Sunfire, it doesn’t feel like any space has been sacrificed.

The Pursuit is more expensive than the Cobalt but offers a few extra standard features. Both models carry a 2.2-litre Ecotec engine and a five-speed manual that can be optioned up to a four-speed automatic.

The base model includes manual remote mirrors, 15-inch steel wheels, rear spoiler, variable intermittent wipers, 60/40 folding rear seat, rear defogger, four-speaker CD player, full instrumentation, and tilt wheel.

The SE adds air conditioning, power locks with keyless entry, power windows, four-wheel ABS, chrome exhaust tip, fog lights, power mirrors, 16-inch aluminum wheels, cruise control, floor mats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and upgraded stereo.

Like the Cobalt, Pontiac Pursuit offers good value for the dollar, with more horsepower than the slightly cheaper base Toyota Corolla and the more expensive Honda Civic. Its sticker price is $305 less than the outgoing Sunfire, although dealers will be cutting prices to move the last of that model out the door. Unless the budget is all-important, the Pursuit’s superior handling and performance should overcome any incentives offered on the Sunfire.

The Pursuit is built in Lordstown, Ohio.

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