By James Bergeron

Photo Gallery:
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD

CTC Review: 2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD pontiac daily car reviews

CTC Review: 2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD pontiac daily car reviews
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I drove the Toyota Matrix XR back in January, so getting behind the wheel of the Pontiac Vibe so soon afterwards was a great opportunity to determine if there are really any differences between these models besides a few option packages and styling. My Vibe tester had the same 2.4-litre engine as my Matrix tester, but instead of powering only the front wheels the Vibe was an all-wheel drive version — perfect for some of the winter weather I had while testing.

My tester was a 2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD, according to the paperwork from Pontiac. This is the base model AWD Vibe with a starting price of only $22,345, which makes the Vibe a direct competitor with, of course, the Matrix AWD but also the Subaru Impreza and perhaps the smaller Suzuki SX-4.

CTC Review: 2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD pontiac daily car reviews
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The only option on my tester was the 1SF package. The automatic transmission, a four-speed, comes standard in the AWD Vibe, which is not available with the five-speed manual or the five-speed automatic that is offered in other models, which is a shame.

The 1SF package that my tester was equipped with includes: fog lights, 17-inch aluminum rims instead of the standard 16-inch steel rims (and of course 17-inch tires rather than the 16-inch ones). The Vibe AWD comes standard with: ABS, StabiliTrak stability control system including traction control, driver and front passenger airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and air-conditioning.
Both the exterior and interior of the Vibe seem to appeal to me more than the Matrix. I’m not sure why really; there’s just something more fluid about the Vibe’s design, but the differences are subtle and I certainly would not make my decision when comparing these two vehicles based on looks alone.

CTC Review: 2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD pontiac daily car reviews
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My tester, being fairly back to basics was, well, just that: basic. With pretty much only the controls for the radio and HVAC systems on the dash, there isn’t much to talk about. There is a little cubby hole just below the HVAC controls for your pens and the controls are all fairly easy to reach and operate.

One thing I did notice about the Vibe that was exceptional was how quickly it heated up the interior of the cabin even on extremely cold days. Within minutes warm air was blowing through the vents and I had to reduce the temperature to a cooler setting to avoid burning my fingers on the vents. The Vibe also provides a 115-volt plug integrated into the centre console, which is perfect for the multitude of electronic devices people tend to carry these days.

Interior wise, both the Matrix and the Vibe are similar with just some design cue changes, but the Vibe seems to have a more solid feel to its interior layout. Although panel gaps were not perfect in my tester between the radio and the centre stack, the rest of the interior seemed well built with no rattles.

Head room is ample due to the high roofline and cargo space is good, but the lack of a tonneau cover is a huge pet peeve for me. This should be included with any hatch / wagon vehicle free of charge.

CTC Review: 2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD pontiac daily car reviews
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On the road the Vibe is, surprisingly, vastly different than the Matrix XR I drove. The Matrix provided a rather firm and jarring ride and did not feel very substantial on the road. The Vibe AWD, on the hand, has a much softer ride, but still sporting enough to have fun, especially in the snow.

The four-speed automatic is somewhat of a disappointment. I’d like to see more gears for better fuel consumption but the 2.4-litre engine certainly is powerful enough with an output of 158hp. The Vibe AWD has no problems getting moving and I was really not wanting for too much more.

CTC Review: 2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD pontiac daily car reviews
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The traction and stability program on the Vibe seems to be a little more forgiving than the one on the Matrix, but this could be due to the Vibe’s AWD capabilities.
Paul Williams drove this same car during the “Bring it On!” series and commented on his fuel consumption of 12.5L/100km, which does seem rather on the high side. Myself, I drive mostly highway and even more so in the Vibe, so I was able to get better consumption at 10.5L/100km. Although still not stellar, this is not bad considering the weather. That said, though, Natural Resources Canada rates the Vibe AWD’s consumption at 7.8L/100km highway and 10.3L/100km highway.

Based on my two test drives in the past couple of months and the deals likely to be available on the Pontiac, if I were shopping I think I would be leaning towards the Vibe – but certainly do yourself a favour and drive both.

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