The Pontiac Sunfire receives a face-lift and some interior upgrades for the 2000 model year. Available as a two-door coupe, four-door sedan or two-door convertible, the Sunfire offers a standard 115 horsepower 2.2 litre four cylinder engine or available 150 horsepower 2.4 litre DOHC four cylinder engine. Prices start at $16,135.
A face lift and a better gear box
You might be surprised to learn that the Pontiac Sunfire is one of the most popular cars in Canada – in fact, it’s the third best-selling car in the country. From January to October of 1999 (latest statistics available), the Sunfire was the third best-selling car in Canada just behind second place finisher, the Chevrolet Cavalier, and the top-placed Honda Civic.
Since the Cavalier and Sunfire are almost identical cars built by General Motors, GM could rightfully claim the title of #1 best-selling car platform in Canada.
The Sunfire and Cavalier were last redesigned in 1995 – changes for 2000 are relatively minor. The Sunfire’s sportier image has been reinforced with more aggressive styling which includes a restyled front bumper, new side rocker mouldings, and new wheel cover and alloy wheel designs. The front turn signals on SE models have been moved lower in the bumper, and on GT models, they are flanked by new fog lamps. Revised taillights and new round back-up lights give the rear a slightly different appearance.
The Sunfire’s interior has a new instrument cluster with overlapping gauges. As the gauges are closer together, they’re easier to see through the Sunfire’s new four-spoke steering wheel. The instrument cluster now includes a speedometer, tachometer, coolant temperature, fuel gauges and a digital odometer. In addition, there’s a new centre console with two forward-mounted cupholders, a concealed coin holder, storage for tapes and CDs, and a padded armrest. At the rear, are two new cupholders and three new child seat tether anchors.
A new feature this year is a Monsoon premium audio system with a 200-watt amplifier and eight speakers, available on GT models.
Mechanical refinements include a new Getrag five-speed manual transmission, and a new lightweight Delco ABS system which incorporates rear brake proportioning to balance braking forces and prevent wheel lockup. Also new are a quieter fuel pump, improved engine cooling, and a new lighter plastic fuel tank.
Three Body Styles, Two Trim Levels, Two Engines
Sunfires come in three distinct body styles: a two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and two-door convertible. Two trim levels are offered, SE and GT: coupes and sedans come in SE trim while coupes and convertibles are available in GT trim.
SE models have a standard 115 horsepower 2.2 litre OHV four cylinder engine, an adequate, time-tested engine that lacks refinement, but gets the job done. Fuel consumption is reasonable, averaging 8.4 litres per 100 kilometres (34 mpg) with a manual transmission.
GT coupes and convertibles have a standard 150 horsepower 2.4 litre DOHC four cylinder engine, first introduced in 1996. This engine provides considerably better performance particularly when mated to the new manual 5-speed transmission. The 2.4 litre engine averages 9.7 litres per 100 kilometres (29 mpg).
A new Getrag five-speed manual transmission is standard on all models, and a four-speed automatic transmission with a floor shifter is optional. Last year’s three-speed automatic transmission, which was standard on SE sedans, is no longer offered.
SE Sedan Best Value
The SE Coupe and Sedan, both of which start at $16,165, are the best values in the Sunfire lineup. Standard equipment includes an AM/FM stereo with digital clock and four speakers, power steering, dual airbags, fixed delay wipers, one-piece folding rear seatback, rear door child locks and rear tether anchors, engine block heater, 195/70R-14 inch tires, and 3 years of Roadside Assistance along with the standard 3 year/60,000 km warranty.
Of these two, the four-door SE sedan is the best buy because it’s easier to get into the rear seat and it has a larger trunk (370 litres vs 351 litres).
Available options on SE models include the 2.4 litre engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, cassette or CD player, 15 inch tires with alloy wheels, cruise control, and tilt steering wheel. SE sedans, but not coupes, are available with optional power door locks, keyless entry and power windows with driver’s express-down feature. Coupes, but not sedans, are available with a rear spoiler.
GT Coupes, which start at $21,420, include the 2.4 litre engine, manual transmission, P205/55R-16 inch all-season Goodyear Eagle RS-A radial tires and alloy wheels, sport suspension, dual exhausts and rear spoiler. Standard interior features include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift lever and parking brake handle, AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers, air conditioning, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, and tilt steering wheel.
GT convertibles, priced at $28,215, are similarly-equipped but have P195/65R-15 inch radials instead of 16 inch tires, and add standard power windows, power door locks, power windows, keyless entry, and the 8-speaker Monsoon sound system.
My test car was a GT convertible with the new manual transmission. I found the new transmission more refined and easier to shift than the previous manual transmission, and above-average for this class of car. Fifth gear is a great cruising gear for relaxed highway driving. The improved transmission and quieter engine (even in the convertible) make the 2000 Sunfire feel more refined than the previous model.
Sunfire coupes and sedans seat three rear passengers, but the convertible seats two in the rear. Still, there was a surprising amount of rear legroom and headroom for a convertible. Getting in to the back is a bit of a chore since the front passenger seatback folds forward but the seat doesn’t automatically slide forward.
I was surprised to find a fold-down rear seatback in the convertible – most convertibles don’t have one because the folding top gets in the way. The trunk is bigger than average for a compact convertible (280 litres/9.9 cu. ft) – that’s about 2/3 the size of the sedan’s trunk.
This combination of a roomy interior and a versatile cargo area makes the Sunfire one of the most practical convertibles on the market.
The power top has a single release lever in the centre at the top of the windshield and activates by pressing the button and turning the lever. The converitible top is lined and has a glass rear window with a defroster.
Half Sunfire buyers are women
GM’s market research shows that nearly half of all Sunfire prospects are women, and a high percentage of these buyers are single, most between the ages of 25 and 45. GM says women are attracted to the Sunfire because it combines great style and practical features at an affordable price.
Certainly, the Sunfire SE models are a good value. For under $20,000, you can have a well-equipped compact car that’s sporty, roomy, fuel-efficient, and easily serviceable.