2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD. Click image to enlarge

Related articles on Autos:
Test Drive: 2009 Pontiac Vibe, by Jil McIntosh
Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Pontiac Vibe

Manufacturer’s web site

General Motors Canada

Review and photos by Michael Clark

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2009 Pontiac Vibe

Pardon me; haven’t we met before?

Of course we have, when the comparison involves the family resemblance between the revamped Oh-Nine Toyota Matrix and the Pontiac Vibe. This particular type of corporate cahoots goes back to the ’80s and ’90s, when consumers in search of quality with the GM badge snatched up the Chevy Nova and Chevy/Geo Prizm, AKA Toyota Corolla. One could easily assume that this scribe could simply cut-and-paste his Matrix review into this week’s installment, use the pictures on file that avoid logos, and get back to his Adam-12 DVD box set.

If only I knew how to cut-and-paste.

This week’s IS contestant weighs in at an MSRP of $26,955. (Pricing shown does not include freight, regional, or promotional incentives.)

The cockpit

Aside from the Pontiac badging, the cockpit arrangement is pure Matrix. Steering wheel controls handle the audio needs on the left-hand spoke, while the cruise control stalk is found at the 4 o’ clock position.

2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD. Click image to enlarge

Manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel is included. The wiper stalk includes delay sweep for the rear glass. One of the advantages of the Toyota influence is the inclusion of an engine coolant temperature gauge. On many GM vehicles, this reading continues to require a search through the Driver Information Centre. Exterior temperature is displayed in the odometer/trip meter LCD, which also denotes the quadrant position for the automatic shift. The traction control cancel switch is found to the left of the driver knee, with power mirror controls directly above. The driver’s door control pod includes an Auto-descent feature for the pilot pane.

The centre stack

A smidge of the General presents itself, with an obvious audio head unit. Toyota usually mounts the auxiliary audio input jack all by its lonesome, while the GM radio keeps it within the assembly. Simple dials handle the HVAC demands. The AC power inverter must be switched on manually, to provide the juice for laptops and slow cookers. Like the Toyota, the rear defroster grid will stay on indefinitely, with no thermostatic shut-off. You have to cancel it manually, even after the vehicle is shut off and restarted.


The non-locking glovebox is cavernous in depth, with a dedicated cubby for the owner literature. A flip-out purse/murse hook is found on the passenger side wall of the centre stack. Below the shifter are the plug-ins (8) for DC and AC power. The underside of the console lid has a card holder, as well as a pen/tire gauge clip. This compartment lifts up, to reveal a larger cubby with no additional powerpoint. Front door pockets, as well as the rear incorporate useable bottle holders. The front cupholder is Chez Matrix, with the same divider system that offers little in the way of proper cinch. The rear cupholder uses spring-loaded C-clamps to keep your bevvie steady.

The overhead

It’s not too many cubbies that will give you a weight rating. Up to 0.2 kg of your business can be stowed overhead. The sunroof can achieve both tilt and cavernous slide, with a proper wind deflector. The interior rear-view mirror gets the expected OnStar upgrade. The roof racks are included on this trim level, though they will require additional add-ons to be of any use.

Seat treat

The driver position can be fine-tuned, with a manual height adjustment lever. The front passenger seatback can be flipped forward, for cargo conundrums, as well as work station abilities. The IS Comfort Dummy offered no complaints for driver positioning. When placed in the rear seats, the Dummy was able to wedge four standard mystery paperbacks between the roof and the Dummy’s skull. (Three Elmore Leonard’s, and one Michael Connolly.) The Dummy, uhm, author, was surprised to discover that heated front seats were not offered as standard equipment at this price level.

Cargo embargo

We all like a little thump in the trunk. The good news is that the rear subwoofer in the Vibe’s seven-speaker array is well protected against tumbling items. The rear cargo cover is the same cheap-out solution as the Matrix, which can be folded and stowed in the spare tire well. Far be it from me to tell the General how to avoid taking out uber-loans to keep the lights on, but it would occur to this casual observer that you shouldn’t include two cargo covers in any vehicle that you sell. The cargo floor and rear seatbacks are finished in an easy-care plastic, with rub strips that do little to grab any item. A cargo organizer flips up at the rear of the compartment. Seatbacks achieve a respectable angle when flipped forward. Robust tie-down points are found throughout the cargo hold.

Spare care

The load flooring can remain in the vehicle, flipped up and out of the way for access to the temporary spare. Pontiac will change it for you, during the first five years or 160,000 kilometres of ownership.

2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD
2009 Pontiac Vibe AWD. Click image to enlarge

While we’re in the tire department, I must address the phenomenon surrounding the loss of the Pontiac wheel caps from this particular press car. It had three when presented to me, and two when it left, leaving two possible solutions. Wheelspin, or simply rotation, considering that the wheel caps can be easily removed by hand with nano-pressure and no fingernails. The ease of removal may have made its way to the clubhouses of local hooligans, who may be adopting these wheel caps as the ill-gotten Pogs of the new Millenium.

Cool Fuel

The driver’s side fuel filler door gets an interior cable release, with a U-shaped cup to hold the cap while refueling.

Bent on Dent?

Considering that the last-gen Vibe was about as clad-happy as an early Ninetie’s Grand Am, it is interesting to note that the clean flanks of the Oh-Nine offer zero protection against shopping cart thumps, as well as door dingers.

The mill

The 2.4-litre 158 horsepower four is the weapon of choice for the all-wheel drive configuration on the Vibe. Like the Matrix, the only annoyance is the removal of an upper panel and weatherstrip to access the master cylinder reservoir.

The Verdict

You’re probably wondering, much like the editors of Autos at this moment, as to why this IS instalment needs a Part Two. The Vibe should easily grab the 3.5 stars of the previous Matrix review, maybe even 4 stars, when you consider that the front doors don’t make the same TWOOOONNNNNG! sound when they’re closed. The question is this; which one of these seemingly identical twins deserves your hard-earned Loonies? Next week, look for an in-depth comparison on pricing and trim levels for these kissing cousins.

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