2003 Pontiac Vibe
2003 Pontiac Vibe. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase

In 1984, Toyota and General Motors launched New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), a joint venture that allowed Toyota to establish a manufacturing facility in the United States. It also benefited GM, as it allowed the American company to sell Toyota-engineered products under its own brands’ banners.

Among these have been a couple of Chevrolets (the 1984-1988 Nova and the 1998-2002 Prizm), a Geo (the 1990-1997 Prizm) and most recently, the 2003-2010 Pontiac Vibe.

The thread that ties all of these models together is that all have been based on Toyota Corolla platforms and running gear; more specifically, the Vibe is a near-identical twin to the Corolla-based Toyota Matrix.

The Vibe first arrived in Pontiac stores in 2002 as a 2003 model. Most models used a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine making 130 horsepower, or 123 horses in an all-wheel drive version. There was also a Vibe GT that used a high-revving variant of the same motor that produced 180 horsepower, at least until 2006, when stated output was revised to 164.

New horsepower calculating methods for 2007 models meant lower power numbers, but didn’t affect performance; the new horsepower numbers were 126 and 118 for regular and all-wheel drive Vibes.

The base transmission was a five-speed manual; a four-speed automatic was optional in all but the all-wheel drive model, which got the auto as standard equipment. The sportier Vibe GT used a six-speed manual as the only choice.

2006 Pontiac Vibe
2006 Pontiac Vibe
2006 Pontiac Vibe. Click image to enlarge

In 2007, the all-wheel drive and GT models were dropped, the all-wheeler supposedly due to low demand, and the GT because the high-revving motor no longer met emissions standards.

The 2009 Vibe was redesigned, along with the Matrix. Though its dimensions were nearly identical to the old car’s, the engines were new: the 1.8-litre made more power (132 hp/128 lb-ft), and a 2.4-litre four-cylinder was the new upgrade engine, rated at 158 hp/162 lb-ft. The base model used the 1.8-litre; the SE could be had with either and the GT and AWD models both used the 2.4-litre.

The 1.8-litre was offered with five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions, while the 2.4 was sold with five-speed manual or automatic gearboxes. The AWD model returned too, though this car could only be had with the larger engine and a four-speed automatic.

The Vibe’s Toyota running gear made for economical operation. A 2003 base Vibe with manual transmission was rated at 7.7 L/100 km (city) and 6 L/100 km (highway), while choosing the automatic drove consumption up to 8.3 L/100 km (city) and 6.4 L/100 km (highway). The all-wheel drive model’s numbers were 9.1/6.9, and the GT’s were 9.3/7.1.

Ratings for the redesigned 2009 model were 7.8/6.2 L/100 km (city/highway) for the 1.8-litre/manual combo, 9.6/7.2 L/100 km for the 2.4-litre/manual car and 10.3/7.8 L/100 km for the all-wheel drive Vibe.

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