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Old 02-28-2008, 03:59 AM   #1 (permalink)
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2008 Pontiac Vibe (Record Results)

A brief summary of the first half of the rental...

2008 Pontiac Vibe Automatic, FWD
230 miles (Kansas City, MO to Wichita, KS)
Average Speed - 62 MPH
Average Cruise - 70 MPH
FE = 36.3 MPG

This is with the Cruise set for 70 MPH and no hypermiling techniques (95% Highway).

Aside from the Prius, this is the best average segment in 2 years of rental testing (SG verified).

More to come -- with city driving and the return leg tomorrow...

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Old 02-28-2008, 10:46 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice! Is this the pontiac that's actually a toyota?
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Old 02-28-2008, 10:56 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Yep, its a Toyota Matrix with different body panels. Everything else (interior, engine) is the same.

Being an owner I'm of course biased, but IMO its an amazing car. You can fit SO much inside with the fold flat rear seats, and with the fold flat front passenger seat if you need to put in something REALLY long.

My wife is a gardener and she hauls around a lot of equipment for watering and plant care (she does interior gardening). She always has some large plant stuffed into the back of the car. As you can see from the mileage log (click in my sig) it pretty much never dips below 30mpg. She really doesn't hypermile at all either and I rarely drive it. So far, its been an amazing car.
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Old 02-28-2008, 02:58 PM   #4 (permalink)
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RH77 -

I am very interested to hear your MPG results with the Vibe. Was this a two-tone (unpainted plastic panels) or a monocoat? The only complaint I have read about the Vibe is the driver's seating position. Has it been comfortable for you?

The Pontiac Vibe is one new car I have really *wanted* over the years. The interior space ergonomics are fantastic. When you fold down the back seats you end up with a perfectly flat cargo space, ala the Honda Fit. A perfect little mini-wagon with a practical Corolla drivetrain pedigree.

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Old 02-29-2008, 03:51 AM   #5 (permalink)
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2008 Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix

2008 Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix
2003-2008 Eco-Versatility Award



"New United Motor Manufacturing Inc." or NUMMI is printed on stickers under the hood. What's up with that?

That's the name given the to the GM/Toyota joint venture in Fremont, CA. The unique situation is the History of a UAW manufacturing agreement between General Motors and Toyota, at a facility that has produced Union-made vehicles, such as the:

Chevy Nova (1984-1988)
Geo/Chevy Prizm / Toyota Corolla (1998-2002)
Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix (2003-Present)
...and other vehicles exported abroad.

Background: The Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix were introduced in 2003 as a compact wagon to provide an answer to those looking for a performance-oriented Corolla Wagon, or a domestically-nameplated, small utility vehicle. The secret? Essentially a tall, extended Corolla with GM parts (radio, miscellaneous parts, etc.) + great FE to boot.

That was 5 model-years ago. The problem is this: I rented several of both variants over the course, and the FE wasn't stellar.

Confession: Hypermiling rehab is a slow a steady process. I used to set the cruise for 6 MPH over the limit. That ended up being 76 in a 70. With the A/C running in the summer, the transmission was quick to downshift on modest hills, and was quite erratic. The FE suffered terribly. I gave it a shot at the speed limit and no more...

This was the only 4-cylinder vehicle available on the lot (mid-week slim-pickins). I hopped-in and gave it another try. Nowadays, I set it for the limit and let it ride. That made all the difference in the World.



On the Inside: The vehicle accomplishes so much in its totality, that I refuse to stress minor inconsistencies. The interior trim is basic and plasticky, but who cares? The look and substance exudes durability.

Feature content includes a 115V inverter to plug in AC items (for me -- perfect: I'm too cheap to buy an i-Pod, so I use my laptop as an MP3 player and pipe the sound through the speakers through an FM transmitter). Some vehicle models offer an auxiliary input (not in this case). Rock on...

The cargo area is where this vehicle shines brightly. The rear seats fold flat (including the front passenger seat) to allow the transport of long items. It's a true wagon, so expect that sort of utility (and appearance).

Rear seat passengers may find the legroom cramped if adults are passengers. If kids are the ride-alongs, then perfect -- no worries.



On the Outside: The Toyota is more streamlined and Sporty, while the Pontiac displays durability and simple functionality. My test model offered foglamps, a rear wiper, and side skirts. Just speculation: later models seem to offer better aero than previous.

The Drive: Seating position is perhaps the weakest link. Think: SUV height and feel. I had no problem setting the seat to a higher height, moved the seat back and adjusted the tilt wheel. The problem is, some drivers may find this uncomfortable. I'm not at all tall, at 5' 9", with short legs. The position wasn't too bad -- although the ideal setup prohibited viewing the top of the instrument cluster through the wheel top (duck-n-view). If you're unsure of this seat, visit a dealer and give it a shot (the Corolla is very similar).

Cubbies and cupholders abound. Handling is sprite, as is throttle response and acceleration. If you keep the speed down, downshifts are infrequent, and the FE total will thank you. At 60, the engine turns at about 2500. Road noise is adequate, and blind-spots minimal.

Features: The Toyota is more "upscale" in outward appearance. A 5-speed or 6-speed manual is available, as is a higher horsepower 1.8L and/or AWD (up to 2007).

Used Analysis: A 2003 Vibe 5-speed can be picked-up for $8K, on upwards to a fully loaded '08 Matrix XRS for 22K. The vehicle essentially hasn't changed since its inception, so you can get the same feature content at a reduced price when purchasing used. In addition, Edmunds.com rated the Matrix/Vibe a "Used Car Best Bet" for reliability, etc.

Vehicle Specs:
2008 Pontiac Vibe Base
Engine: 1.8L Toyota Powerplant with VVT -- rated at 126 HP and 122 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 4-speed Automatic
Price as Tested: $16,500
EPA Class: Small Station Wagon
EPA FE: 25 City / 31 Highway

Raw Data:
FE Average: 35.5 MPG
Average Speed: 57 MPH
Distance Driven: 455 Miles
Route: Kansas City - Wichita, KS - Kansas City (hit rush hour on the return)
Temp: 40F - 55F
Wind Speed vs. Heading: NW @ 5 MPH. Course 1 = SSW; Return = NNE
Next Year: Complete Re-design

Conclusion: Brilliant!

RH77
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Old 02-29-2008, 11:43 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Wow, there is something wrong with my Moms vibe.
2005 BASE model, should be lighter, no power windows, locks, no sunroof, basic seats etc.
at 70 she (or me) gets~ 29mpg (scangauge)

How hard is yours to start? Hers is a pain in the ass (way harder than my diesel), brought it to Pontiac 3 times and they told her that is how they all are.
P.S. that car is an Auto, Correct?
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Old 02-29-2008, 11:47 AM   #7 (permalink)
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We had looked at the Matrix and Vibe a few years ago - was a great car. we had no issue with the seats or anything. Very flexable cargo area - good visiability.
(Althought we actually had the Toyota Dealer tell us the Pontiac Vibe was "Garbage" - I did not realize at the time they were the SAME CAR - i would have called him on that had i known..)

We chose the PT Cruiser - as flexable with the cargo area ( the back seats can actually be removed like the minivans) and we got a really good deal on it.
(besides my wife liked the "Cute" factor of the Crusier)

Had the deals been equal - I think we would have ended up with the Vibe/Matrix
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Old 02-29-2008, 11:54 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Great review, Rick!

I've driven a few hundred kms in a Matrix 5-speed, and found the seating position OK (5'10). But the manual shifter was the most clunky, cheap feeling piece of junk I think I've ever had the opportunity to row.

And I found the clutch had so little feel it was difficult to modulate for smooth up & down shifts.
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Old 02-29-2008, 01:04 PM   #9 (permalink)
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The '07 Vibe was #2 on our list when we were emergency car shopping last summer - '97 minivan was totaled and the insurance was playing the pressure game with our transition rental.

As a pure cargo hauler, it's amazing. The back of the front passenger seat has Lowes/Dêpot/RONA written all over it. I wish my much plumper crossover was a good at hauling the goods. A cousin has one (Matrix) and she loves it. The financing and pricing was attractive (Toyota's wasn't) and I've always found GM stood up behind their products, unlike Chrysler and this was built to Toyota's standards. Stick a spare on the back and it would look more like the Rav4 than the Matrix!

Anyway, we wanted to have one of our cars be an auto (I cycle a lot and broken collarbones are common and some guests don't drive manuals if they are borrowing wheels) and the 4A left a bit to be desired. Nice to see that they've improved it. The other issues were that the legroom while being good wasn't great and I'm 6'6 with much of that being legs and find my Accord to be tortuous (although the '8 is great now). The wind noise at highway speeds was a bit of an issue. Finally, with 4 people in place, the 20 cubic feet behind the rear seats was too big of a drop coming from a minivan. It hauls best with one person in it. If I were single, it would be pretty high on my list, although there are many used diesel Smart cars around the Toronto area that would sway me as well.
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Old 02-29-2008, 06:14 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dremd View Post
Wow, there is something wrong with my Moms vibe.
2005 BASE model, should be lighter, no power windows, locks, no sunroof, basic seats etc.
at 70 she (or me) gets~ 29mpg (scangauge)
This is probably the 4th or 5th time I've rented one of these over the years. I have a feeling that some of the earlier models aren't as aerodynamic as the later ones, since the best FE I could get out of them was in the mid-to-high 20's as well. Perhaps engine management changed too? I couldn't find if it had a throttle-by-wire system, or changed in any way.

Note: For the life of me, I can't figure out something. I searched around and can't determine the difference in front-end treatments. If you'll note on the Red example, the grille is inset, bumper pushed outward, and the fascia below is more pronounced. On the Silver car, there's more of a flush design. The trick is, both the GT and Base had these over the years -- What I did notice was the side skirting was more pronounced on the new one. I think they changed a few things here and there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dremd View Post
How hard is yours to start? Hers is a pain in the ass (way harder than my diesel), brought it to Pontiac 3 times and they told her that is how they all are.
P.S. that car is an Auto, Correct?
It's an auto -- that's all you can rent these days

But to answer your question, yes it is a bit of a rough start. Cold or Warm, it would take several cranks to get it going. One time it was about 3 seconds, and I began to wonder -- but it started, nevertheless. The same applies for the Corolla (same engine).

Quote:
Originally Posted by MetroMPG View Post
But the manual shifter was the most clunky, cheap feeling piece of junk I think I've ever had the opportunity to row.

And I found the clutch had so little feel it was difficult to modulate for smooth up & down shifts.
Yikes, that stinks. I'll have to check around with a manual Corolla owner to see if it suffers the same fate. I'm guessing they sourced the engine and transaxle from Toyota. Aside from the "Grand Am Radio", it's hard to tell where the GM parts are.

Thanks all for the feedback Honestly, this was one of the most inspiring reviews to have the chance to write, in a long time.

RH77

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