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Old 11-28-2008, 12:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Quick Review: 2009 Pontiac Vibe

Over at the Blog, I recently reviewed the previous-generation Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix as an economical Used Car "best bet". This past week, I had the opportunity to drive a 2009 variant.



To be honest, not a whole lot has changed. But that can be a good thing, right? At first glance, the styling is more modern inside and out, but the overall equation remains the same.

I figured a quick review would be appropriate based on 2 key points: new vehicles just aren't being bought in large quantities right now (consequently, a review shift has been placed on used vehicles) and secondly, the model refresh leaves a similar vehicle in place of the old model.



The rugged utility and frugal 1.8L engine remains a cornerstone of the lineup. You'll still find a 115V household outlet/inverter, nearly 50 square feet of gracious cargo capacity, and Toyota mannerisms (the Toyota Matrix is made in the same plant in California in joint venture between Toyota and GM -- 60% of components, including the drivetrain is Toyota-sourced). A 2.4L engine, All-Wheel Drive, Manual Transmission and Sport packages are available.

A few quirks were pretty noticeable -- mostly squeaks and rattles. The driver's door and window would squeak relative to temperature and how far the window was rolled-up. It required moving the window just a smidge downward to align the gap, but the door still emitted a sqeak. Then there was an annoying rattle in the wide-expanse of that hard plastic dash. Hopefully, all first year glitches to be worked out later.



The biggest downfall was the FE. I could squeeze 35 mpg without trying in the older models. This time around, under slightly cooler conditions, the best was 30.4. I'm guessing that a slight boost in power and engine dynamics resulted in the drop. The vehicle had ~9000 miles, so I would consider it sufficiently broken-in. Perhaps a change in the drag-coefficient could be to blame.

Power was more than adequate and pretty flat throughout the rev-band. This is likely due to a difference in the variable valve timing. Handling was pretty sharp and didn't push too much in hard cornering. The ride wasn't necessarily rough, but somewhat tight -- especially through the firm seats. Again, the Corolla seat was sourced and isn't the most comfortable.

Compared to the 2004-2008 model run, the 2009 hasn't lived up to the name. It's still a good option for a 5-door, but I'd have to recommend the older ones.

Raw Data:
Vehicle Tested: 2009 Pontiac Vibe 1.8L/Base
Engine: 1.8L Toyota Powerplant with VVT — rated at 128 HP and 132 lb-ft torque, 4-speed Auto
EPA Class: Small Station Wagon
EPA FE: 26 City / 31 Highway / 28 Combined Cycle
Averages as Tested: 30.4 MPG at 58 MPH avg, over 473 miles.
Route: Kansas City - Wichita, KS - Kansas City
Weather Conditions: 30F - 50F, Clear, Winds Calm
RPM @ 60 MPH: 2300
Driving Style: Average

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Old 11-28-2008, 12:08 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Interesting. That drop in mileage could be from a number of factors of course. (Do you check tire pressure for each rental?)

Remember the Canadian "50 Litre Challenge" fuel economy run? The Corolla automatic - same drivetrain as this Vibe, if I'm not mistaken - pulled good numbers:

Quote:
The new Corolla - with the automatic transmission - came in first (or was last to run out of gas) at 4.9 L/100 km (48 mpg US).
Hard to compare, of course, and very likely a slower average speed than you recorded.
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Old 11-28-2008, 12:57 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I usually check pressures, but didn't this time -- it was busy around the airport due to the Holiday. But as always, further testing is required to get a good data set.

I filled twice -- the higher-speed tank was 29.x and the speed-limit run was 31.x. I usually use the second tank as a good barometer since I know it's full. A variety of factors could be at work...

Interesting with the 50-Litre Challenge Corolla. I've driven the '09 Sedan a couple of times with great results (high 30's), but this 5-door setup was different enough to drag it down somehow. Hopefully I'll drive another one and see what happens (with a bit more attention to details).

It's still a nice vehicle -- I hope it's just a fluke.

-Rick

Quote:
Originally Posted by MetroMPG View Post
Interesting. That drop in mileage could be from a number of factors of course. (Do you check tire pressure for each rental?)

Remember the Canadian "50 Litre Challenge" fuel economy run? The Corolla automatic - same drivetrain as this Vibe, if I'm not mistaken - pulled good numbers:

Hard to compare, of course, and very likely a slower average speed than you recorded.
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Old 01-06-2009, 11:25 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Pontiac Vibe 2.4L

Well, vacation's over and it's back to work...

I look down "Rental Row" and see the usuals: Impala, Charger, Fusion, Malibu, PT Cruiser, G6, and HHR.

I see a satellite radio antenna on a Vibe and make my selection. It's non-descript -- no special badging, spoilers, or extras. I hop in and take off. It gets good FE, so everybody wins...

The short on-ramp to the highway generally requires a little extra oomph, so I give it swift bit-o-foot expecting the 1.8L to rev up to it's optimum range and safely merge. WOAH! I look down at the speedometer and [refuse to disclose the result].

What I ended up with, is a clever "sleeper": The Camry engine, stuffed in a Vibe. No GT badges, no foglights, scoops, or "2.4L" stickers. What you get is 158-hp and 60 mph in about 8-seconds. Not earth-shattering, but quite the surprise. Turn-in and handling is well-balanced and quite sporty. It's just one of those cars that puts a smile on your face to drive. I just hope the economy isn't disappointing.

FE seems to be good, but we'll see. Combined EPA figures result in 24 mpg. I'm in Omaha for a couple days, then down to Wichita and back to KC. Expect more data Saturday.

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Old 01-07-2009, 12:45 AM   #5 (permalink)
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so does the vibe 2.4 get the 5 speed auto out of the camry or the 4 speed out of the TC ?
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Old 01-07-2009, 09:32 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Hi,

I think you meant to say it has 50 cubic feet of storage?

Is it my imagination, or does the nose look smoother, with slightly smaller grill openings?
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Old 01-07-2009, 06:02 PM   #7 (permalink)
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As an aside, My neighbor has an 09 corolla and I park next to it all the time. If the body styling hasn't changed much I can definately say that the Vibe looks like a monster next to the corolla. The corolla has a much lower roof line thereby giving it less frontal area. I am sure that staistic alone would change MPG numbers on a side by side comparison.

Odd however are the current numbers, My Vibe is an 04 auto and even @ 65mph I can now religiously get 37mpg. Remember the VVTi also has a learning curve, so if before you drove it someone has been dogging it, it would be reflected in the VVTi's performance.

I remember at least two tank fulls before the VVTi began to adjust shift points based on my slower driving habits.
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Old 01-07-2009, 11:33 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taco View Post
so does the vibe 2.4 get the 5 speed auto out of the camry or the 4 speed out of the TC ?
Yup -- it has the 5-speed auto with a manu-matic shift gate (gear hold or downshift only). I didn't realize what was under the hood until I checked later in the trip. It sounded and shifted like the Camry, but it just wasn't labeled anywhere.

The revs are much lower at highway speeds, which requires a bit of TC unlock on hills (unlike the 4-speed). I need to document the rpm vs. speed tomorrow on the drive south.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeilBlanchard View Post
Hi,

I think you meant to say it has 50 cubic feet of storage?
Nope, it's as big as a living room room back there!

I guess it helps to have a proofreader. But you get what you pay for

Trik- It's a lot taller than the Corolla, and sacrifices mileage as a result. It's root marketing still applies: to give the driver a taller seating position and make it feel "unwagonlike". On the plus side, it has some great cargo capacity for a 5-door.

Good point with the VVTi -- too bad I can't pull the batt cable -- no radio code. I could try the On-Star, but that probably wouldn't work well as a renter.

"Well sir, how did the battery go dead?"

"Ummm... I Left the Lights on?"

"They automatically shut off, interesting".

"I mean, I must have left the key on -- my bad (nervous laugh)"

By the time I turn it in, it should have a couple tanks down. I've noticed that the transmission is hesitant to upshift with throttle lift -- it likes to hold the gear. Probably more fuzzy logic in the transmission ECU.

More details on the next episode.

-Rick
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Old 01-10-2009, 02:30 AM   #9 (permalink)
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More Data

Well, I've put on about 900 miles so far in temps ranging from 15F to 65F.

FE (mostly highway) has ranged from ~27-30 mpg.

Nitpicks:
  • 5+ speed automatics (especially Toyotas) have a tough time around town. It just can't decide on a gear, and even EcoModder-style power isn't available until it kicks down 2-3 gears. It just doesn't shift on throttle lift, even at 2500-3000 RPM. Argh.
  • The XM Radio only plays music on the right speakers. FM and the Aux input is fine. I'm only getting half the song! Music mixers put different riffs or instruments/vocals on the right or left channel, so it just sounds crappy.
  • 2 elements in the defroster don't work.

Honestly, I really like the car aside from the minor problems. Handling is great, FE vs. power is good. Driving position and comfort has improved over the last gen.

Data (at 5th gear, TC lockup):
60 MPH = ~2100 RPM
65 MPH = ~2250 RPM
70 MPH = ~2400 RPM
75 MPH = ~2550 RPM
...so the gearing is pretty tall

The return is tomorrow afternoon, so the full FE data is forthcoming.
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Old 01-10-2009, 04:38 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Hey RH

Is this something you have been contracted to do? Or are you on your dime renting cars and doing write ups on them? I am fascinated by this type of wrok and real world research and would love to get involved. Care to spill the beans as to how to get started?

Thanks ...

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