Pontiac Taps Multi-Generational Vibe

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The combination of storage space and fuel economy has taken on greater importance for Marylanders as fuel prices have risen over the last year and among the local beneficiaries has been the Pontiac Vibe.

Carlos Miller, sales manager at McCullough Metro Pontiac Buick and GMC in Marlo Heights, credits his dealership's “great” recent sales of the Vibe to the hatchback's low-cost combination of space and a gas-sipping engine.

“That's one reason people really like the Vibe a lot: you can fold down the seats and slide things in if you are going to the hardware store,” Miller said.

The storage space has been a big selling point with Maryland buyers of the trendy mini-SUV that aims to provide an affordable and fuel-efficient ride with prices that start around $15,000 for the 2009 model. Although Pontiac also offers an all-wheel-drive model for $19,495 and a performance-oriented GT at $19,895, all of the Vibes comfortably seat five passengers.

The standout fuel economy of the base manual transmission engine is 26 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. The more powerful 2.4-liter engine with a five-speed automatic transmission drops fuel economy to 21 city and 29 highway mpg for an estimated annual fuel cost of $1,751 at $4 per gallon.

The gas stinginess and low cost have given the Vibe an appeal across demographic groups, which ranges from teenagers headed off to college to 50-something commuters looking for a fuel-efficient second car, Miller said.

“Buyers come in and say 'My son or daughter is going off to college' and this vehicle allows them to fill it up with their furniture and other things for school and they can drive themselves,” Miller said.

The Vibe stands out from competition such as the Chrysler PT Cruiser and the Mazda3 with standard features such as a tire pressure monitoring system and OnStar system and a four-speaker CD stereo with XM Satellite Radio, said Philip Watson, sales manager at Brandywine Pontiac Buick GMC, in Brandywine, Md. Other standard features include
tilt/telescoping steering, 115-volt power outlet; and a six-way adjustable driver's seat.

Optional features on the vehicle that stemmed from a joint project between Toyota and General Motors include a $1,285 Sun and Sound Package that comes with a power sunroof, Monsoon Premium Sound seven-speaker audio system with MP3 input, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and a leather-wrapped shift knob. The five-speed automatic transmission is a $1,050 option.

Not surprisingly, the audio package has proven especially popular with buyers in the teens and 20s, who also are attracted by the sports car-modeled cockpit with performance controls and gauges, according to Watson.

Editors' note: Includes information by Richard Williamson published in the Scripps Howard News Service

SPECS BOX

  • 2009 Pontiac Vibe
  • Engine: 1.8-liter, 132-horsepower, 4-cylinder
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual, automatic optional
  • Fuel economy: 26 mpg city, 32 mpg highway.
  • MSRP: $15,710 base, $20,560 as tested
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Author:

Rich Daly

Examiner Correspondent
The Washington Examiner