2009 Pontiac Vibe GT

Say what you will of the knife-edge styling that plagued Pontiacs of the late 1990s, but I really liked the styling of the first-generation Vibe - it was sharp, it was (surprisingly) clean, and the result was a five-door hatch that had some sport to it. I can't say the same for the new car. Designers seemed to keep some of the sharp lines of the original, but they inexplicably added rotund forms for no real reason. It's not the Aztek, mind you, but it's not the sharp, sporty little thing I once admired.

On that note, sporty isn't a word I'd use to describe the GT package itself. Although it's equipped with Toyota's larger 2.4-liter I-4 (a 1.8-liter is standard on the base car), this thing doesn't feel swift. The 158-hp engine is sufficient to move the car around, but it doesn't have the visceral sound or thrust one gets in a true hot hatch. The same goes for the suspension - the softly sprung Vibe is comfortable over most surfaces, but it becomes gelatinous in the corners, where the car's 3100-pound mass is felt through oodles of body roll. It's fine if you're not going to thrash your car, but it's a bit out of place on what is considered to be the sport model. The Vibe could definitely use a sport suspension option.

Still, it's roomy, it's comfortable, and overall the Vibe is a competent car. Competent though it may be, I question the Vibe's future viability. When it launched, it stood alone as a funky, flexible compact vehicle with some neat tricks up its sleeve. Now that its 115-volt outlet and folding front seat are commonplace in the market, what does the Vibe offer to set it apart from the competition? As an enthusiast, I'd look past the $3500 difference between our car and a four-door GTI and run to a Volkswagen dealer - even if that means eschewing a sunroof and a two-prong outlet.

Evan McCausland, Web Producer

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