In addition to standard front-seat airbags, the Vibe offers full-length head curtain airbags. Anti-lock brakes are standard on the GT and the AWD, but an option on the base trim. Buy ABS, and traction control is part of the package. All-wheel drive is available, along with GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability control system.
The base Vibe is powered by a typically smooth Toyota DOHC, 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine that makes 130 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque--although those figures drop to 123 hp and 118 lb-ft should you opt for all-wheel drive. A five-speed manual transmission is standard with this Corolla-shared engine; a four-speed automatic is optional on FWD models and standard on the AWD version.
The GT offers more performance, courtesy of a more-powerful 1.8-liter DOHC inline four that makes 170 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. With a six-speed manual transmission--the only choice--the GT will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in around 8.0 seconds. However, you'll need to rev this engine to within an inch of its life to see its advantage over the base engine because it develops its power and torque so high in the rev range.
Vibes are nice to drive and remarkable in their efficiency and execution. The sporty GT has nice steering, good brakes, and sharp handling, but you need to rev the engine to the upper end of the tacho dial for the full effect. The rev-happy nature of the engine makes it a bit tiresome in daily driving, and it doesn't fit the generally utilitarian nature of the vehicle. The six-speed manual transmission is a honey, though, adding to the car's versatility and fun.
The AWD model is a boon in the Snow Belt, but performance is blunted by a combination of the lower-powered engine and a standard automatic transmission.
The choicest Vibe is the base model, fitted with a sweet-shifting five-speed manual and that willing, if underpowered, 130-hp engine. It handles just as well as the GT, requires less shifting, and when fitted with the standard StabiliTrak system is just as safe in most conditions as the all-wheel-drive model.