The Pontiac Vibe is one of the premier “compact crossover” vehicles in the new segment. It offers a car-like ride and handling with the practicality of an SUV. Now add fuel efficiency that is on par with most compact cars, as well as Pontiac’s bold and edgy styling from front to back. No wonder this small offering is popular with the 18 to 35 demographic, both men and women. These are mostly drivers who want competent ride during the week, and enough utility and space for weekend getaways. Competitors to the Vibe include the Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Rondo, Suzuki SX4, Scion xB, and the Toyota Matrix—the list is growing as carmakers begin to realize the value in this segment.

Compare the Vibe!

If you’re thinking about buying a Pontiac Vibe, you might also consider a Toyota Matrix or Scion xB. Compare these vehicles.

The Vibe comes in both front- and an all-wheel drive. There is a choice of two engines: A 132-horsepower 1.8-liter engine, and a stronger 158-horsepower 2.4-liter engine. Fuel economy for the smaller engine with front-wheel drive is 27 city/33 highway. We achieved 30.8 miles per gallon on a 217-mile mixed-driving mileage loop. The more powerful 2.4-liter engine rates 21 city/28 highway. All-wheel drive takes this rating down to 20 city/26 highway.

The two engines connect to either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. Both setups provide adequate power and acceleration for everyday driving, but the 2.4-liter powerplant mated to the manual gearbox grants faster throttle response and more deliberate power. This comes in handy when passing on the highway at 70-plus miles per hour.

In normal, in-town driving, the Vibe feels more like a small car than a crossover. It takes corners flatly with little body roll. Though it has considerable height for a vehicle its size, the Vibe exhibits a relatively low center of gravity. The result is better agility than most small crossover utilities, like the Nissan Rogue or Hyundai Tucson.

Off pavement, the Vibe is more capable than the typical compact car. It is certainly not trail-rated, but it offers a higher ground clearance and all-wheel drive, both of which help make it possible to tread rough terrain (within reason).

The Vibe seats up to five adults comfortably. And with seats folded down, there is just as much cargo room as most mid-size utilities. Buyers with gear to haul will most likely find no shortage in this department.

The Vibe offers optional side and curtain airbags. NHTSA gives the Vibe five stars in frontal crash testing for the driver and four stars for the front-passenger. Side and rear impact data has not yet been released.

In terms of build quality, the Vibe is, let’s face it, a Pontiac. The brand is not known for having the most stellar service record. But to the Vibe’s credit, much of that record has not spilled over onto this model.

The Pontiac Vibe is a well-rounded lifestyle-oriented vehicle for those interested in economy and practicality with a shot of style and performance.