Essentially the same in design as the Chevrolet Cavalier, the front-drive Sunfire subcompact is Pontiacs lowest priced model. Soon after the 2002 model year begins, the Sunfire will gain a new 140-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine, which becomes standard in the Sunfire GT and optional for SE models. A tilt wheel and electronic trunk release are now standard, and an auxiliary power outlet will be installed on later models.
The Sunfire is available as a coupe and sedan, while the sporty GT model comes only as a coupe. Both the Sunfire and Cavalier may receive face-lifts for the 2003 model year and will be in GMs lineup for a while longer before brand-new models replace them.
The Sunfire wears Pontiacs sportier personality and features different front and rear styling than Chevrolets Cavalier. A rear spoiler is standard, and the SE coupe and sedan display side ribs and rocker-panel moldings. The GT coupe has standard fog lights.
Mounted on a 104.1-inch wheelbase, the Sunfire sedan measures 181.8 inches long overall, and the coupe is just a hair longer. Sedans stand 54.7 inches tall vs. 53 inches for two-door Sunfires.
As many as five occupants fit inside the Sunfire, with its front buckets and three-place rear seat. The Sunfire has a floor-mounted transmission shift lever. The standard center console includes a padded armrest, two cupholders for front occupants, and storage slots for coins, tapes and CDs. A cassette player is standard on both models. Air conditioning and a rear-window defogger also are standard.
Under the Hood
The SE model comes with a 115-hp, 2.2-liter four-cylinder, and the GT coupe will gain a new 140-hp, 2.2-liter dual-overhead-camshaft four-cylinder Ecotec engine, which will be optional in the SE. A 150-hp, 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder is optional for both models. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional. Antilock brakes are standard, and side-impact airbags are not available.
Decked out with extra body trim, the Sunfire may look sportier than its Chevrolet Cavalier cousin, but the driving experience isnt much different. Both models have been around for a long time. They arent the most refined or the best-performing small cars on the market, especially since so many competitors have been introduced recently.
Acceleration with the GT is considerably stronger, as expected, but handling with any model leans more toward the ordinary side. Even so, a reasonably spacious Sunfire still qualifies as a good value for shoppers who seek sensible transportation and dont demand the latest in technology, safety features or fashionable styling.