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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
May 7, 2003
Posted on 10/17/02 Vehicle Overview A restyled front end and rear end are the most noticeable changes to Pontiacs smallest, lowest-priced model for the 2003 model year. The Sunfires sport suspension has been modified, and a 60/40-split, folding rear seat has been installed. An XM Satellite Radio and GMs OnStar communication system are now available as options in this compact car.
The sedan version of the Sunfire has been dropped, which leaves only the coupe. It comes in a single trim level, but three Preferred Equipment Groups are available. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags are optional. A new Ecotec 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine produces 140 horsepower.
Pontiacs front-wheel-drive Sunfire is similar to the Exterior
The Sunfire flaunts Pontiacs sportier personality and exhibits different front and rear styling than the Cavalier. A rear spoiler is standard. Mounted on a 104.1-inch wheelbase, the Sunfire coupe measures 182 inches long overall and stands 53 inches tall. The Sunfire may be equipped with a base or sport-type suspension.
With its front buckets and three-place rear seat, five occupants fit inside the Sunfire. The car 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. Air conditioning and a rear-window defogger are standard.
Under the Hood
All Sunfires now use an Ecotec 140-hp, 2.2-liter dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine. 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 might look sportier than its 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 with so many competitors introduced recently.
Acceleration with the Ecotec engine and automatic transmission is sluggish from a standstill, but picks up handily at speed. The Sunfires throttle response at 45 to 55 mph is much better. Engine blare occurs during hard acceleration, but its not overly annoying.
The Sunfires handling leans toward ordinary, but this compact car has very good control. Its steering takes a little effort, but responses are satisfying. The base suspension deals fairly well with road imperfections, but it transmits quite a bit of jarring to occupants over rough pavement.
The Sunfires interior is typical of Pontiac; it boasts a sportier image than the Cavalier. The reasonably spacious two-door 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.