Pontiacs smallest, lowest-priced model, which is now available only in a two-door coupe body style, got a restyled front and rear end in 2003. For 2004, a CD/MP3 player and Radio Data System (RDS) operation are available. New exterior colors include Rally Yellow and Fusion Orange Metallic.
The Sunfire comes in a single trim level, but three Preferred Equipment Groups are available. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags are optional. An Ecotec 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine produces 140 horsepower.
Pontiacs front-wheel-drive Sunfire is similar to the Chevrolet Cavalier, which remains available in both coupe and sedan forms. Both models were last redesigned for 1995. Chevrolets version will be replaced in 2005 with a new Cobalt model, but Pontiac has announced that the Sunfire will stay in the market for a while longer. Built in Ohio and Mexico, the Sunfire competes against the Dodge Neon, Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Mitsubishi Eclipse.
Flaunting Pontiacs sportier personality, the Sunfire 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 60/40-split, folding rear seat, five people fit inside the Sunfire. The driver uses 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. An XM Satellite Radio and GMs OnStar communication system are available as options.
Under the Hood
All Sunfires use a 140-hp, 2.2-liter dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder Ecotec engine that produces 150 pounds-feet of torque. A Getrag five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional.
Antilock brakes are standard, optional or unavailable, depending on the option group selected. 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 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 it picks up handily with 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. Steering it 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.
Posted on 11/5/03
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