Sandwiched Into A Sunfire
March 31, 2003By TOM INCANTALUPO Special to the Daily Press
In idle moments, I have sometimes wondered what it would be like to drive with a salami at the base of my spine. I think I found out recently; it’s very unpleasant.
My longtime curiosity was satisfied in a 2003 Pontiac Sunfire, one of GM’s aging small cars long overdue for replacement. No matter how I adjusted the extra cost “sport” seat’s backrest and lumbar support, there was no getting rid of the bulge at the base of the backrest, right where the bottom cushion meets the back cushion.
The seats aren’t new for ’03, but General Motors has made several improvements to the Sunfire and its twin, the Chevrolet Cavalier, to keep budget minded buyers interested until the cars are retired in about two years. tiffany jewellery There are aesthetic, handling and safety improvements.
Last redesigned for the 1995 model year, the Cavalier still does well in the marketplace; it’s Chevrolet’s bestselling car, although 28 percent of its sales are to rental and other fleets.
The Sunfire runs a distant third to the Grand Am and Grand Prix in Pontiac showrooms. About 25 percent of its 57,291 sales through the end of October were to fleets. Not too shabby in both cases when one considers the tough competition and that, if these cars had been Toyotas or Hondas, they probably would have been redesigned twice since 1995.
So what’s the attraction? Low prices and terrific rebates. Prices begin at $14,595 with freight for the Cavalier and $15,475 for the Sunfire the difference being in standard equipment. Both cars, however, come with automatic transmission, air conditioning and a stereo.
At least until Jan. 2, the Cavalier is being offered with a $2,000 rebate and the Sunfire with $2,500. Cut rate financing is available as an alternative in both cases.
Even with more than $4,000 worth of options, my tester stickered at $19,900 with freight and would sell for $17,900 after the available rebate less any dealer discounting you can negotiate. That’s a deal for a car with a sunroof, XM satellite radio, a Monsoon audio system, sport suspension, upg tiffany jewellery raded wheels, tires and interior trim and an Onstar communications system receiver/transmitter.
One can forgive a lot of sins in a car if the price is right, but choosing a Sunfire or Cavalier means overlooking a lot beginning with a subpar reliability rating from Consumer Reports, based on its annual readers’ surveys. Then, there’s a harsh and noisy engine. And the aforementioned uncomfortable driver’s seat if you opt for the sport buckets.
Pontiac says the sport suspension has been modified for ’03 with revalved shocks and larger sway bars. For an inexpensive car, the Sunfire’s handling is adequate, though short of sporty; the tires are apt to lose their grip and skitter briefly across the pavement in spirited driving. And the sport suspension delivers a harsh ride.
Though noisy, the Sunfire’s engine offers sufficient performance, with 140 hp on tap. That engine is relatively new, and it’s used also in the Cavalier, tiffany jewellery Pontiac Grand Am, Oldsmobile Alero and Saturn L series, Vue and Ion.
Back on the plus side, the Sunfire is attractively styled if the aggressive and youthful Pontiac look appeals to you. Its nose and rear have been redesigned, and there are brightly patterned interior fabrics.
Pontiac says the Sunfire’s brakes have been improved for ’03 as well. The teste tiffany jewellery r’s brakes felt fine. But its steering wasn’t; it was high in effort and low on road feel.
The Sunfire’s dashboard has been redesigned, and it is attractive and quite functional; gauges are clearly readable, and controls are easy to locate and intuitive in their use. Unfortunately, the dash’s top reflects onto the windshield when one is driving into the sun. And placing cups in the two front cup holders blocks access to the heater/ventilation and air conditioning controls. Other changes for ’03 include the availability of side impact air bags.