LOOKS . Perky
COMFORT . Moderato
QUALITY . Plastic
STEREO . Pop Ready
FUN TO DRIVE . Short Trips
HEADS TURNED . Cyberkids
EMOTION . Party Car
CACHET . Kid Stuff


Sticker . $14,359
Power . 120 horsepower
0 to 60 . 11 to 12 sec.
Test Mileage . 26.3 mpg
Seating . 4 +1
Trunk . 12 cubic feet
Parking . Simple


For twenty years now the domestics have chased the imports in the small car class. Finally they seem to be catching up. The Sunfire is Pontiacs best shot ever at something young, fun and affordable. Don't let the low price lead to prejudgements - the Sunfire is a lot of good things in a perky package.

Wild style is a Pontiac hallmark, but this one has a bit more taste than we've seen before. Snappy mags set off a low slung, svelte road hugger in deep metallic blue. The rounded contours are very up to date. Settle in and you'll trip on the groovy cabin. The dash is sculpted and ovalized in a hip fashion. The seats remind one of fancy ergonomic designer office fare and prove to be supportive and comfortable with a nice springy foaminess. Turn it on and you are greeted by Pontiacs signature hyper-red dash lighting, more wild stuff, but kinda fun too. It all seems very fresh.

Spin out with just enough juice to stay amused and enjoy a pretty good ride and ok handling for a low priced scoot. While you are tooling you can check out how loaded this baby is. Tilt wheel, good stereo, cruise, fold-down rear seat, vanity mirrors, console... lots of stuff. Easy on the petrol too. Back seat was no torture rack and actually finished and upholstered with flair.

So there we go. If your budget is tight but you like to flash a bit and want great value for your monthly, check this one out. It is the first small domestic that is not a disappointment in features or finesse. Not the ultimate, but a real contender with a dash of panache'.