By: Kristi Bannen
Ok, if I could declare this car as a sub-subcompact car, I think I would without hesitation. You need to fully understand my frustration overall with the feel and size of this car. I was quite certain when I picked up the Pontiac Sunfire SE Coupe for our review, that Mr. Masters wouldnít fight me for this subcompact car because in general, the smaller cars are just not comfortable for him being abigger guy and all. And I do have to say, this car was not comfortable for me either and Iím not all that large being a bit over 5í3" and weíll leave out how much I weigh.
From the outside, the 2001 Pontiac Sunfire SE Coupe is quite sporty and actually attractive in this particular car category. The Sunfire we drove was a red-orange metallic color with a warm graphite gray interior. The rear spoiler and running day lamps added to its sporty look.
The Sunfire SE Coupe had some nice, useful standard features including: dual front air bags, four-wheel antilock brakes, electric rear window defogger, delay wipers, air conditioning, and comfortable reclining front bucket seats.
The extras that increased the standard price by about $2,900 included a Sun and Sound Package with a tilt steering wheel, a remote keyless entry security package, a trunk net, reading lamps, minimal overhead storage and assist handles. Plus, cruise control, AM/FM stereo with a CD player and six-speaker sound, a power sunroof and 15" aluminum wheels.
I could not ignore how cramped I felt sitting in this car and how hard it was to access the different and most used elements of any car. For instance, just getting the key out of the ignition was awkward and took two hands at times since the release button was so close to the key. It was hard to press the button and release the key without using my other hand. I also hated how my knees hit beneath the steering column when I shifted. I felt a bit trapped at times.
The Sunfire SE Coupes start in price at $14,715 and the one we test drove was listed for $16,210. In a world where most people look for things to be easy and comfortable, I donít understand why carmakers donít make the most-used features in cars automatic. I am so used to rolling down windows with a button, for instance, and it honestly took me a few seconds to figure out how to open the driverís window when I first drove the Sunfire SE Coupe because I assumed it had power windows. Even the handle was kind of out of the way and a reach to use. The seats and mirrors had manual adjustments too.
That was one of my biggest irritants with this car, the location of different equipment. The air conditioning and rear defrost buttons were too close together and when I didnít look right at them, I kept hitting the one I didnít want. Being winter in the Midwest, it wasnít a pleasant atmosphere with the air on obviously! The steering wheel also hid some of the instruments like the internal light switch and the lighter. I like to have everything in clear view. Even when I shifted the wheel up or down, it still covered those controls.
The Sunfire SE Coupe is equipped with a 2.2 liter, 4-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. The pick up was adequate for a subcompact car yet it was noisy when shifting gears. I also had to laugh when I drove the Sunfire in a heavy rain one afternoon. I caught myself looking in the back a few times because the sound of the rain and road noise was so loud at times, it sounded as if the back windows were open.
As for storage, the trunk could hold a lot and it had a cargo net that is always useful. I had a mishap with the trunk lid though. I opened the trunk and leaned in to retrieve some things when the lid came down and whacked me on the back of the head! Not a good feeling and quite irritating actually! I had the same problems with the doors. The doors would shut easily on your legs getting in or out if you didnít push the door and hold it there for a moment to make sure it stayed open.
The center console/armrest had room for small items yet it was too far back for comfort to be used as an armrest. An elbow rest would be more accurate. And the doors had storage compartments built in but I didnít even see it on the driverís door unless the door was open. It was too far behind my seat for me to see or use it when the door was shut.
As for gas mileage, the Sunfire SE Coupe gets 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 miles per gallon on the highway. Warranties on the Sunfire include a 3-year/36,000-mile (whichever comes first) New Vehicle Limited Warranty covering repairs, labor and parts. Plus, Corrosion Protection for six years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Overall, out of a four tire rating, with four being the very best, I give the 2001 Pontiac Sunfire SE Coupe a one tire plus a spare rating. If youíre going to invest $16,000 for transportation, I think there are a lot more practical and comfortable options than this car.
Kristiís Fun Fact:
In 1983, Pontiacís "We Build Excitement" campaign was very successful and in 1995 the Sunfire GT Coupe was first introduced.
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