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SEE ALSO: Pontiac Buyer's Guide

The Sunfire is Pontiac's new, affordable small car for 1995. More than just a replacement for the aging Sunbird, it is a statement of Pontiac's current slogan, "We are driving Excitement". It offers fun and sporty Pontiac styling in an economical front-wheel-drive compact package. Initially available in SE sedan or coupe form, a GT coupe and SE convertible will be offered by mid-1995 model year . Current SE models are powered by a 2.2-liter, 120 horsepower engine matched with a 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission. Underneath its aerodynamic body, the chassis platform has a longer wheelbase and wider track for increased interior room and better maneuverability. The new chassis structure is stiffer and the suspension has been re-engineered for better ride and handling characteristics. To meet today's safety concerns dual front airbags and antilock brakes are standard equipment, even on the least expensive models. With styling derived from Sunfire Speedster concept car, the new Sunfire is unmistakably Pontiac from the Firebird-inspired twin front air intakes to the pointed oval taillights.

Design and manufacturing plans for the Sunfire began over five years ago, and while some delays in startup occurred, it worked out well. With the extra time Pontiac was better able to determine what its buyers really wanted, and it also had time to take advantage of GM's newer technologies and a new manufacturing concepts. One such concept is design for manufacture (DFM), which allows the use of fewer parts, and another was the four-phase product development plan which utilizes cross-functional teams to develop a better product at lower costs.

Drives along the Northern California coast and vineyard valleys left these comments:

APPEARANCE: The new Sunfire was inspired by the Sunfire Speedster, a concept show car. Radically-styled show cars often inspire production machines, but the resemblances can be very slim. Not so with the Sunfire. While the production Sunfire is more conservative than the show car, it is still a visually exciting automobile in a price class that has not been noted for style. From its low nose and air-intake back to the rear it bears a strong resemblance to its cousin, the Pontiac Firebird.

COMFORT: The interior styling reflects the sporting atmosphere of Pontiac. It utilizes a cockpit layout with analog instruments and the console tilted towards the driver, as well as supportive front bucket seats. The rear seat folds down for greater utility, and the low liftover height of the trunk makes getting items in and out easier. A single key now operates the doors, ignition and deck lid. The rear defogger is "zoned" to clear the center area first, and the heater features rear seat ducting. Other conveniences include a low-oil-level light, a battery rundown protection device, and "wet-arm" windshield wipers. Option group 1SD adds a cassette to the AM/FM radio, power windows, locks and mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control and a tilt steering wheel. Its large 4.9 liter glove box can accommodate far more than a pair of gloves.

SAFETY: Each Sunfire is equipped with dual front airbags, antilock brakes, three-point outboard seat belts, rear-door child security locks, side guard door beams and an energy-absorbing steering column. Its chassis and body utilizes Progressive Crush Design which includes reinforced safety-cage construction, as well as front and rear crush zones for occupant protection.

ROADABILITY: Each new Sunfire is equipped with a new Progressive Ride System. Its function is to integrate the various suspension components including tires, springs, mountings and shock absorbers to insure a smooth and controlled ride. When combined with power rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel anti lock brakes a solid, but not harsh, driving experience results. A new stiffer chassis along with improved insulation and sound proofing, plus weather stripping provides a quiet ride in most highway conditions.

PERFORMANCE: General Motors venerable four-cylinder 2.2 liter overhead valve, fuel-injected pushrod engine has a new induction system for quieter operation. Power output is rated at 120 HP and a maximum torque of 130 lb/ft. Incorporating Pontiac's sporting theme our four-door Sunfire was fitted with a smooth shifting 5-speed manual gearbox that helped it achieve good fuel economy.

CONCLUSION: Pontiac's newest model is designed to provide modern styling, engineering, low- maintenance and safety concepts to an entry-level model. The 1995 Sunfire is a great blend of technology and practicality in a stylish four-door family compact sedan.


           Base Price              $  11,709 
           Price As Tested         $  14,040
           Engine Type             I-4, ohv, - pushrod, mpfi
           Engine Size             2.2 liter/133 cid        
           Horsepower              120 @ 5200
           Torque (ft/lbs)         130 @ 4000
           Wheelbase/Length        104"/180"
           Transmission            five-speed manual w/overdrive
           Curb Weight             2720
           Pounds per Horsepower   23
           Fuel Capacity           15
           Fuel Requirement        Unleaded regular (87 oct)              
           Tires                   P195/65R14  all-season
           Brakes                  antilock standard - vented disc/drum
           Drive Train             Front engine/front drive
           EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
             city/highway/observed         24/36/30.2
           0 to 60 mph                     9.1 sec  
           1/4 mi (E.T.)                   16.6 sec    
           Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)       .32