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1997 Pontiac Sunfire

Overall rating:  Product Rating: 3.5

Reviewed by 48 users

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Reviews written: 2
View all reviews by charliecinga




It'd Be Great...If a Donkey was the Alternative


by charliecinga:      Nov 23, 2002


Product Rating: 1.0 Recommended: No 

Pros: Styling, 2.4L engine
Cons: Styling, 2.4L AND 2.2L engine, transmission, suspension, chassis, etc..
The Bottom Line: If you have one in working condition, GET RID OF IT AS A TRADE IN OR PRIVATE SELLER while you still can.


I got my car new when I was 16 years old. On paper, it looked wonderful. 150hp, 155 ft-lb of torque, with a 5 spd transmission. I broke the engine in correctly, and really enjoyed it. I kept the car completely stock for about the first 30,000 miles. Around then, I added a aftermarket intake, a header, a catback exhaust, a rear sway bar, front strut bar, as well as custom koni shocks and struts and H&R lowering springs that lowered it around 1.5" inches. I always used full synthetic Mobil 1, and while I never abused it, I enjoyed the way it performed.

Then everything happened. First, of course, my warranty expired. This coincided within about 1,000 miles of my oil pump going out...of course, no warning lights came on until my engine, with no oil pressure, ate itself. So I replaced the engine. Luckily I was able to find a used 2.4L because a new 2.4L costs over $3,000...more than my car was worth after a few years. So I had my destroyed engine replaced with the used engine.

Before the engine though, I had replaced the clutch. Not from "racing" or abuse, but because of driving to school every day in traffic. I wasn't happy about it, but it was a neccesary $700 at 45,000 miles. And then there were the TWO alternators. I guess those were because...well, who knows. Lets not forget the 2 batteries I've gone through (I'm on my third now). Or the warped brake pads..again, because of general wear and tear of driving in traffic. I have fabric peeling off the door paneling...who knows why. Everything rattles and my hood is loose.

Real quality car. Thats what I have to say about quality. Here is everything else.

Okay, just to cover a few points about the car, specifically up to the current models....

the Isuzu manual transmission in the Sunfire/Cavalier was replaced with a crisper and high quality Getrag transmission in 1999.

The outdated 2.4L and 2.2L engines were FINALLY replaced with the new 2.2L ECOTEC engine that has been tested in Europe with Opel for several years. The older 2.4L and 2.2L were very loud, rough, inefficient engines, that have had plenty of problems and have been outdated for awhile. The Quad4 design they were based on is about a decade old. The new ECOTEC engines produce nearly the same HP and torque, but with much less weight, smoother and more dependable delivery, and more fuel efficiency.

The cars still have a solid rear axle, weak chassis, and full plastic interior. In other words, the car's body flexes alot, which causes lots of rattles and squeeks from the interior. Any hopes at a decent handling subcompact (ala Civic, Integra, etc) are ruined by this weak chassis and solid rear axle. Solid rear axles are great for rear wheel drive drag racing cars, but on a front wheel drive subcompact, they cause the car to be unpredictable and jittery on anything but the smoothest pavement.

The stereo...ummm....no. The Monsoon may be ok, but in 1997, the Monsoon stereo was not an option, and the paper cone speakers the car comes with couldnt handle a loud rendition of "Phantom of The Opera"...much less provide quality sound at volume over a decent period of time.

I could name plenty more things, but to sum everything up, (and excluding ONLY THE NEWEST with the ECOTEC engine and Getrag transmission), this is a low quality engine, mated to a low quality transmission, with a low quality outdated chassis, inside a cheap, plasticky body, with outdated suspension and brakes, problem-prone electrical system. I'm only trying to hold onto it until I can afford something decent. Buying a used Civic would have been much smarter though than this new Sunfire. GM has improved on its quality issues some since then, but they still have a long way to go. Its a bit upsetting to have to pay $1800 for a replacement engine for a car that you just want to get rid of in the first place. At this point though, as soon as something else is fixed, I can tell something else is ready to break.
Amount Paid (US$): 16,000
Condition: New
Model Year: 1997
Model and Options: Sunfire SE 5 - Speed with SECOND 2.4L Engine
Product Rating: 1.0
Recommended: No 
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