This review is not a regular review. It is not a simple on-road test, in ideal conditions, driving a stock car. No, this is something different, and I think I’m a better man for it.
The car is a 2003 Pontiac Sunfire sedan. It has a 2.2L naturally aspirated inline four-cylinder engine and a 4 speed automatic transmission. The engine is a part of the Ecotec family, an engine family produced by GM from the early 2000’s even through today. Modern Ecotecs will usually be found as a small displacement engine with a turbo: that is not the case for the 2000s. Ecotecs ranged from 2.0-2.4L in displacement and could be found in most base model GM products. The 2.2L is a fine engine, and after what myself and the owner Jacob has put the thing through, I’m pretty happy with the reliability. The transmission is a GM transmission from the late 90’s. It does the job, and it sometimes shows up late.
I could tell you about the interior, but just look at any GM product from the same era and you’ll know what the Sunfire is like. However, one interesting thing about the 2003 sedan is that the sedan variant was never sold in the United States. 2003 was a facelift year for the Sunfire, and while the pre-facelift sedans were available in the US in years prior, we stopped receiving sedans in the states in 2002. We still got face lifted Sunfires, but only the couple. So I guess you could call this one an import?
Now let’s talk about why this was such a special review. This particular Sunfire was lifted, had off road tires, and I drove it at an “all-terrain park”. I never drove the Sunfire on a paved road. The Sunfire is not the ideal vehicle for this terrain. It is front wheel drive, it sits lower than a proper off road vehicle, and is unibody as opposed to body on frame. Not a single off road requirement’s box is checked. That being said: The Sunfire kicked ass. There wasn’t a single rut, bump, hill, or mound that stopped the little red sedan from getting past. This was partly due to the wheels and lift sure, but really I think I learned more about life than about the car.
The Sunfire was able to keep up with our group of all-wheel-drive equipped Subarus because of the use of one phrase: “Send it”. When the Subarus modulated their throttle through a rut, we gave the Sunfire 100% throttle. When others calculated their moves, we sprayed and prayed. It taught me that even though we were ill-equipped, we achieved the same goals as everyone else by just giving it our all, and keeping our feet flat on the floor.
I can’t tell you if you should or should not buy a 2003 Pontiac Sunfire sedan. I can tell you that you should absolutely buy a cheap car, put knobby tires on it, and put it to the absolute test off road. You might just learn a thing or two about yourself in the process.
Watch my video review: