Those proportions suggest a direct competitor for this year's hot-selling segment-buster, the Chrysler PT Cruiser. The Vibe is a bit longer than the PT (171.8 in. versus 168.8 in.), but with the same overall height and nearly the same wheelbase (103 in. for the PT, 102.4 in. for the Vibe).

Just as Chrysler did with the Cruiser, Pontiac has designed the Vibe's interior to be ultra-flexible. The front passenger seat folds forward with the flip of a lever. Its 60/40 split rear seats fold forward and flat without having to first flip the rear-seat bottoms-very handy. With all passenger seats folded, the Vibe neatly holds an eight-foot ladder. Interestingly, no leather interior option will be offered, at least at launch.

The gearshift, whether automatic or manual, sits far forward, nearly in the dash, to create a bit more floor space. There's a neat little storage area for your cell-phone between the cupholders and console storage bin. The Vibe doesn't have the PT Cruiser's removable rear seats and false load floor, which means it's not going to be EPA-classified as a truck. But there are two tracks built into the rugged, hard-plastic floor that can accommodate special interior bike racks or a slide-out picnic table-designers and marketing people are working out these details as we speak. Add that special bike rack, and Pontiac says you can fit 21-in. mountain bikes in the back (standing up, front wheels removed).

The Vibe's cabin contains eight tie-down anchors and 16 anchor tie-down points, plus storage nets and plastic storage trays in the spare-tire well. A roof rack, which follows the roof's downward slope from the B-pillar back, is standard. The Vibe's rear liftgate has a standard wiper and defogger, even on the basest of base models, and the glass may be opened separately from the gate. Practicality was an obvious goal from the very beginning of the design process.