Particular attention was paid to the Vibe's tail end in order to avoid an overly chunky, minivan look. Pontiac's stylists placed the rear license-plate frame in the tailgate, instead of the rear bumper. All Vibes will come with charcoal-colored lower-body cladding, although Pontiac will offer a body-colored cladding and trim package on both the base and GT models. Fortunately, it's not the seriously over-cladded theme Pontiac relies on all too often. As you would expect, the base model looks a bit less aggressive. Some staffers actually prefer its lower level of adornment, and we suspect certain buyers will, too.

Base models get standard 16-in. wheels and tires, GTs are equipped with Z-rated 17-in. rolling stock, which is optional on the standard Vibe (warning for those who live in mountain communities: Chains will not fit over the 17-inchers). The 130-hp base model comes with air conditioning, but not power windows (though they will be offered as part of a package) and should start at about $16,000.

Versatile as all the crossover-like interior features are, it's the 180-hp six-speed-only GT that will appeal to driving enthusiasts. Expect it to base for just under $20,000, including standard four-wheel disc brakes and ABS; the latter is optional on base models, but not the rear discs.

While we love the yellow hue of the prototype car pictured in this article, the Vibe will actually be available only in the following eight colors: Abyss (black), Satellite (silver), Shadow (dark grey), Frosty (white), Lava (red), Salsa (dark red), Neptune (blue), and Envy (green). See them for yourself at Pontiac's What Color is Your Vibe? Web page.

The Vibe adds up to one helluva neat package: We feel it has the potential of being GM's first uniquely fresh, and seriously competitive, small car-albeit with considerable help from Toyota. It combines excellent packaging, youth-oriented good looks, considerable practicality, and aggressive pricing. And the 180-horse GT should run with the new crop of high-horsepower four-cylinder pocket-rockets, so there's a performance element, too. All in all, it's a significant piece of work.

Can you feel the beat?