Popular Mechanics Article
PM OWNERS REPORT
PONTIAC FIERO 2M4
Popular Mechanics, May 1984
The article starts with a couple passing an object over the top of a
Fiero with the following captions encircling the picture:
"Some difficulty shifting into first and reverse"
Texas Computer Consultant
"Would have been willing to pay an additional $4,000 for it."
"My teen-agers love it--have to make an appointment to drive it myself."
Alabama Registered Nurse
"19 mpg is rather disappointing."
California Corporate VP
"Too wide a turning radius."
Arizona Electronics Technician
"Classier than the 280ZX and RX7."
New York Engineer
Many owners ordered Fieros sight unseen. And they weren't bothered
by early production kinks. Owners confessed to falling head over heels in love
with the Fiero's styling, often before seeing an actual car. Looks
ranked No. 1 as the reason for buying, hotly pursued by price,
patriotism, economy and handling, in that order.
"I saw pictures of the Fiero months before it went on sale," said an
Ohio steelworker, "and instantly fell in love with the car. It's
exactly the kind of two-seater I wanted. Besides, it's made in the U.S.A!"
A Colorado businessman: "Call it love at first sight, but back in
August '82 up in the Rockies, I happened to come across a Fiero being
tested during Pontiac's engineering shakedowns. I ordered my car right
after that without knowing what the price would be."
A Texas computer engineer: "It's the sportiest inexpensive car
around. It cost less than a Camaro, Trans Am or Mustang. On top of
that, it's loaded with new technology, gets good gas mileage and is made
"It's what the 1984 Corvette should have been," wrote a Michigan
artist. "The Fiero's styling makes a more powerful statement than
anything else on the road. My friends at GM say the Fiero has
outrageous potential, part of which will become evident in 1985."
Many owners noted the styling link between the Fiero and the Corvette--
and it's true: Way back at the beginning of the 1984 Corvette's development
program, GM's designers projected that car to become very nearly what the
Fiero is today. So the similarity goes beyond front-end design and even
beyond the plastic body--it amounts to a root kinship.
A Wisconsin mechanic became one of many respondents who
mentioned the similarity, but he put it a different way: "I've followed
the Fiero's development in the car magazines for about two years and had
pretty much made up my mind to buy one. As a former owner of 10
Corvettes, I feel the Fiero is what the new Corvette should have been in
terms of size. If it came with an aluminum V6, 200hp and a European
name, it would cost $35,000 and be a steal at that!"
Many owners referred to their Fieros as "sports cars." Pontiac,
however, views it more as an economical, sporty commuter. But just as
Vette fanciers tend to be more up on cars, so are Fiero owners. No
Fiero driver felt lukewarm about his or her automobile. And when things
went wrong mechanically--as they're bound to with any car this
new--j10.6 percent of the respondents to our survey fixed it themselves.
In a way, it's not fair to survey owners of the very first cars off any
assembly line. But because we want to report on new models as soon as we
can, we have to go to the very first buyers available. We did this with
the 1984 Corvette, and we've done it again with the Fiero. However, our
sampling contains the sorts of early production glitches that might have
been remedied at the factory by the time your read this.
The biggest headache with early Fieros involved the electrical
system. In some cases, the engine's ECM (electronic control module) for
the throttle-body injector malfunctioned causing jerky performance. A
North Carolina store manager complained that his dealer had replaced the
ECM three times, always under warranty, "but it's time-consuming and an
annoyance to have to keep going back."
Mostly, though, electrical problems involved more minor items. "The
gauge-panel fuse keeps blowing out," a Minnesota housewife told us, "and this
seems to happen when I use the cruise control." The fuse for the electric deck-
lid latch also had a tendency to blow, and a few owners had problems with their
A California business executive: "The voltage regulator went bad, and
then I had a series of blown fuses, but service was prompt and courteous."
Nearly 70 percent of our respondents rated dealer service good to excellent.
Owners with manual transmission Fieros growled that it's sometimes
hard to shift into low gear, and 8.6 percent complained that the pop-up
headlights tended to stick. In some cases the lamp mechanisms merely needed
adjustment, but in others, the relays had burned out.
Fiero drivers were generally impressed with the way their cars
handled. A mail carrier form Michigan said, "This has to be the best
handling car I've ever had the pleasure of driving."
A nuclear reactor inspector from the same state added, " I ordered the
WS-6 sport suspension, which is expectedly firm, but I prefer to drive a
car as opposed to being carried in splendid isolation. Therefor, the
levels of both handling and comfort suit me fine."
j A few owners mentioned that the Fiero could use power steering,
especially for parking maneuvers. Power steering isn't yet a Fiero option, but
it's one that Pontiac is watching. They might offer Saginaw's new
electric-servo type, which is now coming out of the experimental stage.
Also , the car's turning radius seemed a bit wide to some owners,
especially for a two-seater with such a short wheelbase.
But a New York electrical technician said, "This car handles great.
I've owned Jags, MGs and Corvettes, but they didn't handle like this
Fiero. The interior design has a way of making you feel snug, secure,
in complete control, but there's still that air of roominess in the
cockpit. The dashboard looks miles away, yet it's right there, and
everything is very functional. Then there's the stereo--absolutely great!"
The up-option stereo won solid praise from many owners. A Minnesota
bodyman said, "The stereo system with those speakers mounted in the
headrests, totally surrounds you with sound!"
The Fiero's Lear-Siegler sport seats brought both good and bad
comments. "The seats feel like they're built around you," said a California
manager, "and the car handles like it's running on rails." A California
network coordinator: "I'm 5-foot-2 and have to put the seat all the way
forward to reach the clutch pedal. But because of the many seatback
positions, I don't feel I'm sitting on top of the wheel."
A 6-foot-3 businessman figured he was about the tallest person who'd
fit into a Fiero, and even at that he was having trouble getting in and
out. A Nebraska nurse added, "Seats need more thigh support. A person
with long legs suffers on long trips." And a few wide-bottom drivers
considered the seats too narrow.
Most owners voiced satisfaction with the Fiero's performance, and a
Tennessee engineer wasn't alone when he commented, "I enjoy driving my
Fiero. It handles and corners well, and the four-cylinder engine
delivers all the power I desire." But we also heard from those who
voted for more power. "Add a turbocharger." suggested a Maryland
electrical engineer. That's another item Pontiac is considering."
"I'd be happier with the V6 engine." lamented a New York voucher
clerk. She, like many Fiero owners, had heard about the forthcoming V6
and wished Pontiac had offered it earlier. Others noted the lack of a
five-speed--another possible future option. So far, Pontiac lists just
the 92-hp four with four-speed or automatic for the Fiero, but off-road
HO parts are available from dealers, including one kit that makes the
Iron Duke deliver around 250 hp. Speed shops are likewise selling hopup
and suspension goodies.
PLASTIC BODY WINS PRAISE
Overall workmanship was judged good to excellent by 97 percent of our
respondents--right up there with the very best from Europe and Japan. The
plastic body contributed to that fine rating and came in for quite a bit
of praise. A New Hampshire steamfitter pointed out that "the body can't
rust," and a Michigan housewife said, "So far as body alignments go,
this is the best car we've ever owned. The pop-on body panels don't dent."
A Wyoming mining foreman wanted better visibility, "There's a blind
spot at the fake rear side glass," he wrote. "Pontiac could improve
this, I'm sure." An Ohio hostess felt the choice of body colors was too
limited when she bought her car: "Just red and white."
Several respondents also mentioned a lack of luggage space, although
this came as no surprise to anyone. the absence of a real glove compartment,
no room to hand a suit, and the fact that a flat tire wouldn't fit into
the Space-Savr spare compartment bothered a few. "But I'll sacrifice
the space rather than see a change in the body design." added an
Illinois stock clerk.
Most owners gave Pontiac great credit for a job will done. A
Wisconsin foundation assistant wrote: "The Fiero has renewed my faith
in the American automobile. It's my first Detroit product in 15 years,
and it's excellent in every way. I look forward to driving it. Many
people ask me about the car, and other look over their shoulders to grab
A Texas programmer: "the potential of this basic design is limitless.
It'll be interesting to see what Pontiac does in the future. If the
Fiero had 150-plus horses and a larger fuel tank, it could compete with
cars costing twice as much, notably Corvette, Porsche, 300ZX, and Alfa
Romeo. As it is, the Fiero is an exceptional value for the price."
And finally, from a Florida corporate general manager: "Candidly,
it's a tremendous ego trip!"
SUMMARY OF 1984 PONTIAC FIERO OWNERS REPORTS
Total miles driven 863,922
Average miles per gallon
in town 24.0
On the highway 31.1
In town 23.2
On the highway 29.7
Three-speed automatic 50.0%
Four-speed manual 50.0%
Why did you choose the Fiero?
Made in America 18.8%
Stereo system 23.6%
Not enough trunk space 26.1%
Hard shifting into low
Disappointing mileage 7.6%
Hard to park
(Heavy steering) 7.2%
What changes would you like?
More powerfull engine 19.0%
transmission option 15.9%
More luggage capacity 12.4%
No changes 8.5%
Easier shifting 8.5%
How much did you pay?
Had any mechanical trouble?
What type of trouble?
Manual shifter 17.9%
Headlamp mechanism 8.6%
Windshield wipers 7.3%
Dealer service opinion:
Number of vehicles owned:
This car only 24.1%
Two cars 34.3%
Three cars 22.6%
Four or more cars 19.0%
Makes of other cars owned:
Would you buy another Fiero?
Would you buy another Pontiac?
Age distribution of owners:
15-29 years 37.5%
30-49 years 54.0%