Should You Take the Pontiac Fiero Off-Road?

The advantages of the Pontiac Fiero are fuel efficiency and dashing sports-car looks—not off-roading. Learn more and find alternatives here!
Written by Drew Waterstreet
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Pontiac Fiero
was initially marketed as a fuel-efficient commuter car with dashing sports-car looks. So, quite honestly, nothing about this car’s design is built for off-roading.
Don’t get us wrong—with its iconic hidden headlamps, intriguing notchback coupé body style, and impressive 31/50mpg (city/highway), the Fiero certainly fulfilled the desires of its targetted niche. But, unfortunately, that niche just wasn’t the off-road enthusiast.
Continue reading to learn more about the lacking off-road specifications that helped the Fiero receive the worst possible score on our
DIRT rating system
. And then, to wrap things up, we’ll show you some potential off-road alternatives to the Pontiac Fiero and
how to save hundreds on your car insurance
using the innovative
super app
. Let’s get started!

Can the Pontiac Fiero go off-road?

No, this two-seater sports car is meant for paved roads only. And that’s not just our opinion. The specific design of the Pontiac Fiero restricts it from being able to handle the demands of off-road terrain—let us elaborate.
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Ground clearance

The Pontiac Fiero only has a ground clearance of 5.5 inches, which is well below the off-road recommendation of 8.8 to 10.8 inches. And honestly, 5.5 inches may not even be enough to handle some steep driveways without scraping your bumper—let alone any off-road terrain.


The fuel-efficient version of the 2.5 L four-cylinder Iron Duke engine helps the Pontiac Fiero achieve 31mpg in the city and 50mpg on the highway! The driving experience is also incredibly smooth thanks to its mid-engine layout.
While this powertrain setup does have its advantages, it is noticeably underpowered. With only 92 hp and 134 lb-ft of torque, the Fiero cannot make the quick and real-time adjustments needed to handle the unpredictable nature of off-roading.


The Pontic Fiero is only available in rear-wheel-drive, which is typical of two-door sports cars of its size and stature. But without a more capable drivetrain, like AWD or 4x4, the Fiero can’t provide the traction control and torque allocation needed for off-road conditions.


One big reliability issue haunted the 5-year history of the Pontiac Fiero: they caught on fire! 
Fieros were catching fire at the rate of one for every 508 cars sold, far surpassing all other mass-market vehicles of the time. After GM ran appropriate tests, they discovered that low engine oil levels could cause a connecting rod failure, leading to fires in the engine compartment.
Obviously, the last place you want your car to go up in flames is off the beaten path where there isn’t immediate access to fire hydrants. Just another reason to keep your Pontiac Fiero within city limits.

Off-road rating: Don’t Try It

We’ve rated the Pontiac Fiero using
super-technical DIRT rating system, broken down in the table below:
Don’t Try It
Vehicles better suited to highway conditions
In a Pinch
Vehicles that can handle off-road conditions in certain circumstances
Rough and Ready
Vehicles designed for casual off-roading
Trail Boss
True off-road vehicles capable of tackling a range of terrain
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The Pontiac Fiero earns the lowest D rating (“Don’t Try It”): plain and simple, this is a sports car, not an off-roader. Plan to get stuck or cause severe damage to your Fiero if you drive it anywhere but the pavement.

The best off-road alternatives to the Pontiac Fiero

As we’ve covered, the Pontiac Fiero should be nowhere near the top of your list for off-roading vehicles. However, some folks bypass the design flaws by slapping a lift kit onto the Fiero to create a sporty/off-road combination that resembles something out of Mad Max.
But if you’d like something that has a stock version that is suitable for all terrains, here are a couple of alternatives you can consider:
Used Price
Best reliable alternative
2013 Toyota Matrix
With good storage space, all-wheel-drive capability, and solid reliability, the Matrix can be a trustworthy off-road vehicle.
Best Pontiac alternative
2004 Pontiac Vibe
If you want to stick with Pontiac, the Vibe is a sports wagon that is happy to be your weekend camping cruiser.
Best off-road alternative
2001 Jeep Cherokee
Nothing says adventure quite like a Jeep!
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How to find affordable car insurance for off-road vehicles

Unfortunately, off-roading is seen as a privilege rather than a right in the eyes of insurance providers. They consider it an unnecessary risk (lame, we know). So if you have the urge to hit the dirt road, you may have to pay for the thrill through higher insurance premiums.
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