Besides all the above, depending on the intended use and requirements - two sets of the right kind of wheels and tires might usefully open up some additional two wheel drive choices.
Then again, it might not.
As an example, a fwd with sufficient ground clearance and snow tires will in most situations that matter, out perform awd with 'regular tires' in winter driving conditions.
- had a two wheel drive Jeep once - did just fine for its intended use when supported by three wheel and tire combinations.
I agree 109% regarding tires vs. AWD. AWD and Soobies have a certain cachet that is hard to overcome. But it's all overcome by good tires and driving skill.
The VUE's all wheel drive isn't really "full time" either, it's FWD until slip is detected. Really, the only mainstream AWD system that is similar to Subaru's is Quattro.
I have no experience with the Vibe but I can tell you that a non-turbo, automatic Forester felt very underpowered to me. I can't imagine that the Vibe is that much worse in the acceleration department.
The much lighter Impreza is a different story.
I don't think HP and 0-60 times are an issue. Safety and security are.
I had a Forester as a rental a couple of years back. I wrote it up in the readers test section, it was pretty mediocre with no power, poor seats, a crummy radio, a wheezing engine...other than that, it was better than an Echo.
Yeah a Saab is the only really comparable GM vehicle, but the Vibe is an awfully good second-rung competitor. Where it falls short is in power... I've not driven the new one but the old AWD was certainly no Subaru. Still, very likeable car.
The 2009 Vibe AWD gets the 2.4 motor, which should take care of power problems.
GM's best competitor to the Subaru Impreza or Subaru Legacy is the Pontiac Vibe AWD.
GM's best competitor to the Forester is, as jkr2016 mentioned, the Saturn Vue AWD.
If your acquaintance isn't as interested in crash safety and does not esteem the opinion of Consumer Reports and similar sources, you might get them to consider a Chevy Equinox or Pontiac Torrent.
I did post the list, except the SAAB, as posted above by all local experts, including the HHR. That includes, the Equinox, Torrent, Vibe, VUE, and HHR.
Of course, I also recommended a Mighty KIA Spectre, but I doubt that will be compared to the pygmy Soobie.
The only people I know that own a non-turbo Impreza think it's very underpowered, too. So the Vibe may not be much worse.
Thanks for all the answers. My final recommendation will be an Escalade with $2000 22" wheels and 50 dollar Pimp Boyz junker tires.