What's New for 2009
The 2009 Pontiac G3 is a new five-door subcompact hatchback competing in the U.S. market.
When GM was casting about for a small economy car a few years back, it tapped its Korean subsidiary Daewoo, which was already making a little runabout called the Kalos. After a quick badge job, the Chevy Aveo was born, and it's been a fixture in the bow-tie fleet ever since. Apparently, GM was pleased with this rebadging effort, because it's done it all over again with the 2009 Pontiac G3. In other words, the G3 is an Aveo5 hatchback by another name -- and at a higher price.
Though far removed from Pontiac's "We Are Driving Excitement" days of old, the G3 does give the division a foothold in the increasingly popular subcompact segment. A low price and good fuel economy are prerequisites here, and the G3 technically has these bases covered with a sticker that starts under $15,000 and overall fuel economy rated as high as 30 mpg. However, the G3's $14,335 base price frankly isn't low enough for what you get. Like its cheaper Aveo5 sibling, the G3 fails to distinguish itself in any area, yet this pallid Pontiac costs almost as much as the vastly superior Honda Fit. The G3 is equipped with some basic convenience items and comes standard with GM's exclusive OnStar system, but its cabin is notably chintzier than the less-expensive Nissan Versa's. Three-door hatches like the Hyundai Accent and Toyota Yaris and are at once easier on the wallet and more pleasant to drive. The G3's combined 30 mpg (28 mpg with the automatic) isn't bad, but nor is it particularly impressive for such a diminutive car -- both the Yaris and Fit provide better gas mileage.
In years past, the Aveo has been a respectable sales success for Chevy, but choices for subcompacts have only gotten better. The same goes for the 2009 Pontiac G3, and it's not an ideal choice for this segment. You could even go with a base Aveo5 and save a couple grand, though of course you'll lose some standard equipment in the process, including side airbags. Overall, we recommend looking past the G3 to more enjoyable rivals like the Fit or Accent.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Pontiac G3 is a five-door subcompact hatchback available in a single trim level. Standard G3 equipment includes 14-inch steel wheels, foglamps, a rear spoiler, a tilt steering column, manual accessories, cloth seating, air-conditioning, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, OnStar and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with an auxiliary input jack. The Preferred package adds power accessories, heated outside mirrors and keyless entry; the Cruisin' package tacks on cruise control, satellite radio and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls; and the Sport package provides 15-inch aluminum wheels and a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel. Stand-alone options include a sunroof and leatherette upholstery.
Powertrains and Performance
All Pontiac G3s are powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 106 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. This engine is backed by a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. The former's EPA-estimated fuel economy checks in at 27 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined, while the automatic drops to 25/34/28 mpg.
Front-seat side impact airbags and OnStar communications are standard features on all G3s. Antilock brakes are an extra-cost option, and side curtain airbags -- a feature increasingly common in other subcompacts -- are not available. In government crash tests, the G3 received a perfect five stars for frontal impacts and four stars for side impact protection. On the other hand, the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety deemed the similar '09 Chevrolet Aveo "Acceptable" (the second-highest ranking out of four) in frontal offset crash testing and "Marginal" (second-lowest) for side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the five-passenger 2009 Pontiac G3 sports decent-quality materials adorned with metallic-look accents and several storage areas for small items. Climate controls are straightforward, though the stereo employs an array of buttons instead of more user-friendly knobs. Though the G3 offers a convenient 42 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded, that's nothing to write home about -- and the 7.1 cubic feet available behind the rear seats won't hold more than a few bags of groceries.
While the Pontiac G3 doesn't provide much in the way of vehicular entertainment, it's a respectable ride for knocking out errands or engaging the daily commute. The steering is responsive enough, and the ride is acceptable by subcompact standards. Unlike other cars in this class, we prefer the optional automatic transmission to the manual gearbox. Though the five-speed is rated as slightly more economical around town, its ratios are overly wide, and it's not especially pleasant to operate.