Full 2008 Pontiac G5 Review
What's New for 2008
The Pontiac G5 enters its second year with minimal changes. All models receive side curtain airbags and satellite radio as standard equipment, while the GT trim gets stability control and OnStar as standard.
Here's about all you need to know about the 2008 Pontiac G5: it's a badge-engineered knockoff of the Chevrolet Cobalt coupe, sharing just about everything with its corporate cousin except for minor differences in exterior styling and interior trim. Therefore, it shares both strengths and weaknesses with its platform-mate.
To its benefit, the G5 boasts a sporty profile, a couple of decently powerful engines and an affordable price. Unfortunately, the ledger sheet contains many more weaknesses than strengths. Despite a coupe-only body style and being a product of General Motors' "Designed For Action" brand, there's little actual excitement going on with the G5. Tepid handling and steering, a bland and low-quality interior and a general lack of refinement all put Pontiac's entry-level car near the bottom of our list of desirable coupes to own.
Perhaps if you just ignored those other models, the 2008 Pontiac G5 might be a reasonable choice for an affordable and sporty small coupe. But that would be just a tad silly, wouldn't it? Just about all of the G5's rivals, including the Honda Civic, Scion tC, Volkswagen Rabbit and GM's own all-new Saturn Astra are more fun to drive, with better build quality and generally superior execution. We strongly suggest taking a look at them first before deciding on this Pontiac.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Pontiac G5 is a compact sport coupe in either base or GT trim. The base G5 comes with 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, remote keyless entry, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, satellite radio and a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack. The GT adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, foglamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, a Pioneer seven-speaker audio system, and steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. The base G5 can be optionally equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels as well as many of the GT's features. Other major available features for both models include a six-CD changer, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a sunroof and remote vehicle starting. The Pontiac G5 can be further personalized with an extensive array of dealer-installed accessories like 18-inch wheels, cat-back exhaust system, custom-colored interior lighting, high-mount spoiler and a body ground-effects package.
Powertrains and Performance
With either engine, the front-drive Pontiac G5 is one of the swifter economy cars on the market. A 2.2-liter inline four-cylinder with 148 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque motivates the base G5; a more potent 2.4-liter engine with 171 horses and 167 lb-ft of torque powers the GT. Both are connected to a standard five-speed manual transmission, with a four-speed automatic available as an option. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 22-24 mpg city/31-33 mpg highway depending on the powertrain combination selected.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard on the GT, while the base G5 comes with rear drums and ABS as an option. Traction control is available on models equipped with ABS brakes and an automatic transmission. Full-length side curtain airbags are standard on all G5s this year. Government frontal impact testing resulted in four stars out of five for the driver and a perfect five stars for the passenger. In that agency's side-impact tests, the 2008 Pontiac G5 earned four stars for both front and rear occupants.
Interior Design and Special Features
Attractive instruments, comprehensive audio controls and some well-placed metallic accents on the GT model brighten up an otherwise stark and unimpressive cabin. Some of the interior plastics feel cheap, and even with the optional leather trim, the seat design is plain and not especially comfortable -- particularly in back where the bench is low and flat. On the plus side, both models feature a trip computer that provides useful information like outside temperature, fuel range, coolant temperature and any necessary warning messages.
Whichever trim level you choose, the G5 has adequate power for most situations. A smooth and quiet ride will be a boon for commuters, as long as they don't place a premium on stellar handling. The standard G5 suspension allows excessive body roll, and the electric power steering that plagues both models is slow, with minimal feedback. In a segment that tends to emphasize fun behind the wheel, the 2008 Pontiac G5 lags behind the class leaders with regard to overall driving enjoyment and refinement.