Full 2009 Pontiac G5 Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Pontiac G5 GT drops last year's 2.4-liter engine, opting for the base model's 2.2-liter inline-4 that receives a slight increase in power and fuel economy. Bluetooth and iPod connectivity are also available for the first time.
More than any other automaker, General Motors is a big fan of taking a model and rebadging it for another brand -- the automotive equivalent of re-gifting, you might say. Sometimes, this can work to a brand's advantage. Pontiac's well-received G8, for instance, actually hails from Australia as the Holden Commodore. The 2009 Pontiac G5 was also subjected to this process. But in the G5's case, the re-gifting process is about as successful as last year's fruitcake.
The G5 is virtually identical to Chevy's largely unloved Cobalt. This adaptation is unsuccessful at filtering out the less-than-desirable traits of the original and falls woefully short compared to its compact-sport-coupe competition. While the G5 is slightly more attractive than its relative, its styling still lacks the "excitement" that Pontiac strives for.
Furthering the G5's shortcomings is this year's discontinuation of the GT variant's more powerful 2.4-liter engine. Previously, this engine gave some needed spunk to the car. Instead, Pontiac has made the 2.2-liter engine standard across the board. A disappointment, to be sure, though there is a silver lining -- the 2.2-liter engine now has variable valve timing and this, in addition to a variety of other minor tweaks, has raised the G5's fuel economy by a few miles per gallon. You might be a bit surprised to learn that the G5 is just as fuel-efficient as a Honda Civic.
Even with better mpg, however, the 2009 Pontiac G5 is largely rental-fleet fodder. There are just too many faults, such as its lifeless handling, depressing interior and overall lack of sophistication. If you're looking for an inexpensive and sporty coupe, models such as the Honda Civic, Saturn Astra, Scion tC, VW Rabbit and even the turbocharged Cobalt SS would be better choices.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Pontiac G5 compact sport coupe is offered in a base model as well as a slightly upgraded GT version. The base-model G5 comes standard with 15-inch wheels with plastic covers, air-conditioning, full power accessories, keyless entry, split-folding rear seats, OnStar and a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The G5 GT goes a step further with standard 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, sport rocker moldings, a revised front airdam with foglamps, cruise control, Bluetooth, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a more powerful Pioneer speaker system. When equipped with the standard five-speed manual, the base G5 is known as an XFE.
Optional on the base model is the new My Link Package, which includes 16-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded stereo with an iPod-friendly USB port, Bluetooth, enhanced OnStar features, cruise control and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. Base models can also be equipped with the Pioneer speaker system. Optional on both trims are remote vehicle start and a sunroof. For G5 GTs, Pontiac also offers the USB-port stereo and heated front seats with leather upholstery.
Powertrains and Performance
All Pontiac G5 models are propelled by a 2.2-liter inline-4 that produces a respectable 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. For both variants, the front wheels are driven by a standard five-speed manual transmission with an option for a four-speed automatic.
As expected from any entry-level compact sport coupe, performance is far from inspiring -- but for that sacrifice, you get very good fuel economy. The base G5 XFE with the five-speed manual and 15-inch wheels achieves a best-in-class 25 mpg city/37 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined. Opting for larger wheels or the four-speed auto drops those numbers, particularly the highway figure, with an auto-equipped G5 GT with 17-inch wheels achieving 23 city/32 highway and 26 combined.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are available as an option for the base Pontiac G5 and come standard with the GT. Full-length side curtain airbags are standard on both models, and the addition of a passenger-sensing system for 2009 improves front airbag deployment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the 2009 Pontiac G5 a four-star (out of five) crash rating for driver protection in head-on collisions. It earned five stars for front passenger protection. In side-impact testing, both front and rear passenger protection earned it four stars.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the Pontiac G5 is simple and understated, with tasteful metal accents, but remains unimpressive -- due in no small part to its flimsy plastic surfaces. Unlike the class leaders, this cheap car has an interior that looks and feels the part of an inexpensive sport coupe. White-faced gauges are both easy to read and attractive, while the information gleaned from the trip computer (outside temperature, fuel range/consumption) proves useful. As reported by our editors, seat comfort is lacking -- even with the leather seats, and especially in the cramped rear quarters.
While the 2009 Pontiac G5 offers enough power for the average commuter, handling will most likely disappoint, particularly on the base model. An abundance of body roll and numb steering limit the driver's overall connection to the car -- but to the G5's credit, the ride is both smooth and quiet. In the sport-coupe segment, which leans towards driving enjoyment, the G5 trails far behind the competition.