For better or worse (mostly the latter), the Pontiac G5 economy coupe was a rather obvious example of "badge engineering." General Motors started with a Chevy Cobalt coupe, made a few minor changes to things like the grille design, headlights, taillights, interior materials and trim, and then rebadged the vehicle as a distinct Pontiac product. This is nothing new, of course, and not necessarily a bad thing either, provided the shared platform is rock-solid and fully competent.
Regrettably, that was not the case with the Pontiac G5. Its stylish twin-port grille had it all over the Chevy's generic bowtied nose, but otherwise the G5 was a Cobalt by another name. It achieved passing marks in performance and ride quality, but savvy shoppers realized that it lacked sophistication and quality. Pontiac's demise due to GM's 2009 bankruptcy fiasco shouldn't dissuade used-car shoppers, since the G5 is basically a Chevrolet. But the G5's numerous shortcomings prevent us from recommending it as a pre-owned purchase.
Most Recent Pontiac G5
The Pontiac G5 compact coupe was produced from 2007-'09 in two trim levels: base and GT. The base model came with a decent amount of equipment, including air-conditioning, powered accessories, keyless entry and a CD/MP3 audio system. The uplevel G5 GT added Bluetooth ('09 only), 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and cruise control. Additional options included a Pioneer audio system, leather upholstery and, depending on the year, iPod connectivity and satellite radio.
The front-wheel-drive G5 initially came with one of two engines, a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine or a 2.4-liter four. The 2.4 was rated at 173 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque, and it was standard on the GT until being discontinued after 2008. The 2.2-liter was rated at 148 hp and 152 lb-ft until '09, when it became the sole available engine and received some internal tweaks that resulted in more power and better fuel economy. The standard transmission was a five-speed manual, with a four-speed automatic available as an option.
Inside, attractive gauges and a full-featured stereo give the Pontiac G5 a contemporary vibe, and metallic accents on the gear shifter, steering wheel and doors brightened the otherwise stark cabin. Materials quality was poor, however. Both models featured a trip computer that provided useful information such as outside temperature, fuel range and coolant temperature. But even with the optional premium leather trim, our editors found the seat design plain and lacking in comfort -- especially in back, where the bench is flat and low and the quarters cramped.
On the road, our editors noted that either G5 engine provided decent power under normal conditions, but made coarse noises when pressed. The smooth, quiet ride was judged commuter-friendly, but the car's handling on twisty roads was not impressive. Even the "sport-tuned" G5 GT allowed too much body roll, and the electric steering system on both models reacted slowly and with minimal feedback.
Beyond the powertrain adjustments, Pontiac G5 changes were minimal during its brief run. For 2008, all models received side curtain airbags and satellite radio as standard equipment, while the GT trim got stability control and OnStar as standard.