- Practical hatchback design
- Roomy interior for class
- Solid build quality
- Peppy performance with manual transmission
- Will be a rare car due to single year of production
- Radio doesn't have tuning knob
- Silly vent in front fender
- Ride at interstate speeds feels nervous
The 2009 Pontiac G3 is an example of the model proliferation that hurt GM for decades. It's a decent but not terrific subcompact.
The 2009 Pontiac G3 is the twin to the 2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 hatchback. The G3 costs approximately $2,000 more than the base Aveo5 because of the G3's higher level of standard equipment, but mechanically the cars are identical. The Pontiac G3 is a front-wheel-drive subcompact that's available with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. This was to be Pontiac's smallest car, and it was for several months until General Motors decided to discontinue the Pontiac brand. The G3 will only be sold for one model year, 2009.
The new G3 looks like the new Aveo5 hatchback and even includes the silly vent in the front fender (just like the Chevy). The change from Chevrolet to Pontiac was made by grafting on a Pontiac dual-port grille in place of the Chevy "bow tie," swapping out the badges, and altering bits of interior trim. The 2009 Pontiac G3 is built in South Korea by GM Daewoo alongside the two Aveo models.
Inside, the cabin has five seat belts, and after putting some miles on several Aveo models, we know that the Pontiac G3 will keep most customers happy using four of them. If only two are seated in the back row, there won't be too much complaining. Seating three in the back would be tight. The rear bench has theater-style seating for better exterior visibility and a 60/40 split for cargo flexibility. Storage and convenience bins are found all over the interior, and some higher-end features like cruise control, XM, and a large sunroof are also optional. Cars from General Motors often have one of the best XM radio setups, but the 2009 G3's radio controls are missing a tuning knob found on most other GM vehicles.
The 2009 Pontiac G3 uses a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 106 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque. Transmissions and chassis components are also similar. EPA mileage is 27/34 mpg for models with a five-speed manual transmission and 25/34 mpg with a four-speed automatic. MacPherson struts, a torsion-beam rear, and a short 97.7-inch wheelbase all conspire to make the G3 a lackluster handler with a hoppy ride. Over 70 mph, the Aveo models we drove felt nervous and we expect the same from a G3. Fourteen-inch wheels are standard, while 15-inchers (and anti-lock brakes) are optional.
Regarding safety, the 2009 Pontiac G3 includes four airbags: two front and two side units (also for the front occupants). ABS remains optional. We like the height-adjustable front shoulder belts because of the extra comfort they provide. Scores for the Pontiac should equal those of the Aveo5; in federal crash tests it scores dual five-star ratings for frontal impacts and dual four-star tallies for side impacts. GM's OnStar is also standard, offering an extra measure of safety not found in other competitors. The IIHS has not tested a G3.
Compared to many low-priced cars, the 2009 Pontiac G3 is well equipped. Features such as air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, rear-window defroster, AM/FM/CD audio system with an aux input jack for an iPod or other device, fog lamps, intermittent windshield wipers, and OnStar are all standard. Options include cruise control, power heated outside rearview mirrors, XM Satellite Radio, and remote keyless entry. Larger wheels (15 inches, up from 14 inches) are also available. General Motors (now that Pontiac will be phased out) continues to back 2009 G3 with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, plus a five-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain.