2008 Pontiac G5 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 2, 2008

The 2008 Pontiac G5 has the flash, but not the dash, of a red-blooded sport coupe.

The car experts at TheCarConnection.com studied road tests of the 2008 Pontiac G5 to compile this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove the 2008 Pontiac G5 and have added driving impressions and details to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, and to provide you with the best car-buying information.

The 2008 Pontiac G5 is the brand's entry-level car. The front-wheel-drive two-door is available in one body style and two trim levels: base and performance-themed GT.

The base engine is a 2.2-liter four-cylinder rated at 148 horsepower; it's available with either a Getrag-sourced five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The optional engine (in the GT) is a 171-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with the same two transmission choices. Fuel economy is good at 24/33 mpg with the manual and the 2.2-liter four, and 22/31 mpg with the larger engine and automatic transmission. Neither engine/transmission combination is delightful; the four-cylinders have an unrefined sound and the automatic shifts well enough, but it doesn't have the five or six speeds that some competitors offer.

The 2008 Pontiac G5's handling is uninspiring, but it won't get any drivers into serious trouble. Understeer is its basic response, and the electric power steering is sluggish and pretty devoid of real feedback. The brakes feel a little better, though.

Review continues below

Outside, the 2008 Pontiac G5 is handsome enough--a bit more stylish than the Cobalt coupe that shares its mechanicals, though its long doors can be tough to open in a tight parking space. Inside, it's styled adequately, but the materials aren't high-quality, the front seats aren't quite supportive, and the backseats are low and cramped. Both base and GT trim lines come standard with A/C, as well as power windows and door locks. XM Satellite Radio, remote start, and a sunroof are available.

Anti-lock brakes and traction control are optional on the base model, though tire pressure monitors are standard on both versions. Curtain airbags are standard for 2008 on both models as well. The Pontiac G5 gets mostly four-star crash ratings and a four-star rating for rollover resistance.

7

2008 Pontiac G5

Styling

If you like the looks of the Chevy Cobalt but simply can't live without that Pontiac logo, the 2008 Pontiac G5 is the car for you.

Pontiac's latest entry-level vehicle, the 2008 Pontiac G5, is another example of what is known in the auto industry as "badge engineering"--simply put, the designers at GM have made minor changes to the Chevy Cobalt and slapped the pointy Pontiac logo and G5 name on it.

Edmunds adds their two cents about the badge engineering on the Pontiac G5 by saying that the 2008 Pontiac G5 is "a twin of corporate cousin Chevy's compact Cobalt coupe. With its more stylish twin-port grille leading the way, the G5 is stuck with the same strengths and weaknesses."

For the 2008 model year, "there are two trim levels for the Pontiac G5 compact coupe: base and GT," according to Edmunds. Little differs externally between the two models; in fact, Car and Driver finds that the only real visible differences are the "17-inch alloy wheels" on the GT, along with a pair of fog lamps. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are quick to point out that the shared exterior of the two versions of this 2008 Pontiac is quite bland. While MyRide.com feels that the Pontiac G5 is "an attractive little two-door, with a nice rising beltline, slightly flared wheel wells, and a few styling cues where the headlights meet the hood," they can't help but notice "the generic shape and stance" and "less than modern looks." Reviewers at Cars.com find that "a rear spoiler is standard" along with "a double-cutout Pontiac grille," but they simply cannot find anything noteworthy about the exterior of the 2008 Pontiac G5 and wrap up their comments with an appropriate "yawn."

Inside the bland and dated exterior of this 2008 Pontiac is an equally boring, though acceptably functional, interior. ConsumerGuide finds the interior "control placement is mostly logical…though the climate control knobs are set too low for easy access while driving." Reviewers at MyRide.com also appreciated the interior layout, finding that "the climate system is easily operated with large, clear controls," while on the audio control side, they "also like the big center dial dedicated to power and volume functions, chrome accents, and clear buttons for primary controls." Edmunds feels that the interior's "attractive gauges and a full-featured stereo give the Pontiac G5 a contemporary feel, and metallic accents...brighten the otherwise stark cabin of the GT." Overall, however, there is little to propel the interior design ahead of the Pontiac G5's competition.

7

2008 Pontiac G5

Performance

For a small coupe, the 2008 Pontiac G5 offers decent acceleration and braking, along with commendable fuel economy, but the handling and ride leave a lot to be desired.

According to some reviewers, the base 2008 Pontiac G5 may leave you wanting more: a little more power, much better handling, and more sportiness.

The 2008 Pontiac G5 offers a pair of engine choices, one each on the base and GT versions. Edmunds writes that a "2.2-liter inline four-cylinder with 148 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque motivates the base G5," while "a more potent 2.4-liter engine with 171 horses and 167 lb-ft of torque powers the GT." The reviewers at Edmunds feel that, "whichever trim level you choose, the G5 has adequate power for most situations." Most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com supported that opinion, with MyRide.com adding that the "G5 GT [performs] admirably without any hesitation or lack of power." Another testament to the engine power on the Pontiac G5 GT comes from Car and Driver, which finds that "a G5 GT with a five-speed stick should dart to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds," a very respectable time "that's second only to a Mustang V-6 for cars that start at less than $20,000." On the base version of the Pontiac G5, Kelley Blue Book reviewers report that "the frisky G5 responds enthusiastically to the gas pedal, while starting off or at speed."

Transferring the power on either version of the 2008 Pontiac G5 to the road is "a standard five-speed manual transmission, with a four-speed automatic available as an option," according to reviewers at Edmunds. For 2008, Pontiac's automatic transmission receives higher praise, as MyRide.com appreciates the "relatively smooth shifts" and Car and Driver describes it as "quick-reacting." ConsumerGuide also chimes in by saying that "the automatic transmission is responsive and quick to downshift for more passing power." The manual transmission is unremarkable except for the fact that Car and Driver tests show that the manual Pontiac G5 GT runs from 0-60 about 0.4 second quicker than the automatic.

Fuel economy is one of the highlights on the 2008 Pontiac G5, especially considering the car's above-average engine performance. The EPA estimates that the Pontiac G5 GT with the manual transmission returns 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, while the automatic boasts virtually identical 22/31 mpg numbers. The lower-output base version achieves an EPA-estimated 24/33 mpg in manual trim and 22/31 mpg with the automatic.

With all the positive reviews that pour in concerning the engine, transmission, and fuel efficiency of the Pontiac G5, you might be wondering what's the justification for the 7-out-of-10 rating in this section. The answer lies in the handling and nonacceleration driving characteristics of this 2008 Pontiac. Edmunds says that commuters "will probably be less impressed with the car's handling and directional responsiveness when the road starts to bend" because the suspension of the Pontiac G5 2008 "allows too much body roll, and the electric steering system on both models is slow, with minimal feedback." That's probably the least critical of the reviews, as MyRide.com writes that "the highway ride is on the stiff side" and says that, while driving the G5 is better than "your annual proctology exam, or the last child you delivered au naturel," it still "isn't all that fun." However, despite the handling problems that plague the G5, stopping isn't a concern; Car and Driver writes that the G5 offers "excellent 164-foot stops from 70 mph," and ConsumerGuide adds that the "GT's standard antilock 4-wheel disc brakes have good stopping control."

7

2008 Pontiac G5

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Pontiac G5 offers respectable build quality and modest materials, but rear occupant room and comfort is virtually nonexistent.

When it comes to build quality, that age-old downfall of American automobiles, TheCarConnection.com finds that many reviewers are surprised to find themselves impressed by the 2008 Pontiac G5. However, problems arise when it comes to comfort and usability on this 2008 Pontiac.

Being a compact coupe, the 2008 Pontiac G5 is tight on space for a car that can, theoretically, seat five passengers. Some reviewers doubt the seating capacity claim, such as those at MyRide.com, who write that "Pontiac deems the G5 a five-passenger ride, but the outboard headrests and bucketed seat bottom tell a different story." The front seats feature room and comfort levels that are "average for the class," according to ConsumerGuide, and "the seats are generally supportive and have generous rearward travel." However, for those in the rear seats of the Pontiac G5, ConsumerGuide finds that "space is tight even for medium-size adults." Edmunds adds that the "seat design is plain and not especially comfortable--particularly in back where the bench is low and flat." Kelley Blue Book reviewers feel that "backseat riders had better be young and/or small...as heads can easily hit the roof and elbow and leg space isn't much better."

Storage space is certainly at a premium in the 2008 Pontiac G5, as the small dimensions and layout seriously limit your storage options. Edmunds feels that the interior features "marginal...interior storage," while reviewers at MyRide.com are disappointed to find that "carrying large or bulky items is pretty much out of the question." ConsumerGuide offers a different opinion, writing that the Pontiac "G5 has a usefully shaped trunk with good room that's expandable via folding rear seatbacks," but they also note "interior storage is limited to a small glovebox, center console, and door pockets."

Build and materials quality are, surprisingly, among the 2008 Pontiac's redeeming features. ConsumerGuide reviewers write that the Pontiac "G5's cabin makes liberal use of hard plastics," but rather than coming across as a drawback, they feel that "the trim is more sporty than cheap." Edmunds raves about the "well-placed metallic accents" that balance out the "interior plastics." Reviewers at MyRide.com provided the exception, however, as they lament the "plastic surfaces that feel like 40-grit sandpaper" and "the headliner resembled a loose toupee in spots." Those same reviewers at MyRide.com also register a complaint about road noise, finding that the "G5's road noise, tire noise, and wind noise emanating from the door seals don't exactly add up to a serene environment." Other reviewers, such as those at ConsumerGuide, also mention that the engine "buzzes and drones while accelerating and cruising."

8

2008 Pontiac G5

Safety

The 2008 Pontiac G5 boasts strong crash-test ratings and impressive visibility for its class, but the safety features list is somewhat lacking.

The 2008 Pontiac G5 affords occupants a respectable degree of protection and fares quite well in government crash tests. While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not yet crash-tested a Pontiac G5, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has wrecked its fair share of Pontiac G5s. The NHTSA has awarded the Pontiac G5 four out of five stars in most crash tests and a full five stars for passenger protection during side frontal collisions.

Aside from the strong crash-test ratings, the 2008 Pontiac G5 offers a limited list of standard and optional safety features. Cars.com writes that "side-impact airbags are standard for all G5s," and the Pontiac G5 GT sports standard "four-wheel-disc antilock brakes." The base Pontiac G5 comes with "disc/drum brakes with optional ABS," according to Cars.com. Edmunds adds "traction control is available on models equipped with ABS brakes and an automatic transmission." ConsumerGuide completes the list of safety features by adding that all 2008 Pontiac G5s come standard with "dual front airbags" and a convenient "tire-pressure monitor." Also standard are daytime running lights and a passenger airbag cutoff for times when children are riding up front.

Another feature of the 2008 Pontiac G5 that helps improve the car's overall safety rating is the driver visibility that the G5 affords. ConsumerGuide reviewers find that "visibility is fine to the sides, but a tall rear spoiler and high deck obscure the view to the back." MyRide.com also notes that "viewing the outside world is easier than one might initially think," thanks in large part to the "ample rear and side windows, which when coupled with the long front side windows, allow for safe over-the-shoulder viewing" on this 2008 Pontiac.

8

2008 Pontiac G5

Features

The 2008 Pontiac G5 has good amenities in its base version, but options are intended more for tuners than for tech heads.

The 2008 Pontiac G5 starts at just $15,400 for the base version, which means that the standard features list is, as one would expect, quite small. However, for 2008, Pontiac makes up for this by offering an extensive list of options on the 2008 Pontiac G5.

Leading the short list of standard features on the Pontiac G5 are full power accessories, along with "remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, digital-media connection, satellite radio, [and] automatic headlights" on the base version, according to ConsumerGuide. They also list the added standard features on the GT version as including a "leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls, cruise control, [and] Pioneer sound system."

Moving away from the standard features list on the Pontiac G5 brings what Edmunds calls an "extensive array of…accessories," including a "six-CD changer, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a sunroof and remote vehicle starting." For those who want even more flash with their Pontiac G5, Edmunds further notes that, for 2008, Pontiac offers "18-inch wheels, cat-back exhaust system, custom-colored interior lighting, high-mount spoiler and a body ground-effects package." If you want some of the 2008 Pontiac G5 GT features paired with the marginally more fuel-efficient engine in the base, Kelley Blue Book notes that "many of the items that come standard on the GT coupe can be installed in a base model at extra cost." Left off those lists are Bluetooth connectivity and a navigation system.

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7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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