2009 Pontiac G3 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
July 3, 2009

The 2009 Pontiac G3 is an example of the model proliferation that hurt GM for decades. It's a decent but not terrific subcompact.

At TheCarConnection.com, we have small-car experts who have studied the 2009 Pontiac G3 to compile this evaluation. This review also compares the 2009 Pontiac G3 with the best competitors in the class. Our review of reports from a range of respected automotive Web sites adds to the information we give you to make an informed purchase decision.

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.

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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.


2009 Pontiac G3


The 2009 Pontiac G3 is visually identical to the Chevy Aveo5 on the outside, but it costs $2,000 more.

The 2009 Pontiac G3 falls far short of conveying Pontiac’s catchphrase of delivering excitement, but considering the current economic climate, the fuel-sipping compact should raise some eyebrows.

“The G3 clearly isn't in line with the brand's sport-themed rep,” says Motor Trend. “But if the G3 helps Pontiac gain sales traction in the now all-important small-car segment, the decision to bring it here could turn out to be prudent one.”

The new G3 may experience identity problems, as it can easily be mistaken for the Chevy Aveo5. According to Cars.com, “from the side, the G3 looks identical to the Aveo5, down to its chrome side vents.” Additionally, “It also gets Pontiac's ubiquitous split grille and a unique bumper fascia and fog lamps.” Motor Trend says “the G3 differentiates itself from its Aveo relative through a slightly reworked front clip featuring the Pontiac trademark dual grille.” However, “the sides and rear of the car as well as the standard spoiler above its back window are identical to those on the Chevrolet variant,” comments Motor Trend.

The G3 is more expensive than the Aveo because the G3’s interior is proprietary. “The G3 gets its very own instrument cluster that's sportier looking than the Aveo5's and comes with chrome-ringed air vents,” reports Cars.com. Motor Trend concurs: “inside the cabin, available aluminum-colored trim adorns the dash and door side panels, while chrome rings outline the air vents. A new instrument cluster with a predominant central speedometer sits behind the Pontiac-branded steering wheel.”

“The 2009 Pontiac G3 is a five-door subcompact hatchback available in a single trim level,” says Edmunds.

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2009 Pontiac G3


The 2009 Pontiac G3 is far from being a performance vehicle but neither is it a class leader in terms of fuel efficiency.

The 2009 Pontiac G3 is powered by a fuel-conscious 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. Edmunds reports that the G3 motor “generates 106 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque” and “is backed by a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic.” According to ConsumerGuide, the G3 is “quicker than one would expect, but no one will mistake these subcompacts for a sports car. The automatic transmission is relatively responsive, though saps a fair amount of what little power there is on tap.”

ConsumerGuide observes that the G3 is “nimble enough due to its petite size and responsive steering, though some testers say steering effort is a bit heavy at low speeds. They add that, “like Aveo, G3's body leans more in turns than class rivals. The brakes provide decent stopping control but are nothing special in terms of pedal feel.”

Edmunds says, “While the Pontiac G3 doesn't provide much in the way of vehicular entertainment, it's a respectable ride for knocking out errands or engaging the daily commute." Edmunds adds, "Though the five-speed is rated as slightly more economical around town, its ratios are overly wide, and it's not especially pleasant to operate.”

Regarding fuel efficiency, ConsumerGuide isn’t impressed, noting that comparable Aveo5 models "with the automatic averaged 28.3-28.7 mpg…These figures are not impressive for the class.” Motor Trend also finds discrepancies with Pontiac’s claim of fuel efficiency: “Surprisingly, despite its small size and miserly engine, the G3 won't be the most frugal Pontiac on the highways when it arrives in Pontiac showrooms. Pontiac lists the base G5 coupe at 37 mpg highway.”

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2009 Pontiac G3

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Pontiac G3 features an inviting interior and a comfortable ride.

The 2009 Pontiac G3 scores well for the comfort and quality if offers at the price range in which it exists. “A solid body structure imparts an absorbent ride. Only large, sharp bumps trigger pounding through the suspension,” says ConsumerGuide.

According to AutoGuide.com, “the interior of the G3 is its strong point; it's quite spacious for its exterior size; there's room for five, with accommodations for three in back-provided they're narrow enough in shoulders and hips-thanks to elevated, 'theater' seating." ConsumerGuide agrees, saying the 2009 is “surprisingly roomy for a subcompact, though not great by absolute standards. Headroom is very good. Taller passengers will wish for more legroom, though. The seats are comfortable and supportive. Ease of entry and exit rivals that of some larger cars.”

When the spotlight shines upon what comprises the interior, Edmunds says “the five-passenger 2009 Pontiac G3 sports decent-quality materials adorned with metallic-look accents and several storage areas for small items. Climate controls are straightforward, though the stereo employs an array of buttons instead of more user-friendly knobs.” ConsumerGuide reports “the gauges are easy to read. The audio and climate controls are clearly marked, simple to operate, and mounted high for easy access. There is plenty of hard plastic, but its texturing lends impressive substance.”

“Though the G3 offers a convenient 42 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded, that's nothing to write home about—and the 7.1 cubic feet available behind the rear seats won't hold more than a few bags of groceries,” remarks Edmunds. “Not much cargo room with the rear seats up. Split-folding rear seatbacks help increase space. In-cabin storage is sparse, with a meager glovebox and a few small bins," notes ConsumerGuide.

According to ConsumerGuide, noise is an intrusive element detracting from the overall experience: “Like the Chevrolet Aveo upon which it is based, G3 is not a quiet car. The engine sounds coarse and buzzy during acceleration. Wind and road noise can be intrusive, at least partially due to the G3's hatchback body style.”

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2009 Pontiac G3


The 2009 Pontiac G3 doesn't offer standout features or especially good crash-test results.

In tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2009 Pontiac G3 scored five stars in frontal impact and four stars for side impact protection.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not tested a G3, but the comparable 2009 Chevrolet Aveo was rated just Acceptable in frontal offset and Marginal in side impact tests.

Cars.com notes that “side curtain airbags are not available" on the G3, but other safety features include “standard driver and front-passenger airbags, standard front side-impact airbags, standard tire pressure monitoring system.” Edmunds adds that “OnStar communications are standard on all G3s. Antilock brakes are an extra-cost option, and side curtain airbags—a feature increasingly common in other subcompacts—are not available.”

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2009 Pontiac G3


For the price, the 2009 Pontiac G3 doesn't bring many surprises—positive or negative.

The 2009 Pontiac G3 is quite well-equipped, though it costs a bit more than the otherwise identical Aveo5 and isn't an especially strong bargain.

Motor Trend reports that standard features include “a folding armrest on the driver's seat, a roof-mounted sunglasses holder, door and seatback storage pockets, and headrest posts for shopping bag toting. Multimedia goodies include a CD/MP3 audio system and OnStar.”

Edmunds says “the G3 is equipped with some basic convenience items and comes standard with GM's exclusive OnStar system, but its cabin is notably chintzier than the less-expensive Nissan Versa's.” Edmunds adds that the “climate controls are straightforward, though the stereo employs an array of buttons instead of more user-friendly knobs.”

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