2009 Pontiac G5 Review

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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 8, 2009

The 2009 Pontiac G5 looks good from a distance and is cheap and frugal, but it lacks nearly all the other elements of a practical or enjoyable car.

The car experts at TheCarConnection.com studied road tests of the 2009 Pontiac G5 to compile this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove the Pontiac G5 and 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.

Every brand needs an entry-level product to attract younger and more frugal buyers. Pontiac rolled out the G5 in 2008 to fill that niche—replacing the former Sunfire—and it continues into the 2009 model year with a more fuel-efficient engine and new features that bring it more in line with its competitors.

The 2009 Pontiac G5 is only offered as a two-door coupe and in two trims: base and GT.  Pontiac dropped the larger engine available on the GT in 2008, and for 2009, both trims share the 2.2-liter four-cylinder that delivers 155 horsepower, up 7 hp from last year. The engine pushes out more ponies and is more efficient as well, with the base version rated at 25 mpg city and 37 mpg on the highway. Expect mileage to be a bit less with the optional four-speed automatic available on both trims.

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The 2009 Pontiac G5 shares its mechanical bits with the Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe, but the G5 is slightly more stylish and detailed. The long doors inherent to the coupe design can be tough to open in a tight parking situation, while entry to the backseats is obscured by a dangling seatbelt arrangement and awkward doorsills. The interior style isn’t altogether unpleasant, but the materials aren't high-quality. Tall drivers (possibly anyone over six feet) will find the G5 short on headroom and need to resort to a slightly reclined driving position, and most will deem the front seats flat and lacking support. The backseats are low and cramped.

Performance from the 2.2-liter Ecotec engine is actually a bright spot. It's surprisingly responsive and works well with either the standard five-speed manual or optional automatic, but a coarse, unrefined sound detracts from the experience. Aside from engine noise, compared to its bargain-basement peers, the G5 is relatively quiet inside.

The 2009 Pontiac G5 looks sporty, but its handling doesn’t match the styling either. The electric power steering is sluggish, light, and devoid of real feedback, yet it requires frequent adjustments to track straight on the highway.

Anti-lock brakes and traction control are optional on the base model. Side-curtain airbags are standard for 2009 on both models, in addition to OnStar. The Pontiac G5 gets mostly four-star crash ratings and a four-star rating for rollover resistance.

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. New standard equipment for 2009 includes OnStar and a passenger sensing system that complements the standard dual-stage front airbags. Pontiac makes some changes to popular optional equipment packages as well. There is a Sun & Sound package that includes an upgraded stereo with sunroof; a MYLINK package that brings together 16-inch wheels, ABS, cruise control, chrome exhaust, a leather steering wheel with audio controls, and Bluetooth; and a new appearance package.


2009 Pontiac G5


If you once had a Sunbird or Sunfire coupe and liked it, the G5 is a clear evolution of that theme but doesn't strike out in any new directions.

The 2009 Pontiac G5 is the latest in what is called “badge engineering.” Rather than develop a new vehicle for Pontiac, GM took a Chevy Cobalt, slapped Pontiac logos on it (with the exception of some detailing), and called it the G5.

Edmunds adds its two cents about the badge engineering on the Pontiac G5 by saying that the 2009 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 2009 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 2009 Pontiac is quite bland. Reviewers at Cars.com note 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 2009 Pontiac G5 and wrap up their comments with an appropriate "yawn." 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."

Inside the bland and dated exterior of this 2009 Pontiac G5 is an equally boring, though functional, interior. 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. Consumer Guide 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 appreciate the interior layout, commenting 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."

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2009 Pontiac G5


The 2009 Pontiac G5 has decent powertrain performance, but its handling and ride don’t live up to the promise of the brand.

Most reviewers find the 2009 Pontiac G5 has adequate power, but they have plenty to complain about with respect to steering and handling.

The 2009 Pontiac G5 offers one engine choice. Edmunds states that a "2.2-liter inline four-cylinder with 155 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque motivates the base G5." MyRide.com adds that the "G5 GT [performs] admirably without any hesitation or lack of power." 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 2009 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 2009, Pontiac's automatic transmission receives higher praise, as MyRide.com appreciates the "relatively smooth shifts" and Car and Driver describes it as "quick-reacting." Consumer Guide also chimes in by saying that "the automatic transmission is responsive and quick to downshift for more passing power."

Fuel economy is one of the highlights on the 2009 Pontiac G5, especially considering the car's above-average engine performance. The G5 achieves up to 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway with the five-speed manual.

Now for the not-so-delightful side of the G5: handling. 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 "allows too much body roll, and the electric steering system on both models is slow, with minimal feedback." MyRide.com is less kind when they remark that "the highway ride is on the stiff side," and 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." It may not handle or ride well, but stopping isn't a concern. Car and Driver contends that the G5 offers "excellent 164-foot stops from 70 mph," for the GT model with anti-lock brakes.

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2009 Pontiac G5

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Pontiac G5 has good build quality but disappoints in usefulness and comfort.

TheCarConnection.com finds that many reviewers consider the Pontiac G5's quality acceptable but are very disappointed with the ergonomics.

Consumer Guide reviewers note 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 prove 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 Consumer Guide, mention that the engine "buzzes and drones while accelerating and cruising."

A compact coupe, the 2009 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 grouse that "Pontiac deems the G5 a five-passenger ride, but the outboard headrests and bucketed seat bottom tell a different story." 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." The front seats feature room and comfort levels that are "average for the class," according to Consumer Guide, and "the seats are generally supportive and have generous rearward travel." However, for those in the rear seats of the Pontiac G5, Consumer Guide finds that "space is tight even for medium-size adults."

Storage space is certainly at a premium in the 2009 Pontiac G5, as the small dimensions and layout seriously limit your storage options. Consumer Guide offers a different opinion, reporting 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." 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."

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2009 Pontiac G5


The 2009 Pontiac G5 earned strong crash-test ratings, but ABS should be standard.

The 2009 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. NHTSA has awarded the Pontiac G5 four out of five stars in most crash tests.

Aside from the strong crash-test ratings, the 2009 Pontiac G5 offers a limited list of standard and optional safety features. The base Pontiac G5 comes with "disc/drum brakes with optional ABS," according to Cars.com, also observing that "side-impact airbags are standard for all G5s," and the Pontiac G5 GT sports standard "four-wheel-disc antilock brakes." Edmunds adds "traction control is available on models equipped with ABS brakes and an automatic transmission."

New for 2009 is GM's OnStar roadside assistance and communication system.

MyRide.com 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 2009 Pontiac.

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2009 Pontiac G5


The 2009 Pontiac G5 in its base version is decently equipped; the options list will satisfy most of your other wants at extra cost.

The 2009 Pontiac G5 starts at just $15,400 for the base version, which is essentially what we call a “stripper” with few standard items. New standard equipment for 2009 includes OnStar and a passenger-sensing system that complements the standard dual-stage front airbags.

Leading the shortlist 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 Consumer Guide. 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."

Pontiac makes up for the dearth of stand
ard features by offering an extensive list of options on the 2009 Pontiac G5; Edmunds refers to the "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 2009, 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 2009 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.

For 2009, there's a new Sun & Sound package that includes an upgrades stereo with sunroof; a MYLINK package that brings together 16-inch wheels, ABS, cruise control, chrome exhaust, leather steering wheel with audio controls, and Bluetooth; and a new appearance package.

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