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2009 Pontiac G5 ReviewThe Good
Super gas mileage, low base pricing, and a smooth ride all define the 2009 Pontiac G5.The Bad
The ’09 G5 suffers from lackluster passing power, unsure handling, and a lack of refinement, causing it to lag behind most of its competitors.
The CarGurus View
Basically a rebadged Chevy Cobalt, the 2009 Pontiac G5 offers little in the way of refinement, engine performance, or cabin storage. Fuel economy, however, and affordability, as well as a decent number of standard features, will overcome many shortcomings. Sporty it’s not, but the ’09 G5 is more than just basic transportation.
At a Glance
When is a Chevy Cobalt not a Cobalt? When it’s a 2009 Pontiac G5. In keeping with GM tradition, these vehicles are virtually identical, with only a few styling differences and badging separating one from the other, though some say that the ’09 G5 is a somewhat more attractive automobile.
Introduced for the 2007 model year to replace the Sunfire coupe, the 2009 Pontiac G5 is a five-passenger, two-door, front-wheel-drive sports coupe that’s offered in two trim levels, the Base and the higher-end GT. Since Pontiac decided to drop the 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder (I4) engine for ’09, this leaves the 2.2-liter I4 power plant as the only engine available for the G5. The 2.2-liter has been tweaked a bit for ’09, including, among other adjustments, variable valve timing. This gives the ’09 2.2-liter marginally more oomph and a tad better gas mileage than the ’08 engine.
Other than lacking the 2.4-liter engine, few changes mark the '09 G5. Newly available Bluetooth hands-free communication technology and iPod connectivity are the only significant additions for ’09.
Class-leading gas mileage, a reasonably steady and quiet ride, and a decent number of standard features make the ’09 Pontiac G5 worth a look. Unsure handling, cramped rear-seat quarters, iffy engine performance, and little interior refinement, however, make the Saturn Astra, Honda Civic, Volkswagen Rabbit, or, maybe, the Chevy Cobalt SS a better choice.
For 2009, the Pontiac G5 is left with a single engine offering, the 2.2-liter VVT I4. This updated powerplant will put out 155 hp at 6,100 rpm and 150 lb-ft of torque at 4,900 rpm. Though it can't exactly burn up the track, when paired with the standard five-speed manual transmission, this mighty mite is surprisingly sprightly off the line. Passing or merging on the highway, however, is a whole other ballgame. This engine tends to fade after the initial surge. EPA estimates for the 2.2-liter engine are a wallet-snoozing 25/37 mpg.
A four-speed automatic transmission is also available for the ’09 G5, and when paired with the 2.2-liter I4, you should get an EPA-estimated 23/32.
Professional reviewers find the ’09 G5 is quick enough for errands around town, but certainly can’t be called jaw-dropping. Often, downshifting through a couple of gears is necessary with the five-speed manual transmission to get the I4 up and moving on the highway.
Ride & Handling
Despite its perceived faults, the 2009 Pontiac G5 does provide a reasonably smooth and comfortable ride. Sporty it’s not, though, with iffy handling, steering that’s described as “numb,” and braking that’s adequate only once the softness in the pedal is overcome.
The G5 is equipped with a front independent suspension, Macpherson front struts, and stabilizer bars both front and rear. The rear is supported by a torsion bar suspension. Pontiac claims the ’09 G5 GT has a sport-tuned suspension, but professional reviewers find almost no difference in ride and handling between the two trims.
The GT features 17-inch alloy wheels, as opposed the Base G5’s 15-inch steel wheels. The only difference in wheel size, however, seems to be a matter of fuel efficiency.
Reviewers note that the ’09 G5 is prone to some serious body lean, as well as a decidedly annoying tire squeal in sharp corners, even at reasonable speeds. Though the 15-inch tires standard with the Base trim are adequate for fuel economy, professional reviewers find they don’t help the G5’s handling characteristics.
Cabin & Comfort
The interior of the ’09 Pontiac G5, while not plush, isn’t exactly Spartan, nor is it particularly roomy. Reviewers and owners alike note that seating up front is comfortable, with adequate leg- and headroom, while the rear seating in the G5 is noted as cramped for adults. Gauges are large enough, but often tough to read, and controls are, for the most part, accessible and well marked. Little cabin storage space is an annoyance for several reviewers, but a fairly capacious trunk (almost 14 cubic feet of luggage space) makes up for it a bit, even with the small trunk opening.
Standard comfort, convenience, and appearance features for the 2009 Pontiac Base G5 include a rear spoiler, tachometer, outside temperature display, five-passenger seating with cloth bucket seats, and a split-folding rear seatback, power windows, door locks, and mirrors, tilt-wheel steering, a front console with storage, air-conditioning with interior air filtration, a single-CD player with four speakers, OnStar, Sirius/XM satellite radio, and a hands-free phone set. Options for the Base G5 include Bluetooth hands-free communications, 16-inch aluminum wheels, a four-speed automatic transmission, a power sunroof, and a 228-watt Pioneer premium audio system with seven speakers and a subwoofer.
The G5 GT adds such standard features as cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, a Pioneer premium audio system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and Bluetooth technology. Options for the GT include heated, leather-appointed front seats, remote start, the four-speed automatic transmission, and OnStar navigation.
Standard safety features for the 2009 Pontiac G5 include four-wheel disc ABS (standard on the GT, optional for the Base G5), traction control, stability control, front and rear head airbags, child seat anchors, front fog/driving lights, dusk-sensing headlights, and the OnStar safety system.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the ’09 G5 four stars in front driver impact testing, five stars in front passenger testing, four stars in driver and passenger side impact testing, and four stars in rollover testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway safety did not test the ’09 Pontiac G5.
What Owners Think
Owners find the ’09 Pontiac G5 a mixed bag, with pluses seeming to outnumber minuses and some divided opinions thrown in, especially regarding acceleration and cabin room.
Highway acceleration with the 2.2-liter I4 is among the major annoyances of most owners, though many are impressed with the G5’s power off the line. There were also a number of complaints regarding less-than-quality interior materials. The cramped rear seats of the ’09 G5 also are noted by more than a few owners, as well as the small trunk opening, lack of interior storage spaces, and soft body materials, leading to questions about the G5’s crashworthiness. Reliability issues were also brought up by a few owners.
On the plus side, however, all owners are impressed with the ’09 G5’s fuel economy. Ride comfort, better-than-average seating comfort, and interior design all drew plaudits from owners. The low base price of the 2009 Pontiac G5, as well as its decent trunk space, Pioneer audio system, OnStar GPS, generous standard safety features, and downright good looks (at least as compared to the Chevy Cobalt) are all well regarded by owners.
Have Laptop, Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.