EXPERT REVIEW

KansasCity.com's view


The Pontiac G5 is the corporate cousin of the Chevrolet Cobalt. It is available only as a coupe whereas the Cobalt has coupe and sedan versions.

Pontiac’s traditional twin-port grille is the main distinction between the two brands.

For 2009, it receives a revised version of the corporate 2.2-liter engine in both base and GT models. The Ecotec four-cylinder now has variable valve timing and 155 horsepower, a slight increase over the 148 of last year’s engine. Last year’s GT had a 2.4-liter engine with 173 horsepower, but that is no longer a choice.

Adding variable valve timing to the engine improves drivability and boosts fuel economy slightly. The G5 is rated at 25 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway.

The compact G5 coupe offers smart styling and decent performance at a reasonable price. Prices start at $16,275 for the base model, and standard equipment includes air conditioning, keyless entry, power windows, power door locks, side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, tire-pressure monitoring, one year of basic OnStar service and XM satellite radio. Prices of the GT begin at $19,620.

The base G5’s seats and general level of interior refinement are not quite up to the standards set by the leading competitors in the compact segment. The front seats could profit from more support, while the rear seat is small and best used by kids and pets.

The dash has bright gauges, and the easy-to-use audio system lets the driver create preset buttons for AM, FM or XM satellite stations. Having all presets together saves switching bands to select favorites.

The G5’s new engine is aimed at those who value fuel economy over performance. The new Ecotec engine is not fast, but it accelerates with more than adequate zest. One innovative engine feature is a cast-in oil filter housing that does away with the need to crawl under the car to perform oil changes. GM says the design also “eliminates throwaway oil-filter ‘cans’ that retain oil and typically end up in landfills.”

The engine’s camshafts are driven by a chain rather than a belt that needs to be replaced, and that eliminates a potential service item.

The five-speed manual transmission has a tight linkage, and it shifts smoothly. An automatic is optional. The shift lever felt a little awkward because it is mounted close to the seat.

The test car’s ride was soft even though it had the touring suspension. MacPherson struts are used in front, while the rear axle is a semi-independent torsion beam design. I would prefer a little firmer ride and the sharper response that would accompany it.

Price

The base price of the test car was $16,275. Options included the power sunroof, fog lamps, high-performance audio system with seven speakers, anti-lock brakes, cruise control and a compact spare tire. The sticker price was $18,975.

Warranty

Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

2009 Pontiac G5

Engine: 2.2-liter, 155-hp 4-cyl.

Transmission: Five-speed

Front-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 103.5 inches

Curb weight: 2,991 lbs.

Base price: $16,275

As driven: $18,975

MPG: 25 city, 37 hwy.

To reach Tom Strongman, send e-mail to tom@tomstrongman.com.

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