2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan. Click image to enlarge
Competitors
2008 Chevrolet Cobalt
2008 Ford Focus
2008 Honda Civic
2008 Hyundai Elantra
2008 Kia Spectra
See complete list at and of article

Manufacturer’s web site
General Motors Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2008 Pontiac G5 sedan

North Vancouver, British Columbia – Almost identical to the Chevrolet Cobalt, the Pontiac G5 four-door sedan (formerly the Pursuit) is a rather under-rated competitor in the small sedan class, and interestingly, is available only in Canada – Americans can get the Pontiac G5 two-door coupe model but not the four-door sedan. However, with General Motors’ recent corporate emphasis on fuel-efficient cars, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the G5 sedan turn up on American dealer lots next year.

Introduced as an all-new model in 2005, the Pursuit (and Cobalt) were a major step up from their predecessors, the Sunfire and Cavalier. They were/are based on GM’s global Delta small car platform also used by Opel and the former Saturn Ion. In terms of styling, fit and finish, interior appearance, ride quality, handling, engine refinement, and cabin quietness, the Cobalt/Pursuit offered major improvements over their arguably crude predecessors.

However, the G5 has trailed the Cobalt in sales and popularity over the years, and has lagged behind the class leaders Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Mazda3. It didn’t help that GM changed the Pursuit’s name to G5 in 2007 to accommodate the American introduction of the G5 Coupe. This must have been confusing for Canadian consumers who already have at least a dozen other compact cars to consider in this class.

2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan. Click image to enlarge

Most of the upgrades to the G5 sedan for 2008 are to the top-of-the-line GT model – it now includes standard curtain airbags, Stabilitrak stability and traction control, tire pressure monitoring system, XM satellite radio, and OnStar.

Pricing and features

2008 Pontiac G5 sedans range in price from $15,595 for the base model, $18,095 for the mid-level SE trim, and $22,595 for the sportier GT model. The base Pontiac G5 sedan is about $400 more than a base Cobalt sedan, due to the G5’s additional standard equipment: a trunk spoiler, driver’s seat lumbar adjuster, and classier “satin nickel” interior trim and white-faced gauges. The G5 also has Pontiac’s “twin-port” grille treatment and a different lower air intake design.

The base G5 sedan includes a 148-horsepower 2.2-litre four-cylinder “Ecotec” engine, Getrag five-speed manual transmission, 15-inch all-season tires and steel wheels, five passenger seating with cloth seats, 60/40 split folding seatbacks, AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack and four speakers, tilt steering wheel, variable intermittent wipers, and driver information centre with two odometers, average speed, fuel range, fuel economy, and outside temperature display.

To the standard features on the base model, the SE adds air conditioning, CD/MP3 stereo, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, power mirrors, cruise control, and floor mats.

2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan. Click image to enlarge

Anti-lock brakes are optional on the base and SE sedans, but electronic stability control is not available.

Curtain airbags are optional on base and SE models, but in SE models only as part of an option package which includes OnStar. Seat-mounted side airbags are not offered.

Top-of-the-line GT models add a more powerful 171-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, 17-inch tires and alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, StabiliTrak, a sportier suspension, sportier bodywork, front fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, premium speaker system, XM Satellite Radio, and OnStar.

This week’s test car, a mid-level SE model ($18,095), had the optional Driver’s Package ($2,200) which includes P205/55R16 all-season performance tires, alloy wheels, fog lamps, anti-lock brakes, polished exhaust tip, leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter, premium 260-watt sound system with seven speakers, 10-inch subwoofer and steering wheel-mounted controls; and XM satellite radio.

My test car also had the optional four-speed automatic transmission with electronic traction control ($1,250); remote vehicle starter ($255); power moonroof ($1,100); curtain airbags ($395); OnStar ($395); engine block heater ($65); and front license plate mounting ($15).

Including a Freight charge of $1,095 and A/C tax of $100, the as-tested price of my 2008 Pontiac G5 SE test car came to $25,065 – but last time I checked the GM of Canada web-site, they were offering up to $2,250 off for cash buyers, and I expect you could strike a pretty good deal on this car right now.

2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan. Click image to enlarge
Interior impressions

For an economy car, the G5’s interior is surprisingly classy. The quality of materials and fit of panels is very good for a car in this price range. My test car had grey front buckets with patterned inserts, a two-tone dash with dark upper surface and lighter lower panels; “silver satin” trim on the dash, shift lever, steering wheel and armrest; chrome trim around the gauges, and the optional leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather/silver shift knob. I would rate the G5’s interior a little more upscale than the Cobalt’s.

I found the G5’s front seats comfortable and supportive. The driver’s seat has manual height and lumbar adjustment, and combined with a tilt steering wheel, drivers of most frames can find a comfortable position.

The rear seats however, have seatbacks that are rather stiff and upright, and footroom under the front seats is tight – and there is no centre folding armrest. There is sufficient headroom and legroom for a couple of average-size adults, though.

The driver faces attractive white-faced gauges which are backlit in red at night, as are the steering wheel buttons. The tachometer includes an outside temperature readout and odometer. The fuel gauge is tiny but readable.

At the top of the centre console is a bright blue/green display with readouts for the stereo/CD, driver information (as outlined above), and a digital clock. For each song, the radio displays the name of the artist, the song, and the type of music. The controls are dominated by a large centre volume knob, and all the buttons are large and easy to use – and at night, they’re backlit in soft white. Below the radio, the simple layout of the heating and air conditioning controls makes them easy to use too.

The optional 260-watt stereo in my test car with 10-inch subwoofer seemed like a bit of overkill for this commuter sedan, but it’s nice that this level of sound is available.

Buttons for the power windows, power mirrors and power door locks are backlit in white at night, so they’re easy to find in the dark. The driver’s window has a one-touch automatic-down feature.

For phones and other devices, there are two 12-volt power outlets – one at the bottom of the centre console in front of the cupholders and the other behind the shift lever in front of an open storage area. An auxiliary input jack for iPods is located to the right of the large centre volume dial.

The armrest between the front seats flips up and out of the way when not needed, and contains a small storage container. Other storage locations are the front door pockets with bottle holders, glovebox in front of the front passenger, and a flip-down coin tray near the driver’s door.

The front cupholders have a removeable, washable rubber liner, and there are two rear cupholders as well.

Rear passengers have a map pocket on the back of the front passenger seat and two door pockets for storage, but no centre folding armrest. There are two rear head restraints, not three.

For security, the standard 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks are released by two levers inside the trunk. The trunk is a reasonable size (394 litres) and fully lined, and the trunklid is supported by two sturdy hydraulic struts which don’t interfere with trunk space. However, the trunk opening is a bit narrow. The optional Pioneer 10-inch subwoofer is located on the left wall of the trunk.

The hood too, has a self-supporting strut, a classy feature in an economy car.

Standard safety features include dual-stage frontal air bags, front seat belt pretensioners, rear centre shoulder belts and the LATCH child seat system. Curtain airbags are optional.

Overall, the interior is well done, if a little uncomfortable for rear passengers.

Driving impressions

2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan
2008 Pontiac G5 sedan. Click image to enlarge

The G5 sedan’s solid body, quiet cabin, comfortable ride, easy steering and smooth automatic transmission make this a surprisingly pleasant vehicle to drive.

It’s not a sporty sedan – you’ll have to move up to the GT model if you want that – the G5 SE’s ride is on the softer side. Base and SE models have the “FE1” touring suspension that includes a 19-mm front stabilizer bar and a 16-mm rear stabilizer bar. GT models have the “FE3” sport-tuned suspension with 22-mm front and rear stabilizer bars, four-wheel disc brakes, monotube shocks and 17-inch wheels and performance tires.

The G5’s standard electric, speed-sensitive power rack and pinion steering is low-effort when parking and firmer at higher speeds, and the car tracks straight and true on the freeway. The G5’s turning diameter of 11.4 metres (37.4 ft.) is wide for a small car, but its short overall length and width make it easy to park.

The G5’s standard 148 horsepower 2.2-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine which includes twin counter-rotating balance shafts provides adequate acceleration for typical urban and highway needs, and though there is a mild buzzing sound under acceleration, it’s a very quiet and smooth engine during steady cruising.

Equipped with the automatic transmission, the G5 sedan’s Energuide fuel consumption ratings are 9.2 L/100 km (City) and 6.4 L/100 km (Hwy). With the manual transmission, fuel economy is slightly better on the highway.

Top marks go to the optional GM Hydra-matic four-speed automatic transmission which slides effortlessly from gear to gear and responds to throttle input nicely.

Front disc/rear drum brakes are standard with ABS available as an option. But as I mentioned, electronic stability control is not offered on base and SE models.

Verdict

I liked the G5 SE sedan’s attractive cabin, comfortable ride and smooth automatic transmission, but wasn’t impressed with the stiff rear seatbacks, restricted rear footroom, and unavailability of electronic stability control on base and SE models.

Pricing: 2008 Pontiac G5 sedan SE

Base price: $18,095

Options: $5,775 (Driver’s Package: P205/55R16 all-season performance tires, alloy wheels, fog lamps, anti-lock brakes, polished exhaust tip, leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter, premium 260-watt sound system with seven speakers, 10-inch subwoofer and steering wheel-mounted controls; and XM satellite radio $2,200; four-speed automatic transmission w/ traction control: $1,250; remote vehicle start: $255; power sliding sunroof: $1,100; front/rear side curtain airbags: $395; OnStar in-vehicle communications system: $395; engine block heater: $65; front license plate mounting: $15)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,095
Price as tested: $25,065
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Pontiac G5

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