2009 Pontiac G3 Wave and 2009 Chevrolet Aveo5
2009 Pontiac G3 Wave and 2009 Chevrolet Aveo5. Click image to enlarge
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General Motors of Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2009 Chevrolet Aveo

2009 Pontiac G3 Wave

Coquitlam, British Columbia – General Motors’ smallest cars, the Korean-built Chevy Aveo5 and the Canada-only Pontiac G3 Wave (formerly Wave5), have been given an extensive makeover for the 2009 model year, similar to changes made to the Aveo/Wave sedan models in 2007, but with the important addition of an all-new Opel 1.6-litre engine with variable valve timing that gets 10% better fuel economy.

2009 Chevrolet Aveo5
2009 Pontiac G3 Wave and
2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 (top); 2009 Pontiac G3 Wave. Click image to enlarge

The base 2009 MSRP of both Chevy and Pontiac models has gone up by $275 to $13,270, but this year, cash buyers can purchase one starting at just $10,470, a significant $2,800 discount. General Motors was no doubt influenced by Hyundai’s current $9,995 cash-only Accent promotion.

The new 1.6-litre DOHC 16-valve four cylinder engine is the same size as the previous engine, but now has variable valve timing which contributes to the 10% improvement in fuel economy, now 7.9 L/100 km city / 5.7 L/100 km hwy (previously 8.7/5.8). The new engine also features a new oil life monitoring system that keeps an eye on oil consumption and activates an oil light in the instrument panel when it’s time to change your oil. Horsepower and torque are comparable to the 2008 models: 106 @ 6400 r.p.m. vs 103 at 6,000 r.p.m. and 105 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 r.p.m. vs 107 lb-ft at 3,600 r.p.m. – however the new engine is considerably quieter and smoother – more on that later.

The optional four-speed automatic transmission has also been programmed for smoother, more responsive shifts. Front disc/rear drum brakes now include a larger brake booster to help shorten stopping distances, and as before, ABS is optional. The suspension has also been revised to minimize body roll.

2009 Chevrolet Aveo5
2009 Pontiac G3 Wave
2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 (top); 2009 Pontiac G3 Wave. Click image to enlarge

On both Chevy and Pontiac models, everything from the windshield A-pillar forward is new, including a new hood, larger headlights, unique split grille, new bumper and a small chromed air outlet in front of the side mirrors. At the rear are new tail lights and bumper design. As well, there are three new exterior colours available: Black Granite Metallic, Blue Moon and Tahiti Green.

Inside, both cars get better quality dash materials, improved switch design and interior ergonomics, new variable intermittent windshield wipers, and new XM Satellite Radio and OnStar availability.

Both cars are now rated five-stars in NHTSA frontal crash tests for the driver and front passenger; and four stars in side impact tests when equipped with the optional side airbags.

Standard equipment on the base 2009 Chevy Aveo5 LS and Pontiac G3 Wave hatchback models (MSRP $13,270; cash only $10,470) includes an AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with four speakers, auxiliary input for iPods, tilt steering wheel, height/lumbar adjustable driver’s seat, variable intermittent wipers, fold-flat front passenger seat, 60/40 folding seatbacks and flip and fold seat, front disc/rear drum brakes and 185/60R-14-inch all-season tires on steel wheels.

The uplevel Aveo5 LT and G3 Wave SE models ($15,770) add air conditioning with a cabin filter and rear seat heat ducts, power heated side mirrors, keyless door locks, power windows and locks, fog lamps, cruise control, and a sunroof.

2009 Chevrolet Aveo5
2009 Chevrolet Aveo5. Click image to enlarge

A sporty “Podium Edition” option package ($1,610) adds 185/55R15-inch all-season tires and 15-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, six-speaker premium sound system with six-disc in-dash CD player, steering wheel audio controls, and XM satellite radio. A leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob are also available.

I test drove a base Aveo5 LS with the standard five-speed manual transmission, and an uplevel Pontiac G3 Wave SE with the optional four-speed automatic transmission.

The new engine is quieter and more refined than the previous engine, reducing vibrations in the cabin and making the car more pleasant to drive. However, when equipped with the manual transmission, engine revs tend to “hang on” between shifts rather than drop down like most engines do. The standard five-speed manual transmission has a rubbery shift feel, but is well-positioned for reach, and clutch effort is very light. An unnecessary upshift indicator light tells you when to change gears in order to save fuel. To engage Reverse, the driver’s pulls up on a release mechanism under the shift knob, and moves the shifter to the left and forwards.

2009 Chevrolet Aveo5
2009 Pontiac G3 Wave
2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 (top); 2009 Pontiac G3 Wave. Click image to enlarge

The optional four-speed automatic transmission has revised software for “crisper shifts and earlier downshifts”, but I found its major benefit to be improved smoothness. It also features a Hold Control button that holds the transmission in gear for engine braking or improving traction on ice. If you can afford the automatic transmission, I would recommend it.

Both cars feel a bit tall and ungainly when cornering, but the ride is very comfortable for a car with such a short wheelbase. The standard power assisted rack and pinion steering is easy to manage when parking and the cars’ turning diameter of just 10.6 metres (33 ft.) is tight. Driver’s visibility is very good and a standard rear wiper and washer really helps improve rear vision.

There’s not much difference between the interior of the base car and the uplevel trims, except perhaps the chrome air vents and the addition of A/C, power windows, locks, and sunroof – all models have a new upscale two-tone seat fabric that’s stain resistant, improved dash materials including dimpled plastics and silver and chrome highlights, and a standard height-adjustable driver’s seat with a lumbar adjuster and a new inboard folding armrest.

2009 Chevrolet Aveo5
2009 Pontiac G3 Wave
2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 (top); 2009 Pontiac G3 Wave. Click image to enlarge

One difference between the Chevy and the Pontiac is the instrument cluster: I found the gauges in the Aveo5 much easier to read and more attractive than the ones in the G3 Wave.

Both cars have generous headroom and legroom for four adult passengers, but cargo space behind the rear seats is limited: 201 litres (7.1 cu. ft.). However, with the rear seatbacks folded down, there’s up to 1189 litres (42 cu. ft.). The split folding seatbacks can be folded separately, but they sit higher than the trunk floor. Alternatively, the entire rear seat can be flipped and folded forwards, but not each individual side.

The optional XM satellite radio includes 130 channels and comes with three month free subscription. The OnStar service comes with a one-year free subscription (optional on base models, standard on uplevel models). It includes stolen vehicle location assistance, automatic crash notification if the car is in a collision where the airbags deploy, remote door unlocking (if equipped with power locks), and a vehicle diagnostic and monthly e-mail report.

The primary competitors for the 2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 and Pontiac G3 Wave hatchbacks are the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Suzuki Swift +, Kia Rio5 and Hyundai Accent. The new GM hatchbacks offer comparable interior quality, cabin roominess, cargo capability, ride comfort and horsepower, but they aren’t quite as much fun to drive as the Fit, Yaris and Accent; and fuel economy, while good, is not class-leading. They do have the advantage of a competitive price, extra features like OnStar, and an extensive network of GM dealerships across Canada when service is needed.

As a second car, a commuter car, or an urban runabout, the Aveo5 and G3 Wave provide the manoeuvrability, performance, and fuel economy needed while still providing sufficient interior room and cargo room for practical needs.

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