By on February 6, 2008

x07pn_g50052.jpgThe Pontiac G5 Coupe reminds me of John Steinbeck’s classic novel “Of Mice and Men.” Best-laid schemes aside, no car deserves more to be taken out to a field and shot in the back of the head. This brand-engineered blight bleeds bureaucratic bumbling. No doubt someone at GM figured that Pontiac should share some of the Cobalt love with a derivative of their own (a la the Cavalier/Sunfire). Rather than taking a pass-worthy platform and making it into something worthwhile, they gave us the G5, “lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain.” 

At its most basic level, the Pontiac G5 is an entry-level coupe built with all the love, care, and attention of a post-writers strike reality show, with about as much public interest. It’s likely some beancounter vetoed making the exterior of the G5 look like a lean, mean, road-carving machine in favor of slapping a Pontiac grille on a Cobalt and ever-so-slightly reshaping the lights. You can purchase a little exterior upgrade bling to set your Pontiac apart, but at 70mph no one will know the difference. You’ve probably seen dozens of these and didn’t realize it wasn’t a Cobalt.

x07pn_g5009.jpgStep inside and cold, hard reality slaps you in the face. The Coupe's interior is 99.99 percent identical to the Colbalt’s cabin. Unfortunately, GM forgot to engineer the suck out of it. Only a few differently-shaped buttons and some ill-fitting faux carbon-fiber trim (the sort of ‘finesse’ touch that serves double-duty as an ipecac) differentiate the two models. A Mercury may be nothing but an expensive Ford, but at least they make you feel like you’ve gotten something for your money.

At the turn of the key, the 2.2-liter Ecotec engine grunts itself conscious, rolls over, farts, fluffs the sheets and settles back in for the duration. Ostensibly, the powerplant boasts 148hp and 152 ft.-lbs. of torque. In reality, you feel like you’re being towed by a wheelchair-bound octogenarian with a rope slung over his shoulder. Pushing the gas is about as fun as checking your credit card balance after Christmas. The ill-designed four-speed slushbox makes precision merging impractical, and passing improbable.

x07pn_g5008.jpgI hear the naysayers already. It’s an entry-level economy car coupe. It’s not supposed to be fast! Mission accomplished. Except the Excitement Division’s Cobalt clone ain’t no fun neither. I can forgive weak acceleration if the car makes up for it in handling, but the G5 is firmly entrenched in Molasses Swamp.

The G5 Coupe lacks any hint of the light, tossable quality and sharp, rewarding steering that many of its competitors possess (think Civic or original Focus). The G5’s tiller is numb and joyless, and the brakes have a definite “Come to Jesus” vibe about them (i.e, they certainly won’t save you, so you’d better have a backup plan). It’s every bit as spine-jarring, noisy, and unrefined as the Cobalt.

x07pn_g5006.jpgHandling at the limit… what are you, kidding? You’d be hard-pressed to put a Pontiac G5 into an unsafe position, given that every nut and bolt and Chinese plastic fastener is fashioned from anti-fun. The payment booklet should come with free samples of Valium. It won’t add any performance to the car, but at least you won’t care. Speaking of driving into a tree…

Nearly every safety feature is optional. But again, the G5’s best safety feature is the car itself. A Pontiac Solstice can get an 18-year-old kid (or anyone else for that matter) into a lot of trouble. The G5 will make Junior swear-off hoonery entirely. At which point things can go three ways: either he’ll start saving for his first STI, or beg for a bus pass, or both.

Worse, GM’s reliability has improved to the point where the punishment is endless; you can only justify ridding yourself of the G5 because you hate it. Note: arson and insurance fraud are still illegal, even for cars like this.

x07pn_g5010.jpgHow about shelling out a $4k premium for the GT trim and 0.2 more Ecotecage? A used Civic Si costs the same and inspires half the self-loathing. The only way GM could redeem this car (and the Pontiac brand) would be to offer it with a supercharged Ecotec. But GM’s abandoned the LSJ and it’s unlikely the upcoming SS Turbo will make it to the G5.

It’s no wonder Pontiac sold fewer than 30k of these bad (in the traditional sense of the word) boys last year. So why does the G5 exist, if people don’t even want the Cobalt? There are still places where the Buick – GMC – Pontiac dealer is the most exciting showroom in town, complete with brand-loyal customers. The net is killing the ignorance that allows GM to stuff these dens of pistonhead inequity with substandard machinery. And not a moment too soon. 

[NB: All pics: G5 Coupe GT. GM doesn't offer press shots of the base coupe] 

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131 Comments on “2008 Pontiac G5 Coupe Review...”


  • avatar
    blautens

    My boss likes the Cobalt version so much he bought two of them over a year. Of course, he bought the loss leader version – first one was $9999 and the second one was $10,999. Puts a ton of miles on them and disposes of them like a tissue.

    Personally, after driving it, I agree 100% with this review, though. Even the manual tranny doesn’t do much for it. And in this day and age, why does the engine have to have such an agricultural sound?

  • avatar
    crackers

    Certainly no ambiguity to this review.

  • avatar
    holydonut

    This makes me all giddy to read what you think of the Saturn Astra… at least it’ll have a different interior.

  • avatar
    greystone

    Kudos!

    That what mr. Ghosn was saying, if your product is garbage – whose fault it is? definetely not Japanese.

    Auto industry needs mr. George Sternbrenner to transform it from losers to winners.

  • avatar
    RayH

    Two of these were parked at the mall a couple months back, both red, both backed in so you could get a close look at the front ends. I checked them out the whole time I walked by in and out. Kudos on your critical eye on noticing the headlights being different; I never noticed it, and I thought I checked ‘em out pretty thoroughly trying to figure out the difference.
    You’re right about noticing them, I think other than the mall, I’ve only noticed one other one, and it was parked, too.
    My neighbor has had a Cobalt wagon aka HHR for close to two years now. I don’t know if the exhaust is tuned the same way as the Cobalt, but it makes the fillings in my teeth hurt in the summer when the windows are down and I hear it go up and down there driveway and up and down the road.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Greystone: “Auto industry needs mr. George Sternbrenner to transform it from losers to winners.”

    What they have today is James Dolan.

    (a reference to the owner of the NY Knicks)

  • avatar
    jd arms

    As a high-school English teacher who exchanges multiple novel quotes with my colleagues, and a huge Steinbeck fan, I have to say this review is a perfect example of why I like this site.

  • avatar
    gamper

    Hard to disagree with that assessment. The Cobalt and G5 are a big reminder of the bad old days. I am not sure why a replacement isnt being rushed into production as it seems this segment is booming and a strong contender in this class would bring in younger buyers into GM vehicles. Saturn Astra is promising, but unfortunately it will not have the volume to make much of a difference.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Can someone please explain to me why Chevy got the Cobalt SS and Saturn got the Ion redline, but GM’s ‘excitement’ division got nothing? They should have cut both of those models, dumped the IOn completely and gave Pontiac only the SS version. Now, if GM could only understand the words ‘brand management’. At least the tail lights are better than the Cobalt.

  • avatar
    greystone

    Sherbornsean – New Yorkers do not tolorate losers, they will evict mr. Dolan and deport him back to his Cleveland tribe losers – and the city of New York is in the process to cut the tax give away that they are receiving.

    I wish if that same principle is applied to the Detroit three blind mice.

  • avatar

    Wow, I never thought I’d find a pro writer who made Karl Brauer from edmunds seem even-handed. :-)

    GM really needs to get its act together. Sure, these cars are loss-leaders, and basically just fulfill their obligations to the unions & dealers for an entry model, but the Civic and Mazda3 really show these don’t HAVE to be penaltybox cars.

  • avatar
    brianmack

    I’m glad Pontiac has stopped putting vinyl siding on their cars. Unfortunately that was the only way to tell them apart from the other GM divisions.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Megan Benoit,

    You should replace “the sort of ‘finesse’ touch that serves double-duty as an ipecac” with “the sort of ‘finesse’ touch that serves double-duty as an emetic.”

    Ipecac is a creeping plant with drooping flowers. An emetic is something that induces barfing. Yes, you can make an emetic from ipecac (hence, syrup of ipecac in your drugstore) and I understand the source of the confusion but that usage isn’t quite right and to use “emetic” is more precise.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    KixStart
    From Merriam Webster — ipecac — “an emetic and expectorant drug that contains emetine and is prepared from ipecac especially as a syrup for use in treating accidental poisoning.” *shrug* The terms can be used interchangeably.

  • avatar
    N85523

    Geeze, don’t be so hard on the poor little G5! After all, it does have more power and better fuel economy than the Scion tC! That makes it a game-changer, right?

    When visiting the visually confusing Pontiac web site, when one mouses over the models at the home page, most will show the car and a tidbit of empirical data announcing that the Pontiac model has trumped a competitor in one little specification figure. This brand is very insecure. By the way, excellent review. After driving a Cobalt for a few days when the Jeep was in the shop, I entirely agree and love the literary references.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    3 years ago, TTAC reviewed the Cobalt. I didn’t see any stars, but from the tone of the article, I would guess about 2.5.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/reviews/chevrolet-cobalt/

    The same car, 3 years later with no real changes??? maybe 1 star is about right.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    SherbornSean :
    Greystone: “Auto industry needs mr. George Sternbrenner to transform it from losers to winners.”

    What they have today is James Dolan.

    (a reference to the owner of the NY Knicks)

    I know, I’m boring, but what came to my mind was, what they have today is George Constanza, selling what he thinks could be John Voigt’s car.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    N85523,

    Only the GT makes more power than the scion tc and stickers for 2.5k more than the TC, that is Civic SI and Sentra SE-R territory. The base 5 gets slightly better fuel economy, but is down about 10 hp and ft-lbs of torque on the TC.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    jazbo123
    I can’t speak for Chris Paukert, but I don’t think there’s any car I hate more than the Cobalt. But the Cobalt at least fits into Chevy’s product line, whereas the G5 has no purpose in life whatsoever other than to hopefully trick some poor schmuck into buying it instead of a Cobalt. It’s a crappy clone of a crappy car, a perfect storm of suck.

  • avatar
    Billy215

    Amen. Rented a base Cobalt coupe last month, and can’t imagine why anyone would want it, let alone a copy of it.

    Worse, GM’s reliability has improved to the point where the punishment is endless; you can only justify ridding yourself of the G5 because you hate it.

    Hahahaha…

  • avatar
    N85523

    Sanman111,

    I wasn’t trying to defend the G5 in any aspect, merely providing an example of Pontiac’s deceitful comparative advertising. From all accounts, the Scion is a superior car.

  • avatar
    blau

    greystone :

    New Yorkers do not tolorate losers, they will evict mr. Dolan and deport him back to his Cleveland tribe losers –

    So I don’t want to go off topic, but how could a Clevelander let this pass? Who beat the Yankees in the playoffs this past year? Does anyone remember?

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    Even the grave yawns for this no star piece of crap.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    At the turn of the key, the 2.2-liter Ecotec engine grunts itself conscious, rolls over, farts, fluffs the sheets and settles back in for the duration. Ostensibly, the powerplant boasts 148hp and 152 ft.-lbs. of torque. In reality, you feel like you’re being towed by a wheelchair-bound octogenarian with a rope slung over his shoulder.

    The coffee coming out of my nose still burns. I haven’t laughed out loud for that period of time since forever. Great job.

  • avatar
    seoultrain

    “Pushing the gas is about as fun as checking your credit card balance after Christmas.”

    wow. Viva TTAC.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    Here in Canada, we had this car right from the get-go as a Pontiac Pursuit. Then they decided they were going to bring it out south of the border too, and started calling it the G5 Pursuit so that by the time the American version came along, they could just call it a Pontiac G5.

    And I agree, it doesn’t seem to have any purpose in life other than to provide the option of buying a Cobalt with better looking tail lights.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Megan Benoit,

    That’s the number two definition. My Merriam-Webster (which is ink-on-paper and dated 1977) doesn’t include that second definition at all, leading me to believe that it wasn’t a terribly common use of the word until recently or, more likely, still isn’t terribly common.

    If you look at the definition of “emetic,” you’ll see that it’s use precisely expresses the concept desired here, to wit, the G5 interior is a thing which induces barfing, not a thing that could be processed into a substance which induces barfing.

    Further, you’ll notice that the next-door neighbor of “emetic” is “emesis,” which means “barf,” the roots of both being from a Greek word meaning “barf.” The word ipecac doesn’t have that heritage, rather being named from Tupic (I think it’s an indigenous Brazilian language) for “duck” and “penis.” And I guess I’d rather not know why.

    • 0 avatar
      Southerner

      Dear Kix:
      I’ll speak plainly: I dislike you intensely.
      I say this three and a half years distant from your posts. Pedantry is seldom appealing. One needs an eloquence and a wit to pull it off. I’m thinking Wm. F. Buckley Jr. Perhaps Gore Vidal would be a better exemplar for a Democrat like yourself (admit it professor).
      While your exegeses of the etymologies of the words “emetic, emesis, and ipecac” no doubt fascinate the rapt audience that your mind imagines, they insult and bore those of us who have advanced beyond the cackling of “Car Talk”.
      Word.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    I rented a 2007 Saturn Ion for a week in January with the same powertrain. Owning a Toyota Corolla at home, I actually thought the Saturn was a better car – roomier, better performance, and the powertrain was great.

    Fuel economy wasn’t bad either. Maybe you should compare this car to what else is available for the same price, net of discounts.

    It wouldn’t seem so bad at that point. It wouldn’t bother me to own an Ion if it was my own money.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    KixStart
    I doubt your copy of the dictionary includes such terms as “blog” and “e-mail,” yet they are certainly part of the common vernacular (and included in current versions of various dictionaries). Language is a constantly changing, evolving thing. M-W says it can be used that way, with that meaning, and if you have issue with it, take it up with them, not me. Or you could just buy a more recent copy of the dictionary and practice saying those words many a male has difficulty with… “I was wrong.”

    taxman100
    I did. This car fails on all counts. Civic, Corolla, Mazda3, Focus… all better cars, and some of them cheaper, to boot. Even if someone offered me a brand new one for $10k, I’d still get something else. After all, I’m the one who has to live with the thing. There are a lot of great entry-level coupes out there… the G5/Cobalt is not one of them.

  • avatar
    beken

    When Pontiac first came out with the Pursuit in Canada as a replacement of the Sunfire, I kinda thought it looked much better than the Cobalt clone, though it certainly didn’t perform any better. I still wouldn’t go near a GM dealer but thought it might be a good start for GM’s turnaround. But then a funny thing happened. All the other manufacturers built better cars and true to form of GM, GM did nothing.

    I’m surprised you even gave it one star as this is essentially a 5 year old car.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    In fairness to the G5…and this is faint praise if any…it has to be light years better than the Sunfire that it replaced.

    I once had the unfortunate experience of a bad weather landing at BWI in ’02; being stuck in Baltiwhore for a day w/nothing to do, I thought I’d cash in some miles, get a free rental and go looking for John Waters. Well naturally, with bad whether and stranded planes, there were virtually no rentals available…thus, I faced a Daewoo and a Sunfire as my choices. Checking my lapel flag pin, I decided to go American…thus, I showed my support in those post 9/11 days by driving a crapmobile.

    Anyway, it was the absolute biggest pile of junk ever. Huge panel gaps, the interior smelled like blunts and malt liquor, the wings and claddings and fins made me feel like a low-rent Batman. And the worst of it was that the seat was designed to sling you to the center console…so you look like you’re getting jiggity and stuff. In hindsight, I should have checked the glovebox for a Pontiac doo-rag.

    Needless to say, it was an absolutely embarassing situation. I felt like people were constantly staring at me…checking out the loser driving the aborted fetus of a Firebird. At least if I had the Daewoo I could play the “frugal, appliance car owner” guy; with the Sunfire, it just had an ambiance of a single-wide trailer.

    Of course, you can probably pull off that sort of thing in Baltimore (just kidding).

  • avatar
    revjasper

    I had one of these as a rental a few weeks back. GT, black, black leather with the 2.4 Eco-lotech and a “subwoofer” in the trunk.

    All I can say about it was I liked the heated leather seats. The rest of the car? Meh.

    Whenever I get a rental that I’ve never driven before, I go to the manufacturer’s website and build my own, identical to the rental. When I saw what they were asking for this G5, I laughed. What do these things fetch at auction after 25K miles of rental flogging? Three grand? Four?

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    poor pontiac! what happened to you?

  • avatar

    Bob Lutz was said to have commanded: “You pick up the European platform, and you do not dumb it down for the American market.” Guess we know how that turned out.

  • avatar
    James2

    Is it automatic that a “European” platform is a good platform when it’s being engineered by GM?

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Megan,

    I suggest you rethink your curt response to KixStart. Modern tech terms and vernacular aside, he may be nit picking, but he’s right. No physician prescribes an “ipecac”; we prescribe “emetics.”

    You’ll notice in the following link that emetic is a “related word” and NOT a synonym.

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ipecac

    Back on topic, when I drove the new for 2006 Cobalt SS with a blower and a 6 speed, I was quite impressed overall, esp coming into it with Cavalier expectations. Too bad that goodness didn’t filter down to the base model.

  • avatar
    beetlebug

    When I regularly got rental cars I hoped for the Cobalt. I always got the compacts since I didn’t want anything large and lame (read Taurus) so I went for small and lame. My greatest fear was some left over Cavalier. Next fear was the previous gen Focus which I never understood how anyone could like it. It felt cheap, handled lousy, and was noisy and coarse. The Cobalt was a step up…of course it’s a very short ladder. Still..not world class by any means. At least it has an aux jack for my ipod.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    doctorv8
    Even the definition you linked to (and the thesaurus definition below it) allows it to be used in this manner — a medicine used to induce vomiting. Either word is fine, I chose to use ipecac, write your own review and use emetic as often as you like if it makes y’all feel better.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Admitting they were wrong – something many women also have trouble with.

    A car blog is probably not the ideal place to take a slap at the “unfairer” sex 8-).

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Great review of a bad clone. I saw one of these the other day and only noticed it wasn’t a Cobalt when it got close enough to see the front and the grill was the only thing I could really see different.

    Why spent time and money cloning this old car for Pontiac I thought they were trying to fix that brand. What happened to all that RWD “excitement” GM talked about.

  • avatar
    Chaser

    jazbo123> Ah, but it’s the Megan Benoit way–don’t just defend your position, counter-attack your detractors! :)

    Having said that, though, the review was comedy gold. Funniest one on TTAC in months!

  • avatar
    Skooter

    Review sounds just a little bit off base to me. I have experience with the car and the description seems way off base. Both interior and exterior fit and finish is just fine. The 2 dr has nice lines and a sporty look. Is the Ecotec a bit noisy? Yes. Does it “grunt, fart”? No. Does it move the car along? Yes. With decent pick up and great mpg to boot. Car starts at $15,700 and well equipped is under $19,000. And that’s with auto trans, OnStar, spoiler, alloys, remote start, full power equipment and a 100,000 mile warranty.

  • avatar

    GM has recently produced some very competitive products (Z06, Lamdas, Malibu & Aura, GMT 900s, Solstice, etc.), to much surprise and kudos. “They can do it when they put their minds to it” goes the line.

    However, what they roll out with their next generation of compact and sub-compact cars will be a real test of their resolve and ability. They are being developed (hopefully) at a time when GM is tight for cash and the market is turning to smaller vehicles. They can build a nice large SUV or truck, a competitive mid-size car, but what do they do for an encore in a very important segment? And one they have struggled with in the past.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    I think humans have a difficult time saying “I was wrong.” Hell, even my cat gave me a cocky sneer the last time he shat on the carpet.

    Which transitions nicely to the G5. Actually, I don’t dislike the Cobalt. My $15K would most assuredly go elsewhere, but the last time I had one as a rental, I remember being pretty impressed at how smooth and dead-straight it ran the highway, and how much driver and trunk space there was. Of course, it is a 3,000+ lb vehicle.

    The merciless rips make for a highly entertaining read. I do think it’s worth noting that even the worst car in this class is more blah than “bad.”

  • avatar
    Rix

    GM will sell a ton of these to car rental companies, which will be the only place where the majority of the market experiences the GM brands.
    Most people will come away with negative brand perceptions reinforced.

    I drove a 2001 sunfire as a rental from Enterprise. If there was a corner they failed to cut, I didn’t find it. I actually called my friends up and invited them over so I could show them how much the car sucked. Then I had a small 2004 chevy rental from Alamo, with just a few hundred miles on it. The engine blew up after three days.

  • avatar
    Johnson Schwanz

    Here’s a serious question:

    An analysis of the demographic of TTAC should yield that nobody on this site would ever even consider purchasing a G5 coupe.

    With that said, what was the reason to even review this car, other than to ridicule Pontiac or to provide an attempt for comic relief?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Megan,

    Let me start by saying the review was extremely witty and entertaining. No coffee-burnt nostrils here but I did laugh out loud once or twice (try explaining to your colleagues why you’re laughing while ostensibly reading VB code). And I haven’t driven the G5 but you certainly brought back memories of the Cobalt I rented.

    I was being just slightly obnoxious with my criticism and I knew it.

    However, I’m right.

    While it’s true that my paper M-W doesn’t have all the latest e-this and i-that, it’s still a good guide to usage. I didn’t say you were wrong, per se, but the word I suggested is more precise and eliminates some chance of ambiguity. If the meaning of ipecac that you employed wasn’t an important enough entry for the ’77 version, it’s probably only online because electrons are cheaper and they might as well cover the few times it does see use in that context for the convenience of those who encounter it that way, not to encourage them to use it that way. The number one definition is clearly different. And the number one definition of the alternative I recommended is exactly on target.

    Now, what you should have said was, “Thbhbhbhbht – nitpicker!”

    And there’d be no arguing with that. :-)

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Skooter,

    What mpg did you observe? And how did you observe it? By recording mileage at fillups or are you trusting a computer and/or estimating by “tankfuls?”

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Johnson Schwanz

    I dunno, what’s the point of reviewing Ferraris and Z06s and cars that cost more than I make in a year? I’d argue that the average user on this site is more likely to purchase a G5, if only because they can A) afford it and B) they’re readily available. Plus, consider that some people get here by searching for a specific make and model of car… the more cars we cover on the site, the better for the site overall in terms of page hits and visits.

    And let’s face it, some cars have it coming. When the best anyone can say in defense is, “It’s not *that* bad,” it’s pretty bad indeed.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Johnson Schwanz there are a lot more people viewing TTAC than just us posters. The site needs to have a variety of reviews not just cars the regulars are going to enjoy and comment on. What about the multitude of people who just pop onto the site to find some honest reviews of cars in that price range because they are looking for a new car.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    So it’s incrementally excrementally better than the Sunbird?

  • avatar
    Orian

    I suppose one could look at the review and the comments from the regulars and take away what is wrong with the car and hope that GM decides to take things to heart and fix them in the next version, so long as it doesn’t take another 5 (or 3) years to get it to market.

    I sat in a Cobalt at a dealership 2 years ago to see what they were like. I didn’t bother with a test drive – the Hyundai Elantra looked and felt better inside and out for the same price, never mind the fact this car competes with the Focus, Civic, Sentra, and Corolla.

    Some of GM’s newer products are definitely steps in the right direction – as long as they don’t let them wither on the vine like they have in the past. GM still has a long way to go to start making a profit again.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Pontiac isn’t the excitement brand anymore, they gave up on that advertising years ago. Obviously it is the only Pontiac tagline everyone remembers … “We Build Excitement”.

    Out of curiosity I looked at the pontiac.com website just now to find the latest slogan. Hold on, this one will rock you world:

    “Pontiac is CAR
    Car, One simple word. Packed with so much meaning. To some, it stands for freedom. To others it’s hood scoops and horsepower. For others still, it means fun and escape. We all have our own personal definitions. They all mean something special. So let’s bring car back. And all the good it stands for.
    From the company that always was, and will be, Car. ”

    Wow, that sounds like the kind of thing a car loving freshman English major would come up with after a hard night of hitting the books and bong.

    It makes me want to write my own version:

    “Pontiac is CARP. You know, the bottom feeding fish with the strange nose. Highly popular in certain North American sub-cultures, but rarely seen at better restaurants. Pontiac is, and always will be, CARP.”

  • avatar
    Johnson Schwanz

    Megan and Red,

    Ok, that puts it into perspective for me, as I didn’t take the “outside interest” into consideration.

    Thanks folks.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    “Pontiac is CARP. You know, the bottom feeding fish with the strange nose. Highly popular in certain North American sub-cultures, but rarely seen at better restaurants. Pontiac is, and always will be, CARP.”

    Aaghgpth!

    Now I’ve got burned nostrils, too.

  • avatar
    Skooter

    And who said “It’s not *that* bad,”?

    MPG I observed is from the vehicle’s on board information system.

    And I would guess that Mr. Schwanz suspects the G5 is being served up as a pinata in this instance.

    And I also get a kick out of all the contributors “real world heresay” rental experiences.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Skooter,

    And what mpg did the computer report?

    I don’t trust the car computer mileage unless I’ve verified it by tracking fillups and mileage but it’s a start.

    The Cobalt I rented had an MPG display that was about a few percent optimistic. Yes, I checked. I was thinking about getting a car the size of the Cobalt.

    As for the “real world heresay [sic] rental experiences…” GM should know that it only gets one chance to make a first impression. The one bright side to selling to daily rental companies is you do get to show the customer the product and let him get acquainted with it. If it’s a good product, performs well, makes a good impression, it may well set you up for a later retail sale. If not…

    For $19K I can get a stick Civic EX-L with my choice of two or four doors. For just a bit more, I could get a Prius. For $19K, the G5 does not seem like a particularly good value.

    Heck, you could almost get two Hyundais for that price.

  • avatar
    bleach

    Skooter,

    If the G5 is being served up as a pinata so have many others before it in various price categories. The blame for being pinata worthy lies squarely with the manufacturers that failed to produce a quality product.

    jthorner,

    LOL! I actually went to their site to verify it. I can’t believe they would use such a ridiculous slogan.

  • avatar
    Johnson Schwanz

    Skooter,

    I did see this review as a beach ball served to A-Rod.

    I travel a LOT in my occupation, and I had the opportunity to drive many “economy-class” rental cars. I had a Cobalt SS, and I told my girlfriend that the car wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be! (This is before I bought my 335i, but I digress)

    However, further pontification about the niche and placement of this car may well validate both the tone and the execution of the review. For Pontiac to exude “excitement” in a pretty competitive econobox segment, the effort has to be better than the G5 coupe. For $19,000, there are indeed much better alternatives available for prospective buyers.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Quit mincing your words and tell me what you really thought. :-)

  • avatar
    Skooter

    “For $19K I can get a stick Civic EX-L with my choice of two or four doors.”

    True. If you are able to buy the Honda for $43.00 over dealer invoice. The comparable deal on the G5 brings the car down to only $17,266. That’s $1,774 less with 8 more horsepower, 24 more ft lbs. torque and a paltry 3 mpg less highway mpg with an auto trans.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Very enjoyable review. Accurate and fair? I couldn’t say, but based on my experience with a Cobalt SS a little over three years ago, it’s probably spot on.

    On the Ipecac issue, I agree with Kixstart. When I read the review I mentally scratched out the word “an” in front of ipecac, which made it work for me. That way you would have been alluding to a specific product, ipecac. I don’t agree with the suggestion that you use the word emetic, as that would have had me reaching for my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1983) and would have broken the flow of the writing for an illiterate such as myself.

  • avatar

    nicely written! the exterior sounds about as sporty as it gets.

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    A dog. A real dog (of a car).

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    A poor, poor friend of mine had no choice but to buy a a G5. It was either that, or a Cobalt. Apparently her parents would not co-sign the loan unless it was a GM.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Skooter,

    So, what mpg did you get?

    As for the deals involved, I checked Edmunds and your figures are suspect. As to the performance, the G5’s bigger engine is a necessity; the car weighs 400 lbs more than the Civic. With only 8hp more, I don’t think it will catch the Civic coupe.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    I didn’t know this car existed in Pontiac’s lineup.

    Based on my experience with a rental cobalt, versus a rental Cavalier from a few years back, it’s definitely a much better car. I didn’t mind my rental much…then again I didn’t have to live with it.

    Is it $18,395 nice? Not at all. Maybe $12,000 nice, and that’s pushing it.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Goodness, all this talk of ipecac and emetic! Shouldn’t that be saved for a review of an Austrian Puch?

    The G5 proves two things: First, John DeLorean has left the building. Second, it was meant to provide an affirmative answer to the question “Can you guys sell me anything for $400 a month?”

  • avatar
    dean

    When I read ipecac I knew exactly what Megan meant. I doubt it was ambiguous to anyone familiar with the word and its uses. In the context of its use in the sentence, a leafy plant would hardly make sense. (KixStarts’ well-used ’77 model MW notwithstanding, I, and probably many others, are more familiar with its useage meaning emetic than its useage meaning a type of plant.)

    Besides, there are far more egregious mis-uses of words on this site, and I don’t see you getting bent out of shape about those. (Example: the use of the word slate as a verb meaning “to criticize harshly”. I challenge anyone to find a dictionary entry, paper or online, that gives that as a valid meaning of the word. And urban dictionary doesn’t count.)

    Enough of that. A colleague just spent a week with a base Cobalt while his ’95 Grand Cherokee was in the body shop. He couldn’t believe what a P.O.S. the car was compared to a 13 year old Jeep.

    I can completely buy the one star review.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    dean, Enter ‘slate’ on M-W.com and pick the “slate [3,transitive verb]” option… “chiefly British : to criticize or censure severely” and it dates back to 1825.

    To tell the truth, after your post, I scratched my head and thought about it… I understood “slate” from the context it was used here but I couldn’t remember having seen it used similarly elsewhere… Maybe one of Farago’s Limey buddies made it up to make fools of us Yanks!

    But, no.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Ah, the venerable cheap 2-door coupe. I, for one, am glad that entry-level cars like the G5 are reviewed. For one thing, there’s the (extremely remote) possibility that one of these cheap skateboards could actually provide some entertainment for minimal coin. The last one that fell into that category was the 2004 2.3L PZEV Focus ZX3. For a measly extra $100 over the price of the most basic Focus, you got the larger 2.3L engine. Now there was some cheap thrills. Of course, Ford only offered the $100 2.3L at the end of MY04, then dropped the option from the cheap Focus entirely in 2005 (along with deleting the standard tachometer) and killed what was the only reason to get a cheap Focus.

    So now, the competition for the Cobalt/G5 coupe is the Ford Focus, Scion tC, and Honda Civic coupe. Although the Hyundai Accent and Toyota Yaris are 2-doors, they’re hatchbacks and don’t really count.

    For someone on a really shoestring budget, that’s not a lot of choices for a brand-new ‘sporty’ 2-door. Then the Scion and Honda get taken out of the running due to their non-discountable higher prices.

    That essentially leaves the Focus coupe as the only alternative to the Cobalt/G5, which is kind of like having to choose whether to be hit in the head by a ball-peen or claw hammer.

    As someone else pointed out, for a better overall driving experience, it would probably make more sense to buy a used tC or Civic coupe for the same money as a brand-new Cobalt/G5 or Focus.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    …and the only other thing I’m waiting for with the G5 – the one thing that will make it “perfect” – is some tacky neon “splash” graphics stickers with the word “Sport” on the back.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember this car coming out literally days or a few weeks after GM made the announcement that their level of brand engineering that made it impossible to tell an Oldsmobile from a Buick for so many years would stop. Seeing this on the dealer lots after such an edict was basically a slap in the face to the educated car-buying public.
    It also appears that they haven’t learned their lesson as the, what, the Chevy Traverse comes out soon. Do we really need another 5,000lb “crossover” on the same platform? Sorry guys, but if you want to look at correct platform sharing and badge engineering, the VW/Audi lines, the Nissan/Infiniti lines, and probably the Ford/Mazda/Volvo lines are where to start. For the typical car buyer, if you plop a Mazda3 next to a S40, I don’t think they’ll make the connection.
    What I just can’t fathom is how they can justify the huge costs of the few Pontiac-specific parts, Pontiac-only marketing, and even the costs of transport, materials for the dealer and other selling costs for a car that really has no chance to make an impact and that most car buyers will see as just another GM clone.
    This is the stuff they don’t need. Please put this lump out of its’ misery!

  • avatar
    mel23

    I drove a rental Cobalt 500 miles a few days ago. I kept it at just under 70 as much as possible and got 33 mpg that I calculated from the gas I put in it. I wasn’t expecting to like the car at all, but I was somewhat pleasantly surprised. For the money, and considering the warranty, it’s not a bad deal IMO. Much less noisy than I expected, and it handled well. I’m afraid of small cars, when I’m riding in one that is, and I was almost terrified when I drove an Accent awhile back. At least the Cobalt seemed content to go where I pointed it, unlike the Accent which had a (steering) mind of its own. This was an Enterprise car, and the window sticker was in the glove box. I think the prices was a little over $15k. Cruise control would have made a big difference.

    I found the car to have plenty of power, although I admit I have a light foot. But I had no trouble staying out of the way of other vehicles, passing, etc.

    Too bad GM doesn’t see fit to put more effort into improving the perceived quality of this car. What’s new?

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I used True Delta and found that for the equivalent of $1,000 more (when similarly equipped), I can get a 148 hp Mazda3 hatch instead of the 140 hp Pontiac G5. The Mazda has more head, hip, leg, and shoulder room front and back, and because it’s a hatch it of course has more cargo room. While I haven’t driven the Pontiac, based on its Cobalt clone, I find it hard to believe that it is more comfortable, sportier, or better looking than the Mazda3. Quite frankly, I can’t imagine why anyone would by the Pontiac. If you absolutely can’t afford the Mazda3, please don’t get the Pontiac. Buy a well used car and drive it into the ground for three years while you save up money to buy a real car. One that you’ll want to be seen in and will keep a smile on your face for years of driving.

  • avatar
    armadamaster

    LMAO at that whole review, awesome, and right on the money.

    Pontiac is so lost it’s not even funny. And yet another limited edition AU import is the only thing in the future holding any hope for them….they are f&*ked.

    The only thing the G5 is missing is the Sunfire name, instead GM thinks it’s a great idea to name it and everything else in the Pontiac lineup like something out of a bingo tournament.

    “KixStart :
    February 6th, 2008 at 7:01 pm
    For $19K I can get a stick Civic EX-L with my choice of two or four doors. For just a bit more, I could get a Prius. For $19K, the G5 does not seem like a particularly good value.

    Heck, you could almost get two Hyundais for that price.”

    For $18K, I can get a loaded, fullsize Grand Marquis with a V8 good for 300K miles.

  • avatar
    speedbrakes

    Awesome review. In fact, it might replace Liebermans review of the Audi RS4 as my all time TTAC favorite.

  • avatar
    nametag

    After reading the comments, I’m thinking Pontiac should change its latest tagline from:

    Pontiac is CAR

    to:

    Pontiac is RENTAL CAR

  • avatar
    Chaser

    What’s all this talk of $19000? At my local Pontiac dealership you can pick up a well-equipped G6 for that kind of dough. I would expect to pay much less for the G5.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    They dream of getting 19k. They really expect to get about 13k.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    19k is about where the GT model is priced at. I agree wholeheartedly with whoever said this was a $13k car. Maybe even less than that. It’s a ridiculous price point for a disgustingly cheap coupe, and symptomatic of GM’s problems as a whole. Making cars that no one wants, at a price that no one is willing to pay is not the way to save the company. This car is a little GM Death Watch in and of itself.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Well, I will say that I’m happy that this review was done. Being in mid-twenties, I am in the market for these kinds of vehicles and would like to know if it is worth the money. Frankly, I can’t stand to read Ferrari and similar reviews any longer as the likelihood that I will pruchase one anytime soon (if ever) is non-existent.

    The best part about this car is the fact that while it may have been beaten into submission by the competition in the past, GM recently kicked it in the proverbial gonads by introducing the Astra XR. For a similar price, you can get a better handling car with a nicer interior. The only thing that this car has over the Astra is the fact that when the interior falls apart (as many a GM interior has a tendency to do), you won’t feel as bad because it was pretty crappy to begin with.

    Well, I have a new marketing campaign for Pontiac:

    “Pontiac is PUBERTY
    Puberty, One simple word. Packed with so much meaning. To some, it stands for awkwardness and self-loathing. To others it’s all about a lack of identity and a meaningful place in the world. For others still, it is simply the most horrid experience one can have. We all have our own personal definitions. They all mean something special. So let’s bring puberty back. And all that it stands for.
    From the company that always was, and will be, Puberty. ”

    Let me know what y’all think; It seems more accurate to me.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Pontiac is PUBERTY

    …getting lucky is still a challenge?

  • avatar
    fallout11

    Love it, Sanman! Nicely put. Pontiac lost it’s way years ago, now the damaged brand is well beyond salvaging. Time to go the same way Oldsmobile did, out to pasture for good.

  • avatar
    Skooter

    Megan,
    I did not experience ANY of your observations. I’m curious. Was your test car provided by Pontiac? Or did you drive another sourced vehicle?

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    On ipecac, I confess I had to look it up. When I did, the meaning was readily apparent.

    I’m probably alone on this, but I have never, ever, rented a Cobalt.

  • avatar
    skaro

    I always feel insulted when some big company management / marketing entity thinks they can fool me by slapping on a different grille.

    I think that’s part of why I appreciated this review. If it was just a Cobalt, it wouldn’t be so bad. But they took that mediocrity and try to fool people. Therefore, it deserved the additional scathe.

    I will never buy a rebadged vehicle.

  • avatar
    Skooter

    “I will never buy a rebadged vehicle.”

    That eliminates more than GM vehicles. Ford/Mercury twins. Toyota/Lexus siblings. Honda/Acura clones. Nissan/Infiniti look(are)alikes. VW/Audi/Porsche triplets.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    there is big difference between “badge engineering” and “platform sharing”

  • avatar
    Skooter

    I know they are two different vehicles. But I can’t help but observe that the Pontiac G5 is absolutely skewered by the author here. Meanwhile, an earlier review of a Nissan Altima coupe (1/18/08)finds Ms. Benoit gushing for a rather less than remarkable car.

  • avatar

    For you kids…

    When I was young, my parents had two pontiac Grand Prix. No, not the bizarro thing now, but a honest to god, huge, steel, big car. One had a 400, the other a 455. (gas was a quarter, but you only made a buck an hour) They had rich interiors, comfy seats, and sat like the rock of Gibraltar on the highway. Steel Belted Radials and Road Hugging Weight made them a pleasure to drive. They didn’t look like the olds or chevy versions.

    Whatever happened to Pontiac, the sporty division, and where is the BMW 3 fighter ?

  • avatar
    dean

    KixStart – Thanks for finding that definition of slate. Now I no longer need to bridle with indignation when used in that context!

    I now have M-W.com bookmarked. Screw Google’s results!

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Dean, you’re welcome.

    It’s a pleasant surprise to find so many others who will also reach across to the bookshelf (or m-w.com) and look up an unfamiliar word.

    And today I found I also have to search Yiddish on-line dictionaries to cope with this site (see commentary for news item on IntelliChoice “Misegos”). Oi, gevald!

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    You know what? Screw the BMW 3.

    A lot of folks here are under the impression that the domestic manufacturers should ‘benchmark’ themselves into a competitive position by focusing primarily on the imports.

    I honestly think that’s garbage…. and it’s garbage on two fronts. First off, you complete eliminate the traditional strengths of domestic vehicles when you do this (comfort, power, luxury, high speed cruising) all of which an awful lot of people want for their everyday driving. Second, you automatically lose in the marketplace by making your competition the focus in the industry.

    Lincolns doesn’t need to become ‘like Lexus’. Pontiac doesn’t need to become ‘like BMW’. Anyone who thinks BMW and Pontiac should ever be cross-shopped or considered in the same breath, are in a world more delusional than that ‘She Bang!’ singer from American Idol.

    Pontiac has pretty much been a sporty Chevy for 20+ years now. I don’t see any problem with it so long as the Chevy is a competitive product. As the MSRP’s stand, the Cobalt doesn’t really hold up and therefore the G5 hasn’t caught on at all.

    As for the days of yore… I’ve always had a soft spot for the Grand Prix of the late 70’s and early 80’s. The same holds true for the Firebird of the same vintage as well as the late Bonneville… which could have been a great car if it weren’t for all the junky interior plastics and body cladding.

    GM was right by making the current Pontiacs a bit leaner looking than the ones from the recent past. But until GM’s cost and branding disadvantages are properly addressed, an entry level compact like the G5 will not have the means to define itself with either a great design or a competitive chassis. It’s just not in the economics of the parent company.

    The G5 is a ‘Mercury’ within GM’s product line. It’s not needed and it detracts from the potential strengths of the Cobalt.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Steven Lang on “benchmarking” against the foreign competition: “I honestly think that’s garbage…. and it’s garbage on two fronts. First off, you complete eliminate the traditional strengths of domestic vehicles when you do this (comfort, power, luxury, high speed cruising) all of which an awful lot of people want for their everyday driving.”

    Comfort, power, luxury, high speed cruising… Which of those does a Lexus, Nissan, Acura, or Benz not do?

    Traditionally, American cars differed in a few ways:

    – They favored a cushy ride over a firm one and handling often suffered, only recently did the steering on many cars become what you could call precise.
    – The were large (you could land a light plane on the trunklid of an old Chrysler Newport) and long hoods were especially favored.
    – The engines were large-displacement, usually V-8s with a lower hp/cube ratio than typical import engines (and they generally didn’t rev as high).
    – The front ends were fairly square or even W-shaped.

    I don’t know that any of these traditional differences could be characterized as “strengths” and it’s hard to see how you could use any of this as a revival.

    Nowadays:
    – Cars generally handle better now; luxury for cars driven by oneself generally means even better handling.
    – Cars take aerodynamics into account. This is why a Malibu strongly resembles a Camry which strongly resembles a Maxima…
    – Smaller displacement engines are the norm, even for Detroit. Power is improved with tricks, like DOHC, VVT, direct injection (soon).
    – Fuel economy is important. Luxury cars are no longer required to have a V-8 (but some imports do). And unnecessarily big cars aren’t coming back. Interior room is important but the package length and width will be kept to a reasonable minimum.
    – Bench seats are gone. This implies some differences in the way the seating feels and the cabin is arranged. Bench seats aren’t coming back.

    If the traditional Detroit characteristics were strengths, Ford would sell a crapload of Grand Marquis.

    Steven Lang: “Second, you automatically lose in the marketplace by making your competition the focus in the industry.”

    Too late for that… the imports have redefined luxury and they are giving people what they want; they redefined what a car could be.

    Cadillac may be making something of a comeback but they are doing it by assuming more of the character of the imports, plus a dose of horsepower. They are carrying a distinctive look and, if they get a rep for handling, power and reliability, that look should serve them well.

    But if they’re using the electric window hardware of Buicks (which my friends find start to fail by 100K miles) and Chevy-quality parts, their renaissance won’t have legs.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    “Lincolns doesn’t need to become ‘like Lexus’. Pontiac doesn’t need to become ‘like BMW’. Anyone who thinks BMW and Pontiac should ever be cross-shopped or considered in the same breath, are in a world more delusional than that ‘She Bang!’ singer from American Idol.”

    “Pontiac has pretty much been a sporty Chevy for 20+ years now. I don’t see any problem with it so long as the Chevy is a competitive product. As the MSRP’s stand, the Cobalt doesn’t really hold up and therefore the G5 hasn’t caught on at all.”

    If Pontiac doesn’t need to be ‘like BMW’ then it follows that they don’t need to be “like Chevy” much less do they need to be a ‘sporty Chevy’. Chevy already has sporty Chevies, there is no need for pointiac to make the same car with a different grille, even when the Chevy is competitive.

    Pontiac (like all other GM divisions) needs a brand identity – and ‘sporty Chevy’ isn’t a brand identity.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Steven, I usually agree with you, but not this time. It was Pontiac (and other Detroit brands) that set out to be an affordable BMW. Remember all the “Euro” badges on mid ’80’s Detroit crap, like the Celebrity? The ads showing a Ford Granada and a MB SLC, and how similar they supposedly were?

    All of Detroit started aping BMW and MB in the latter seventies, when the German brands were suddenly “in”. Pontiac is guiltier than any of them, and has rightly earned its title of “Walmart Bimmer”. They worked hard for decades to get to this point. Endless press releases about how the X-car was the equal of the BMW 3-series. They started the comparisons.

    Now, belatedly, at death’s door, they’re rediscovering their “American roots” with Aussie badge-engineered GTO’s and G8’s and the like. Good luck! They need it.

  • avatar
    CupcakeF

    I dunno…the Pontiac grille on the front looks a tad bit better than the Chevy Cobalt. The tail lights and spoiler though, reek of Hyundai Tiburon mimicry. And the interior is…ugly…

    But taking the fact that its a cheap car, drop the price of another cheap car into it, hell, not even that much…about six grand would get you a great small car for the same price as the relatively boring mid to full size cars with better performance and more a more eyecatching look.

  • avatar
    matt

    mel23 :
    February 7th, 2008 at 1:28 am

    I drove a rental Cobalt 500 miles a few days ago. I kept it at just under 70 as much as possible and got 33 mpg that I calculated from the gas I put in it. I wasn’t expecting to like the car at all, but I was somewhat pleasantly surprised. For the money, and considering the warranty, it’s not a bad deal IMO. Much less noisy than I expected, and it handled well.

    And thats the problem. That 33 mpg highway is still where they are. My 2001 Saturn SL1 would pull almost 40 mpg highway, and 34 in the city. What happened to progress? I guess the car has gotten quieter though. I was driving an S2000 and when I got back in the Saturn I was surpised to find that the S2000, a high revving convertible was quieter on the highway than my 4dr econobox.

  • avatar
    shaker

    For all of the fretting over Megan’s use of “an ipecac” in the article:
    “Colloquialism”, anyone? I understood exactly what she meant, and I laughed.

    Looking at the G5 at Joe Ball Pontiac-GMC in Pittsburgh, I came to the conclusion that it IS a better-looking Cobalt.

    But looking at the $20,000+ sticker for a loaded GT, I figured that offering them 17.5k to start (and working down from there) would have made for a long day.

  • avatar
    Matthew Potena

    Megan,
    That was a great review! While nobody, and I mean nobody, is as hard on American car manufacturers as I am, I think that they are just as capable of producing a good car as the Europeans and Japanese. They just have to put their minds to it. I was at the Philly Auto Show last night and saw a few American cars that I would recommend to friends, Cadillac CTS, Saturn Sky, Pontiac Solstice, Corvette ZR-1. In order to get there they must stop cutting corners! They also have to think in the long term, not just about next quarter’s stock price. Unfortunately, the majority of the Big 2.8’s cars are the result of shortsighted designers as was the G5.

  • avatar
    Arthist

    Granted, the G5 is an overpriced version of the Cobalt. But its mechanicals are sound. The 2.2L Ecotec is much more powerful than the Civic’s torque-less 1.8L. I have an Ecotec in my Alero; it’s a model of efficiency, compactness, and simplicity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The Cobalt (G5) is American engineering at its best: utterly reliable, safe, competitive handling and fantastically priced. With a typical Civic breaking $18k, the Cobalt platform is a shrewd and sensible alternative. I think those who praise the Japanese machines are just sour grapes because they paid $4k more than the Cobalt/G5 and got less car.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Gee, I dunno Arthist–the Cobalt may be “utterly reliable” but Consumer Reports says Civics are a lot more utterly reliable.

    But there are people for whom a G5 or Cobalt is just fine. My niece and her husband, both well educated professionals, were planning a 2,000 mile family vacation and were worried about their well-worn Odyssey minivan. So they popped into a Chevy dealership and bought a Cobalt coupe. They and the two kids took their trip, had a great time, and had no complaints about their mode of transportation. As Yamaha used to say, different strokes for different folks. Of course, someone else said there’s just no accounting for some people’s taste.

  • avatar
    kovachian

    5omerc: Why on Gods green Earth did they buy a dinky little coupe for a family of four? They could’ve at least bought the sedan version, that would’ve actually made some sense.

  • avatar
    william442

    It was Robert Burns, not Steinbeck. “…aft gang aglee…”

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Matthew Potena:
    “That was a great review! While nobody, and I mean nobody, is as hard on American car manufacturers as I am, I think that they are just as capable of producing a good car as the Europeans and Japanese. They just have to put their minds to it.“Yeah, that’s the catch. Producing cars (particularly small cars) just isn’t nearly as profitable as big SUVs and pickup trucks so the domestic efforts in this area are almost universally half-assed, at best. The last, true, domestic small-car hit was the original early-nineties Neon, one of Lee Iaccoca’s last efforts at Chrysler before he retired. GM’s attempt with the Saturn project wasn’t nearly as successful. The original Ford Focus wasn’t too bad when it was introduced, either. But then, when gas was plentiful and cheap, all the domestic eggs were collectively put into the body-on-frame, big SUV/pickup basket and cars went by the wayside.

    Still, it demonstrates that it is possible for the domestics to come up with a decent small car design if they truly put the effort into it.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The Cobalt (G5) is American engineering at its best: utterly reliable

    That statement deserves to be challenged. The JD Power Initial Quality Survey reports the Cobalt as being “average” and the G5 as being “below average.” The Consumer Reports reliability surveys on the Cobalt show it to be average, and rank the Cobalt toward the bottom of the pool in comparison to its competition.

    Given the superior reliability, resale value and driving experience offered by its competitors, there is no reason to recommend this car unless the primary goal is to buy some of the cheapest set of wheels in its class. In that case, buying a one-year old ex-rental might not be such a bad plan for a buyer for whom (a) resale value is irrelevant, (b) driving pleasure is a low priority and (c) reliability need not matter so much. One star might have been a bit harsh, but the “not recommended” label is certainly deserved.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Does C.R give Honda a free pass like they give
    Toyota?

  • avatar
    truthbetold37

    Ok….

    I work for GM, but realize that the G5 is no Civic. However I drive one of these daily and it is no worse than 2 stars. It is much better than a Cavalier or Sunfire. Again there is room for improvement. I just cross my fingers and pray that it holds up as I commute to work and need to keep this car for 4 years minimum.

    GM upper management should be forced to drive one of these for 2-3 years and log 20K-30K miles then you would see REAL improvement. Instead they drive Escalades and Corvettes.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Funny thing is, I just read last years sales figures for cars in Canada. If you add the G5 to the Cobalt it would be the second best selling car in Canada after the Civic, by a narrow margin.

    So, are my fellow Canadians foolish or cheap or both? That, or the Cobalt and G5 must do something right.

    Figures
    This year Model Last year 2007 Sales
    1 Honda Civic 1 70,838
    2 Mazda3 2 48,236
    3 Toyota Corolla 3 40,474
    4 Toyota Yaris 4 34,424
    5 Chevrolet Cobalt 5 32,613
    6 Toyota Camry 6 28,218
    7 Pontiac G5 8 25,211
    8 Ford Focus 7 24,013
    9 Honda Accord – 22,102
    10 Nissan Versa – 21,940

  • avatar
    Pch101

    So, are my fellow Canadians foolish or cheap or both? That, or the Cobalt and G5 must do something right.

    You omitted the third option — there are rental car agencies in Canada. As is true in the US, most vehicles in Canadian rental fleets are acquired from the Big 2.8.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    truthbetold,

    Yes, the car is an improvement over the Sunfire and Cavalier. However, I don’t think that there is a car on the market now that isn’t (likely including the Aveo, though I haven’t had the pleasure). The fact is that the Compact class is turning into more of what mid-size expectations used to be. That means more of a premium feel, more features/options, etc. Honestly, I think GM made a huge mis-step here as they could have made the GT engine standard, tightened up the handling, and had the only real 2+2 sports car for under 20k. As it is, the civic is more frugal and the tC is more refined with more standard features.

  • avatar
    Skooter

    Of course! Attribute all sales successes to rentals!

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Of course! Attribute all sales successes to rentals!

    In the case of GM and the Big 2.8, that would generally be the appropriate thing to do.

    Some factoids about Canada’s market, circa 2006:

    -1 of every 3 vehicles sold was a fleet vehicle

    -The Big 2.8 controlled 78% of the Canadian fleet market; GM dominated with 42% of the total fleet market.

    -21% of GM’s total sales went to fleet. (In contrast, fleets accounted for 12% of Toyota’s total sales, and less than 6% of Nissan, Mazda and VW combined sales.)

    -The top ten fleet cars for 2006:

    1. Impala
    2. Pontiac G6
    3. Chevrolet Malibu
    4. Ford Focus
    5. Chevrolet Cobalt
    6. Pontiac G5/Pursuit
    7. Chrysler 300/300C
    8. Toyota Corolla
    9. Ford Taurus
    10. Toyota Camry

    -Do the math, and you find fleet sales as a percentage of total sales for these nameplates:

    Impala – 48.5%
    Cobalt – 20.3%
    G5 – 24.7%
    Cobalt/ G5 combined – 22.3%
    Focus – 24.8%
    Corolla – 13.0%
    Yaris – 15.4%
    Camry – 19.5%

    So yes, fleet sales are an important factor for the Big 2.8 in Canada. The Camry sales come as a bit of a surprise, but if that market parallels the US, then many of the Camry sales went to corporate fleets, rather than rental.

    http://www.fleetbusiness.com/industry_stats/industry_stats_home.html
    http://en.autos.sympatico.msn.ca/guides_and_advice/article.aspx?cp-documentid=4676756

  • avatar
    armadamaster

    matt :
    February 8th, 2008 at 8:19 am

    And thats the problem. That 33 mpg highway is still where they are. My 2001 Saturn SL1 would pull almost 40 mpg highway, and 34 in the city. What happened to progress?

    I feel your pain there. Think about it, Chevy/Geo had the 50 MPG Geo Metro a few years back but the replacement Aveo can’t even get anywhere near that? I had a buddy telling me a story the other day of getting 52 MPG in his old Honda CRX back in the mid 1990’s from Nebraska to Texas loaded down with everything he owned but nowadays even an almighty Hybrid can’t scratch at those kind of MPG numbers?

  • avatar
    NickR

    Pch101, thanks for the numerical breakdown. I didn’t realize fleet sales were such a huge factor here.

    However, if you subtract fleet sales from the Cobalt/G5 it still clocks in about 45,000 narrowly behind the popular Mazda3 and ahead of such stalwarts as the Corolla.

  • avatar
    truthbetold37

    Another comment regarding my purchase of the G5….

    Being a GM employee, I feel I should buy from my employer. Because I have ZERO faith in the durability of the Big 3’s FWD automatic transmissions I want a manual (plus they are more fun). The only vehicle GM makes in the $15000 – $25000 price range with a stick shift is the G5 and Cobalt (Aveo is out of the question). I take that back, the Astra will have it if you can find one (no cupholders!!!).

    Why no G6/Aura with a manual trans? I think the manual trans in the G5 GT was canceled for 2008!

    GM has given up on stick shifts except in the Corvette, CTS, and soon to be G8.

  • avatar
    moto

    truthbetold37:

    It absolutely disgusts me that GM has abandoned the manual transmission for the US market too.

    Don’t be pressured into buying a crappy slushbox transmission from any manufacturer. If you truly must buy GM, then get a pre-owned car if you have to do so.

    Consider a 2006 Saab 9-2X (that is, GM’s version of the Subaru Impreza). It is inexpensive and very highly reviewed by the few people who learned about them before GM pulled the plug on that partnership.

    The Saturn Astra looks like one of GM’s better efforts, and I believe it will have a manual.

    .. and if you really have good taste, no one will fault you for picking up a vintage Porsche 944, which will be infinitely more enjoyable to drive than any modern FWD machine.

  • avatar
    Jamo

    These cars are dirt cheap. I don’t think they’re as bad as the reputation. If you stick to the basic car, of course you don’t get cruise control, but a two door with a stick shift, power windows and locks, A.C. and a decent radio with XM, for less than $12,000 is not too bad. A Civic is at least 35% more.

    The GM cars tend to be noisy and crude, but they hold together all right.

  • avatar
    Skooter

    Ms. Benoit, what G5 did you test? A Pontiac supplied or rental or somethiong else?

  • avatar
    azjohnny245

    I agree wholeheartedly with most earlier reviews. Automobile manufacturers should be progressively improving upon the previous models. As technology improves, so should the brand name. It’s funny that GM hasn’t learned this. From the days of the J-Car back in the 80s to today, not much has changed from the Sunbird to the Sunfire to the G5. BASIC transportation marketed to Americans with sub-par reliability and terrible resale value.

    Take a 1996 Civic. Much better reliability than a 1996 Sunfire. Also higher resale value. And even though Honda made a decent car in 1996, it’s gotten progressively better ever since. Honda has improved upon the Civic’s reliability, power, efficiency, comfort and ride. While GM squeaks out a product that could have just as well been made during the Bush, Sr. presidency, people are trading their ’04 Hondas in for ’08s. Except for Avis, Hertz, and Budget fleet buyers, I don’t think many people are rushing to Pontiac dealerships with excitement.

    GM has lost touch with it’s buyers. The corporation understands that SUV buyers want space & power. They also understand that luxury buyers want power and finesse. What they don’t seem to understand is that small car buyers want economy, safety, and reliability. These are folks who commute to jobs every day. They normally care more about how much it costs to fill up their gas tank then they do about torque or red-lining the engine.

    Hopefully the Astra helps GM to lure back GMs core bread-and-butter customers who helped establish the company’s brands so many years ago. Because if it doesn’t, Honda and Toyota have brands that currently fill that niche and Hyundai will probably be there soon. Heck, we even may see a bit of a renaissance at Ford. The reintroduction of the Fiesta in the U.S. is certainly more exciting and timely than a newly branded Cavalier-Sunfire. Hopefully GM will soon be inspired to build a quality, affordable, safe, reliable compact automobile. If not, we will see GM for what it truly is, a company that focuses solely on easy high margin profits to the detriment of the rest of their brands.

  • avatar
    Jamo

    I really want to like the G5 or Cobalt. The number one thing that holds me back is the lack of smoothness, lack of snickability of the manual transmission in the GM cars. It’s just rubbery, isn’t it? Ms. Benoit’s rather literary panning of the product to the contrary, for the price the G5 would otherwise be an acceptable, fun car.

    Does anyone want to tell me it isn’t a concern?

  • avatar
    Jamo

    Oh, and just to set the record straight, the G5 is not a $19,000 car, as some have ,emtioned, unless yu load it up, which wouldn’be smart. New ones can be had for $12,000 and used with 10,000 mi. for $10,000, if you get the manual trans.

  • avatar
    smithbones

    C’mon guys, the G5 isn’t that bad! I’ve driven both a G5 and its Chevy counterpart and would take them over a Civic or Corolla any day. How could you not? At least you can identify a G5 in a parking lot, and, unlike a Civic, it’s got more low-end torque than a lawn mower. It also looks a heck of a lot better, but we all buy cars for “refinement” these days-as if the seat fabric in a Corolla is really that much better than the seat fabric in a G5. Honestly…

  • avatar
    Jamo

    I just came back from driving both a G5 base car stick shift and a Civic LX stick shift. The Civic is much more refined and electric, but the G5 isn’t a half bad car, either.

    Except for the rather rubbery feeling shifter on the G5, and the gearing, it would be a better car.

    Oh, the interior isn’t as nice as the CIvic. It doesn’t ‘flow’ and isn’t so sculpted looking. But those things are not really tangible. THey both work fine, once you get used to it. THe G5 interior and upholsty was a step up from the Cobalt. The upholstry itself was as nice as the CIOvic, or really nicer. At least it was black rather than grey.

    The CIvic is a really fine car. It is exceptional. Really zippy and light and futuristic. I could do anything in th way of sport driving with the CIvic. The G5 radio is a little better, with XM built in. But neither of them has HD Radio, so they both have to be modified anyway. THe G5 maybe takes a little longer to wind out, but you’d get used to it. I did like the G5. It should have gotten three stars, four if cost is considered. f the

    THere is a ton of difference in price.

  • avatar
    T19

    have owned MB, Jag, Caddies, Triumphs, all the big three and an assortment of Japanese cars. Some where great, others were… lets not go there. Im 6 ft 1 and 250 lbs of hockey playing Canadian Male. I don’t fit in a lot of cars.. 4th Gen Camaro for example, or Saturn Sky.. those are cars for little people. My real car is a Tahoe, full load, comfortable, has 220K miles on it and I just do normal maint on it. At $1.24 / L, I need a commuter car. So I drove a Civic (21K)… Too small head hits the roof and its seems small… a co worker has one and hates it, its a dealership queen, but I must say I enjoyed the Transmission. Tried the Focus(18K).. not bad but did not like it… its a me thing, not the car. I looked at the Mazda 3 (20K), but repairs are so expensive on any Mazda product, that I passed… liked the car. The Toyota Corolla (22K a Yaris was 19K) was nice but very expensive to buy, no deals. Looked at Hyundai (16K for the Accent), nice cars, drove well… but my sons best friends mother had to have her clutch replaced while still under warranty on her Turberion, at $1500 I was shocked. The Suzuki drove nice, but was a little small and my knees hit the bottom of the steering column getting in and out… a problem I also have on Nisans. Looked at the Saturn, nice but there are no5 speeds avail Now I had a 2006 Cobalt sedan, it was my wifes and she loved it. I killed it running into a Ford 350 that made an improper turn into my lane. Car was a write off, but I walked away. So I was driving by the Pontiac dealership and saw a Competition Yellow G5 coupe. It was a base model, 5 spd, with AC. Drove great for an econo box. The radio was great, it shifted fine, the interior was pleasant, there was enough room for my legs, and my head did not hit the roof. With the appearance package, life insurance, prep out the door was under $16K… oh yeah at 0% over 72 months… that carries for less than two tanks of gas in my Tahoe for a NEW CAR!! I took it on the hwy cause that is where it will spend a lot of its life and it drove well, comfortable ride, seats are ok (not as nice as the Vibe) and it was quiet. I liked the growl of the engine… but then again I like the 350 in my 78 Camaro and the 6 in my TR6, so go figure. BTW this was the last Yellow standard in Ontario/Quebec.. I was thinking of getting the next level up in yellow and red, but they are not avail. I asked about the 5 spd in the sedan and the sales guy showed me that there were few avail… seems Canadians are buying manuals in record numbers and they cant get enough G5s. Not bad for a vomit inducer. I expect this car to soldier on for many miles, and my son is already lining up to own it if I decide I need something else. I’m sticking to this inexpensive to buy, drive, insure and repair car… I have expensive ones sitting at home

  • avatar
    lowlevel

    I got one of these (the sedan version) as a rental yesterday… and I must say that I agree with pretty much everything in this review. The car has no acceleration, the brakes are not very reassuring, the car is all over the road in the turns, even at the speed limit because its just too floaty/rolls. And yes, when you start the engine, it feels like it twists about 90 degrees in the engine bay because of weak motor mounts… sounds even worse. The seats might as well not even be there, they don’t provide any support at all. I find myself sliding to the middle of the car on every turn. The steering wheel is too far away from me, the ‘foot rest’ is too close, and the car is just ugly all around. The one I’m driving today, has no power locks, no power mirrors, and old fashioned crank windows. I had to go around and open every door, lock it, then close it… .and then I cut myself closing the trunk later because theres no handle or anything, just bare sheet metal back there with cut outs to grab… oh yeah, and the cup holders are only 1.5 ” deep… good luck getting them to hold anything but pocket change… How long has GM been making cars anyway? Surely they should be starting to get these things right by now… The only thing good about it, is it didn’t blow and up and burn to the ground… and then that would actually be another BAD point if I had owned this car.. as I would have loved to write it off ;)

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Quote:At the turn of the key, the 2.2-liter Ecotec engine grunts itself conscious, rolls over, farts, fluffs the sheets and settles back in for the duration. Ostensibly, the powerplant boasts 148hp and 152 ft.-lbs. of torque. In reality, you feel like you’re being towed by a wheelchair-bound octogenarian with a rope slung over his shoulder. Pushing the gas is about as fun as checking your credit card balance after Christmas. The ill-designed four-speed slushbox makes precision merging impractical, and passing improbable.

    Lol your take on the Ecotec is hilarious and at odds with any car I have driven with this powerplant. A 4 door Cobalt with automatic will blow the doors off any 1.8 liter Corolla or Civic automatic I have driven. And guess what? They still use 4 speed automatics too and make lots of noise when pushed! I have seen plenty of Ecotec engines with over 200k miles an zero problems in company cars and commuters. My best friend has a heavier 2007 Malibu LT with the 2.2 Ecotec and has never had a problem passing cars on two lane roads and the tranny shifts very responsive unlike the Camry my neighbor has. But to each his own. I do agree that Pontiac screwed up big by cloning the Cobalt and sticking on a Pontiac grille and taillights and calling it a day.

  • avatar
    brighterdougG8

    Sad to see how the small Pontiac went after I had a 1986 Sunbird Turbo GT 2 door for a dozen years. GREAT CAR! Good size, great power. 150 Horses from 1.8 liter. And some styling EXCITEMENT! Had a unique front and back. Awesome seats better than the Firebird! Now I have taken a long road back to a 2009 Pontiac G8 GT! Way more amazing than anything else out there on the road the last few years. To bad it was the final Pontiac model. I am going to keep it going as long as I can.


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