DETROIT -- When I opened my front door to sign and get the keys to my test car, my first thought was what is that? I was supposed to get a Pontiac G3 and I had confused the moniker with the Pontiac G6.
It wasn’t until I got ready to write this review and wanted to be sure that the Pontiac G3 was the Pontiac Vibe with a name change that I discovered that the G3 is indeed a new nameplate. In other words, there is also a Pontiac Vibe.
My point is that it’s tough to sell a new nameplate, heck, even an old one, if all the news about your company focuses on government bail outs, bankruptcies, a fired CEO, etc., which has swirled around GM for at least six months.
The company had announced in September that the Pontiac G3 would go on sale here in March. What's astoundingly understandable is that this vehicle has come in under the radar.
For those not in the know, and that's just about everybody, the 2009 Pontiac G3 is a five-door hatchback that qualifies as a subcompact. No doubt it is a response to the escalating gasoline prices of last year.
The information on the Pontiac G3 is scant but since 81 percent of its parts come from South Korea and the car is assembled there it is a safe bet that the Pontiac G3 is a product of GM's Daewoo subsidiary.
Anyway, the Pontiac G3 is a small fuel efficient and affordable utilitarian car. It has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 106 horsepower and 105 pounds-feet of torque. The car is equipped with a five-speed manual transmission but a four speed automatic is available.
I had the manual transmission but in a car with just a 100 horsepower I would rather have the automatic; even though you lose 2 mpg in city driving. Lightly powered cars are not fun to drive with manual transmission, at least to me.
Beyond that, I really didn't have any complaints about the Pontiac G3. During my week with the car, the fuel gauge barely moved. My test vehicle got 27 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. The automatic was rated at the 32 mpg and 34 mpg respectively.
The Pontiac G3's interior was well done. I found fit and finish to be excellent and it's important. Small cars with lousy fit and finish can be like little jail cells for drivers and passengers. It was black matte, a very simple layout with easy to reach controls.
I was impressed with the material used to cover the seats and the indentations used to texture the dash board. Although getting in the rear seat was a squeeze through the doors, the Pontiac G3 had a reasonable amount of headroom and legroom.
The driving characteristics of the Pontiac G3 weren't bad. Acceleration was good; it was responsive to driver input and the suspension very good. The car didn't ride like a subcompact. Site lines were pretty good, too. It's amazing how secure you can feel in a small car with a high seating position.
My only quibble was with the manual transmission; well make that the clutch pedal. I'm one of those drivers who like to rest my foot on the clutch pedal. On the Pontiac G3, it only takes the slightest pressure on that pedal to engage the clutch. It took most of the week to train myself not to do it. I think that that pedal could stand a bit more torque.
Available option on my test vehicle included power windows and door locks, theft deterrent, keyless entry and power outside foldable heated body color mirrors for $570. Add a $660 destination charge and the sticker came to $15,565. That not at all bad for first time buyers or second get me to work car.