Hatchback hottie

Posted on 30 Jan 2008 at 4:50pm
By Casey Williams Auto Reviewer

Pontiac G3 sports an attractive, compact, fuel-sipping package

2009 Pontiac G3

ITALIAN FLAIR: The Giugiaro design studio penned the G3′s five-door city car profile.


With their sporty good looks and athletic strides, Pontiacs are Chevrolets’cooler cousins. Despite too many decades of pretending with plastic body cladding, the latest models are performance cars worthy of exciting tag lines.

Not long ago, Pontiac’s vision was to become a completely rear-drive line-up with performance near the top of its vehicles’ respective classes. Then, gas went up. And the economy went down. Drivers realized their car sizes and prices were also deflating.

Pontiac tears it up with the V8-powered G8, Oprah-approved G6, Toyota-engineered Vibe, and sporty G5 coupe. By tapping the Korean-built Chevy Aveo, Pontiac gives trendy auto buyers an affordable shade of sporty.

There is no getting around the fact that the G3 is a tarted up Chevy Aveo – built in South Korea by Daewoo and designed in Italy. The great Giugiaro design studio penned the G3′s five-door city car profile. Character lines run the length of the vehicle, under the windows, to visually lengthen the car. Creases and bulges around the rear wheels also add interest, as do five-spoke alloy wheels. From the side and rear, the Italian connection is obvious: twin-nostril grille with honeycomb inserts, large clear lens headlamps, and fog lamps. The rear spoiler adds flair.

Cabin space is more upscale than you’d expect from an entry-level compact. Large analog gauges, lit in Pontiac red, are convincingly sporty. Silver plastic strips on the dash and doors give a hint of aluminum. The dashboard is elegantly curved and centers on a control stack with GM’s "bowtie" radio that includes an iPod input jack. Supportive seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob and standard air-conditioning enhance comfort. Everybody sits up theater-style on firm seats, giving them great visibility.

Nobody will confuse the G3′s interior with an Escalade’s, but it is a comfy place on short and reasonably long trips. With 60/40 fold-down rear seats and a large hatchback, owners can pack up to 42 cubic feet of space for bicycles and camping gear). Four airbags enable a five-star front crash rating.

Chrome vents on the front fenders may convince some that the G3 is a powerful sports car, but that thought will pass quickly once you step on the throttle. That’s not to say there isn’t enough oomph, but a four-cylinder engine that generates 106 horsepower won’t set the road afire. Getting on the Interstate requires flat-to-the-floor throttling and quick rows through the gears. You may want to do a full-on Fred Flintstone. It has excellent fuel economy ratings of 27/34-MPG city/highway.

As Pontiac loses 2Gs from its current smallest model, it gains an affordable and efficient compact to tempt those who would otherwise party in a Scion xD, Nissan Versa, or Honda Fit. Expect to pay around $15,000 including GM’s 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Along with the Pontiac G3 comes the redesigned 2009 Chevy Aveo. The original’s sloping smooth face is replaced with a blunt contemporary grille that looks like it could have come from a Chevy Tahoe. Gauges are green compared to the Pontiac’s red. Virtually everything is the same as the Pontiac G3. A well-equipped Aveo, without leather or auto trans., retails for $14,930.

Whether you choose the sporty Pontiac or frugal Chevrolet, the Korean-built five-doors are very affordable cars for America’s unsightly economy — a perfect accessory for depressed mutual funds, bone-dry home equity and fluctuating gas prices. Additional choices include the Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent and upcoming Ford Fiesta.



DRIVER’S SEAT


Who: Lauren Lay
Occupation: Human Resources professional.

Why are you famous in the gay community: Participated in the Lone Star Ride & Pride Parade 2008, play on the Oak Lawn Soccer Club Traveling Team (we just got back from London and will be headed to Gay Games in Cologne in 2010.}

Current cars: 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser, pictured, and a 2000 Toyota Tacoma.

Purchased from which dealer? FJ at Toyota of Irving; Tacoma at Toyota of El Dorado, Ark.

Were you a tough negotiator? Ha! Tough is an understatement They settled at 11 p.m. I wore them out.

How much did you settle on? Around $4,000 off the FJ’s sticker price.

Insurance agent: Farmer’s Insurance, Michael Stephenson of Granbury.

Monthly insurance rate? Fully covered with both vehicles for $98 per month.

Why this car? Toyota is the only way to go, and every family needs a truck and an SUV.

Favorite feature: 4×4 on the FJ, which I need in Texas.

Anything interesting in your glove box? Sometimes — on special occasions.

Car nicknames: I have never given my vehicles a nickname.


Previous vehicles: Pontiac Sunfire GT

Average weekly fuel expenses: $60-$80

Do you merge well with other drivers? People should be envious of my merging — like butter!

Have you ever been naked in your car? Oh, yeah. Really, it was half in, half out. When I was younger, I did some pretty stupid things.

Do good drivers make good lovers? No. Good driver’s are too uptight and cautious. But common sense drivers make great lovers!

How often do you wash your car? About every three or four weeks — by hand.

Are you a more of a grandma or a lead-footer on Dallas’ highways? In between. If you drive smart and at a steady pace, you will make it there even faster. It is all about instincts.

When was the last time you rode public transportation in Dallas? Never. It just doesn’t work in Dallas unlike in Chicago and New York. We are so spread out that a car is mandatory.

Worst Dallas intersection: Right now, it’s Oak Lawn Avenue at Maple.

Thought that races through my head when I’m going through a yellow light; "Oh s&!t. Act surprised as if you didn’t even see it." And "Oh s&!t. Did it actually turn red, and are they going to send me a ticket in the mail like my partner Rachel gets every other week?"


GAY UP YOUR TEXAS PLATES


Vehicle registration in the Lone Star State just got more colorful. Y’all can have perfectly legal hot-pink, purple and even orange plates with My Plates, a new program that’s starting in Texas.

In August, Austin-run My Plates was chosen by TxDOT to create more than 20 specialty license plate designs. On MyPlates.com, you can create a personalized plate combination, check its availability and order online.

You can use up to six characters, and I just checked if "GAY 08" and "LSBIAN" were available, and they are.

The custom series can cost $40 a year, if you choose a five- or 10-year plan. The luxury series is about $80 a year with a 10-year plan.

— Daniel A. Kusner

For info, call 877-769-7528 or visit MyPlates.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice Halloween print edition October 31, 2008.

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