Following the introduction of the Chevrolet Aveo in 2004, its clone Pontiac Wave comes to market, in Canada only, for 2005.

The Wave, which is virtually identical to the Aveo save for its badging and nose styling, gives Pontiac dealers a subcompact that was missing from their lineup in 2004. Pricing is the same for both the Chevrolet and Pontiac versions. In five-door hatchback form, it is also a clone of the Suzuki Swift+.

As with Aveo, the Wave is built in Korea by GM-DAT (General Motors-Daewoo Auto and Technology, formed when GM bought controlling interest in bankrupt Korean automaker Daewoo in 2002).

The Wave comes as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback, in Base or Uplevel trim. Other than body-specific features such as a rear wiper or trunk release, options and features are the same on both body styles.

The lower-line comes with 14-inch wheels, fixed-delay intermittent wipers, manual remote mirrors, rear defogger, floor mats, tilt column, reclining front cloth bucket seats, 60/40 folding rear seats, and AM/FM stereo. Air conditioning is optional on almost all models; it can’t be added to the Base when the automatic transmission is ordered.

The Uplevel adds manual left remote/power right remote heated mirrors, power door locks with keyless entry, power windows, and CD player.

Although it’s definitely an entry-level vehicle, the Wave feels like good value for its price tag: its 103 hp feels peppy when hauling around such a little package, and the rack-and-pinion steering is more responsive than expected. The front seat room is surprisingly roomy for the car’s size. Extra sound-deadening material makes the car quieter than expected, given its price tag.

Although U.S. government tests didn’t specifically rate the Canada-only Wave, the 2005 Aveo received the highest five-star rating for both driver and front passenger for frontal crash performance. There was a safety concern noted in side-impact testing, when the driver’s door protruded into the cabin and caused pelvic impact to the crash-test dummy.

On the minus side, fuel economy is a bit less than would be expected. The cupholders slide out of the dash and completely obstruct the heater controls when in use. With its high trunk line and tapering mirrors, the sedan is tougher to back up than the hatchback.

There are a few contenders in this entry-level subcompact market. The Toyota Echo undercuts the Wave in the Toyota’s three-door hatchback form ($12,995), a configuration not available on the Pontiac, but the Echo’s rock-bottom price doesn’t include power steering. The Wave seats five to the Echo hatchback’s four, but it’s an uncomfortable fifth position. Kia Rio’s base $12,795 sedan does come with power steering and five seats, as does the five-passenger Hyundai Accent GS ($12,995).

With identical price tags as the Chevrolet Aveo, the decision will come down to front-end appearance and whether the Chevrolet or Pontiac dealer is more convenient. The hatchback-only Suzuki Swift+ is $340 less than the Wave in base trim, but standard features on the upscale model, including air conditioning and upgraded stereo, lift its price to $810 more.

The Pontiac Wave is made in Bupyong, South Korea.

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