All-new in 2005, the Pontiac Wave has several changes for 2006. The front airbags now have a Passenger Sensing System; there are new-style 14-inch wheel covers; tilt and height adjustment have been added to the front headrests; electronic cruise control has been added; and there’s new suspension tuning to improve steering responsiveness and reduce body roll. On the cosmetic side of things, there is new seat fabric, a new charcoal interior, and four new exterior colours.

The Wave is available in Canada only and is not sold in the U.S. market. It’s the same car as the Chevrolet Aveo and Suzuki Swift+, all of which are built in South Korea by GM-DAT, a conglomerate of General Motors and Daewoo Auto and Technology.

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

All models use a 1.6-litre inline four cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission that’s well-done and fun to drive. All can be optioned up to a four-speed automatic transmission.

Standard features include 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. Available options include right power mirror, dual heated mirrors, power locks with keyless entry, air conditioning, power windows, and CD player with MP3 capability and six speakers.

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 fairly quiet, given its price-tag.

Although U.S. government tests didn’t specifically rate the Canada-only Wave, the similar 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.

The Wave has also dropped in price from 2005, with the base model now $1,800 lower, and the Uplevel $1,325 less than it was previously. With identical price tags as the Chevrolet Aveo, the decision between the two will come down to trim differences and whether the Chevrolet or Pontiac dealer is more convenient.

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