Like its sibling, the Chevrolet Aveo, the Pontiac Wave has a split personality in 2007: the sedan features all-new styling, while the four-door hatchback (which Pontiac calls a 5-door) is carried over from 2006.

Other features include a standard CD/MP3 player with auxiliary audio jack, and driver’s seat lumbar support and armrest, while the SE model now includes standard air conditioning and heated power mirrors.

The Wave is available only in Canada; both the sedan and hatchback use a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine with five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic that includes a “hold control” mode, which enables the driver to hold a higher gear for better traction in slippery conditions.

Features on the base sedan include 14-inch steel wheels, CD/MP3 player, manual remote mirrors, two-speed fixed delay wipers, floor mats, tilt wheel, 60/40 folding rear seat and, on hatchback models, a rear washer/wiper.

The SE models add air conditioning, heated power mirrors, metallic interior accents, fog lamps, cruise control, power locks with keyless entry, power windows and sunroof.

Both models can be optioned with a $1,095 Wi Special Edition package, which includes 15-inch aluminum wheels, trunk-mounted spoiler, six-speaker premium sound system with wheel-mounted controls, and an Apple iPod.

Longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, the Wave sedan gains a more mature appearance, while still providing features that will appeal to younger buyers, at a price that makes it viable for students and other first-time car buyers. Expect the useful hatchback configuration to upgrade to new styling for next year.

Built in South Korea by GM-DAT, a conglomerate of General Motors and Daewoo Auto and Technology, the Wave competes in a crowded segment that also includes its sister Aveo, as well as offerings such as the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent. Its 103-hp engine feels peppy when hauling around such a small package, and the rack-and-pinion steering is more responsive than expected; the front seat is quite roomy and it’s fairly quiet. It doesn’t handle as well as the Fit and isn’t quite up to the Yaris’ fit-and-finish, but its price is competitive.

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