The economy is melting faster than the ice caps, oil wells are drying up, and horsepower is losing relevance to environmental responsibility. As a result, funky little cars like the Pontiac G3 Wave are enjoying lots of attention these days — and proving ideal for students, families and retirees alike.

No need to fear the “little car” jokes from your friends with this one. A nicely accented and energetic shape enables the Wave hatchback to pull off some great small car visuals — appearing confident, cohesive and visually dense. It’s more like a little toy, and less like a rolling appliance.

As with the body, interior designers didn’t simply give up on the looks when they were handed a small car. Compared to something like a Kia Rio or Hyundai Accent, the bright and modern cabin atmosphere offered by the Wave is refreshing. So was the motorized sunroof, incidentally.

Some controls around the steering wheel feel like they came from the nineties, but various metallic accents, textures and an overall sense of energy help dress things up.

Thankfully, the Wave’s interior is bigger than the body leads on. There’s relatively generous arm, leg and shoulder room up front. Head and rear-seat legroom tighten up for taller occupants, though drivers of average size should find the cabin surprisingly spacious. Visibility is fantastic too, albeit for the small side mirrors.

Complaints? The cupholder is a clumsy space waster, and the interior lacks covered storage to keep your iPod and wallet out of sight. Additionally, the excessive use of red backlighting may permanently burn the instrument cluster into your retinas at night.

Wave gets moving courtesy of a new-for-2009 1.6 litre four cylinder with variable valve timing. The engine lets you know when it’s working, but sound levels were kept well within limits. Power? 106 ponies. Let’s just say you won’t be getting into any trouble with it. With the four-speed automatic gearbox on board, my mileage averaged a respectable 7.5 L / 100km.

Handling and performance are largely appropriate for the intentions and size of the car, and the steering is quick and eager. Wave is amusingly easy to manoeuvre and park, too.

2009 Pontiac G3 Wave SE
Type: Compact hatchback
Price: $13,770 (base)/ $20,500 (as tested)
Engine: 1.6 litre four cylinder
HP: 106

• Great visibility
• Affordable
• Decent fuel mileage

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