By on May 12, 2009

Driving the Chevrolet HHR sent your humble author into a massive 1980s flashback; no drugs required. The Japanese car supply/demand imbalance during Paula Abdul’s Lakers Girl days meant any Japanese model could find a market regardless of merit. One of the least meritorious was the Isuzu I-Mark: a car so relentlessly nondescript that boredom was the primary safety hazard while driving one. Twenty years later, that particular strain of car flu, automobilis mediocritas, has mutated and infected the Chevrolet HHR, turning it into one of the dullest transportation appliances of the twenty-first century.

The boredom starts from fifty feet away. By taking a T-square to his GM-ified PT Cruiser, designer Bryan Nesbitt also stripped it of any drama. Yes, it’s unique. No, it’s not particularly interesting. The profile blends in against a sea of shell-backed pickup trucks and slammed small SUVs. Against the monotonous background of the shape, interesting details like the half-moon grille and the strong retro-inspired fenders get lost rather than stand out. The features that do stand out are the two enormous bumpers covered with a bizarre collection of protrusions and reflectors. These wipe out the last vestiges of design coherence.

It gets better (but not by much) once you climb inside the HHR. Front legroom is good, headroom is typically brick-on-wheels excellent, but rear legroom is disappointing. The usual suspects—GM’s hard and grainy plastics—cover most of the surfaces, but the design is pleasantly understated and the pieces seem to be solidly assembled. Finding a decent driving position is easy with the heated six-way power driver’s seat and tilt column, but the optional leather is definitely tanned for durability, not comfort.

The “Yes, but . . . ” theme continues throughout the interior. A good-sized glove box and several storage cubbies adorn the cabin, but the lids and mechanisms feel cheap. There are good cupholders between the seats, but the armrests violate their airspace. There is a clever 3-position rear cargo cover, but it feels like a Rubbermaid factory reject. Chevrolet thoughtfully provided a dead pedal, but it’s modeled on the Torquemada Achilles tendon rack.

At least GM got the driver’s interfaces mostly right. The gauges are clear, the controls are logically laid out (kudos for the steering wheel buttons), and the now-expected toys like a multi-function trip computer, iPod jack and USB interface are all present and accounted for.

The HHR 2LT comes with a 2.4-liter version of GM’s ubiquitous Ecotec engine, and E85 flex-fuel capability is standard for 2009. At 175 hp and 160 lb·ft of torque, it provides 17 ponies and 12 twists more than the base 2.2-liter engine. Coupled to GM’s 4T45 four-speed automatic, the HHR accelerates with noteworthy indifference (0-60 in about 8 seconds, according to the buff books). The aural accompaniment to forward motion is equally uninteresting, uninspiring and inoffensive.

Once up to speed, the HHR settles easily into its preferred mode of disinterested A to B cruising. Passing power is adequate, but will produce neither grins nor grimaces. Fuel economy is class-competitive, averaging about 24 mpg on California E10 gasoline and 22 mpg on E85 under similar conditions.

The 2LT package adds rear disc brakes, sport-tuned suspension, and 215/50R-17 tires (versus 215/55R-16 on the base model). The upgrades significantly improve on the HHR’s wallowy ride, poor braking and excessive body roll. Once again, adequacy is the watchword of the day. The ride is reasonably taut without being uncomfortable or noisy. Tracking on the interstate is OK except on highly grooved pavement, and the brakes perform as asked without drama or inspiration.

Throw the HHR into a corner with the accurate but uncommunicative steering, and it responds with adequate turn-in. Cornering limits are high enough that only major hoonage will cause trouble, and any excessive speed is scrubbed off with safe, fun-nullifying understeer. Given that enthusiasts will gravitate to the higher-strung SS model, the 2LT’s ride and handling will give most owners no complaints.

What will produce complaints (and possibly soiled underwear) are the blind spots created by the HHR’s thicket of pillars, headrests, and undersized tinted windows. Changing lanes, especially to the right, is a triumph of faith over knowledge, as is backing out of a parking space. A rear-view camera (not offered) or proximity sensors (ditto) would be welcome. On the other hand, that would eliminate the only bit of excitement the HHR offers.

The HHR is a revealing example of GM’s product development woes. It’s a me-too design that lacks the style of the PT Cruiser, the dog-crate-on-wheels utility of the Honda Element, or the funky spirit of the first-generation Scion xB. It’s a perfectly adequate vehicle, but adequacy should be a starting point, not a destination. The HHR’s unusual styling will attract some customers, but its lack of any standout qualities will create neither brand equity nor many repeat customers.

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68 Comments on “Review: 2009 Chevrolet HHR 2LT...”


  • avatar
    zerofoo

    More mediocrity from the General.

    Outside – ugly

    Inside – a sea of grey and beige hard plastic – boring.

    Driving dynamics – zzzzzzz.

    I could see the panel wagon version of this doing light delivery work (auto parts, pizza…etc), but why else would you buy one of these things?

    GM is doomed.

    -ted

  • avatar
    ttacfan

    I cross-shopped HHR against Vibe/Matrix/xB last fall and could not get comfortable because of the seat belt mount on the B pillar. Did the GM marketers ever thought that people too tall/big to fit in a compact car would consider HHR? Have they thoght of putting the seat belt mount in the place other than the place where a big guy’s shoulder touches the B pillar?

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    It’s a perfectly adequate vehicle, but adequacy should be a starting point, not a destination.

    Good one!

  • avatar
    50merc

    “Fuel economy is class-competitive, averaging about 24 mpg on California E10 gasoline and 22 mpg on E85 under similar conditions.”

    So…25 or 26 with genuine gasoline?

    “Chevrolet thoughtfully provided a dead pedal, but it’s modeled on the Torquemada Achilles tendon rack.”

    Wow. My complaint with dead pedals has been they reduce legroom for my left leg, but the HHR actually grabs one’s ankle and pulls mercilessly? Or did you mean the dead pedal was almost vertical?

  • avatar
    jimble

    The word “meretricious” doesn’t mean “having merit,” it means “relating to prostitution” or “attracting attention in a vulgar manner.” I will agree that the HHR, like the Isuzu before it, is not meretricious, but I don’t think that’s what you meant.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    I never understood why they didn’t simply call this car “Nomad”. “HHR” is possibly the most anonymous sounding collection of alpha characters they could have picked.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I drove an HHR as a rental car a few months ago. I had actually been interested in driving one as I like the idea of fun “wagons.” Having owned a Protege5 and a 525iT I guess I’ve been putting my money where my mouth is.

    Anyway, for the good, I found the interior to be very quiet for a car of its type, much quieter than a PT Cruiser or Protege5… GM definitely seems to get points for reducing wind and road noise in their cars lately, even if this does come at the expense of driver involvement. For a rented compact car, though, it suited my needs.

    However, I couldn’t get used to the limited visibility. The friont seats in the base model were uncomfortable as well. Worse, the cargo hold was roomy but the hard plastic surface over everything aft of the seats meant that my luggage went careening and crashing every time I went around a corner regardless of whether I was driving in enthusiast or granny mode (I was in Scottsdale, so it was definitely more of the latter). I made a stop at a grocery store and with an empty cargo bay and no hooks for the bags I had to repack everything when I got home. What a dumb idea. I ended up using the back seats and floor to hold things for the rest of the trip. Definitely an inconvenience if one uses the back seats for kids as intended. I’m not sure if the plastic is a cost-cutting move or a deliberate attempt to create some sort of mythical “lifestyle” targeting (you, know, as a place to put your dirty mountain bike after attacking Moab on a rainy day… as if most buyers will ever be closer to doing this than dreaming of it) but it doesn’t work.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    jimble, I also like its other definition—”tastelessly gaudy”—which describes certain aspects of the HHR. Nevertheless, I’ve changed the word to meritous, er, meritorious!

  • avatar
    MikeyDee

    I bash GM a lot in here, but I must take exception on the HHR. I rented one the last time I was in Los Angeles and I had a blast with it. It was a lot of fun to tool around in and I drove it up the coast north of Malibu to watch the sun rise on the beach, wishing I had the Woody trim package. I think this is one time when Chevy actually got the styling right. JMHO.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I actually liked the more angular styling of the HHR better than the PT Cruiser. (BTW HHR allegedly stands for “Heritage High Roof,” but I have a sneaking suspicion that the conversation in the styling department went like this…”Bosses say we’ve got to build a PT Cruiser competitor they’re selling like hotcakes. (Long pause, then stylist #2 speaks up.) “Hey why don’t we make a half scale 1935 Chevrolet Suburban!” (High fives all around, shouting “Brilliant!” like those idiots on the Guinness commercial.

    I actually think the two passenger “sedan delivery” version they built is pretty cool. I wonder what a nice fat set of upgraded front and rear sway bars would do for the handling? I see HHR’s on Ebay going for p-nuts all the time.

  • avatar
    Vorenus

    MikeyDee, I wonder if you were driving an HHR. I too had a rental… in Hawaii, and the thing handled like it was on stilts… which can be a little um… harrowing on the two-lane roads that circle the mountains on Oahu. One misstep, and you’re plunging to your death. The HHR did *not* inspire confidence *at all.*

    It was fine on city streets, but if the road is *at all* twisty, I don’t want to be anywhere near the HHR.

  • avatar

    If you want to have a blast in an HHR, get the SS.

    My key problem with the HHR is that it’s so obviously a me-too of the PT Cruiser. If you’re going to offer only one small wagon / five-door hatch, why make it one with limited appeal?

    I’d love to have the SS mechanicals in a non-retro 5-door package.

    On the reliability front, based on responses to TrueDelta.com’s Car Reliability Survey the 2008s require few repairs so far, the 2007s have been about average, and the 2006s are on the verge of falling to “worse than average.”

    First model year, or not aging well? Time will tell. Another update this month.

    More participants always needed, for all models:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    rtx

    The HHR designation should be changed. I would call this model the FUGLY 2LT.

  • avatar
    Guzzi

    One the one hand, I think this is the review no one was asking for.

    On the other hand, that was one of the freshest opening paragraphs, in a TTAC review, in maybe 6 months.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I had the basic version as a rental a couple of years back and I found the interior quite nice and the cargo room impressive but the engine was gutless and the handling was way south of soft – much more so that the Cobalt on which it is based.

    Sadly this is typical GM – a little more effort and this car could have been a contender.

  • avatar
    BDB

    The Malibu Maxx was a better offering for this segment.

  • avatar
    doma777

    Interesting that the HHR is noted as inferior to the PT Cruiser, Element, Scion, in certain respects. Also interesting is that the HHR vastly outsells those vehicles. (Note also the PT is dead and the Element on life support.)

    I test drove an HHR. It’s a funky, roomy, inexpensive practical ride, with bulletproof mechanicals and cheap parts. Young people are buying this thing in droves. Old people are too.

    It’s a snazzy, stylish tool for living.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Notes from verbal and educatordan prompt me to wonder, why didn’t GM start from the ’55 Nomad wagon and work up from there?

    Successful retro starts with something people would want to remember. Whatever this started from ain’t it.

  • avatar
    gfen

    Visually, I think its way more appealing than the PT, although its definatly derivative.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I had nearly forgotten about the Isuzu I-Mark. Damn you, sir.

  • avatar
    adonasetb

    great humor

  • avatar
    t-truck

    I guess I don’t understand the star rating system, I thought it went something like this.

    1* WTF, were they thinking
    2* Serious flaws
    3* Plain vanilla
    4* Great ride
    5* I will be having wet dreams about this car
    for months

    This would have given the HHR three stars not two since it was deemed perfectly adequate in every way, though not very exciting.

    Is there an official TTAC star guide somewhere?

  • avatar
    tedward

    A Comparison if anyone cares

    As someone who drives an Element often (in my driveway for the next 3 weeks) I have to say the HHR is actually kind of nice, strictly considered in that context of course. The interior is much more useful 90% of the time as the Element’s back seats won’t keep your groceries from unpacking, and the floor…well, it’s slippery and one piece so objects from the way back can end up under the pedals (even 2 liter soda bottles). Improper packing is actually a road hazard in it’s competitor so the HHR has got to get a point there.

    I barely drove an HHR, literally up the street, no idea what trim, but I’d have to give the Element the nod on steering based on that exposure. In fact, the Element can be direct and twitchy even, which makes it the better driver (a veritable 911 extended cab in fact…well, not really). Also the Element can actually fit a loveseat or a fridge and the rear seats are awesomely designed to be removed.

    Still, the HHR is a normal car sort of, with a reasonably normal interior, something that simply cripples the Element in a comparison that dosen’t involve furniture. The fact that it’s stick isn’t on the friggin dash board really helps, go figure. Also, the Element is lucky to see 24 mpg on the highway, really lucky, so I actually kind of like the HHR.

    ALSO, the Element can’t be driven on dirt roads or the rear brakes catch debris and need replacment. That’s a disgrace.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    http://www.seriouswheels.com/2004/2004-Chevrolet-Nomad-Concept-FA-Studio-1024×768.htm

    Chevy had the Nomad concept from that link back in 2004. It used the Kappa platform and would have been a really nice vehicle IMO. In all honestly, I wish they could’ve built it. It looks brilliant compared to the HHR.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    What a turd!

  • avatar
    jjnova

    As an owner of a 2006 HHR 2LT, I can give firsthand testimony to the cheap parts observations. I have dealt with multiple leaks and shift assembly issues. My biggest complaint: the rotors are complete crap. The car develops a serious case of the shakes every 2-3000 miles, and all the dealer offers is to turn the rotors – for a fee, of course.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Drove one for 1400 miles. Acceptable freeway transportation but rather vague handling, limited passing power, nothing special.
    My long term Malibu MAXX blew it away for usefulness and traveling pleasure (Portland OR winters then blew Maxx away – it went nowhere in snow).

    Might be good, if possible, to try the SS version and see if that makes HHR a car sport-oriented drivers would find acceptable.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    doma77: “It’s a funky, roomy, inexpensive practical ride, with bulletproof mechanicals and cheap parts. Young people are buying this thing in droves. Old people are too.”

    Because GM is discounting it down to nothing?

  • avatar
    dastanley

    As far as a dull transportation appliance, I’d give that prize to the Toyota Corolla. I’ve owned a 2006 Corolla CE for 3 1/2 years now. I drove my coworker’s HHR not too long ago, and compared to the Corolla, the HHR was kinda fun. Keep in mind, his HHR has a stick and my Corolla has an auto which has alot to do with the fun factor.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Ugh

  • avatar
    davey49

    The “driving dynamics” of all the GM Delta cars are actually quite good. Stop comparing them to sports cars. The Deltas are better in this regard than Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, and Chrysler compacts.

    ttacfan- you sound like a size outlier, I’m no where near the B-pillar in any car I drive. Is it hitting your elbow or shoulder? They really can’t design cars to fit everyone.

    jjnova- try replacing the rotors with a different brand if possible. Seemed to work for Saturn ION owners.

  • avatar
    Eric_Stepans

    @jimble :

    The word “meretricious” doesn’t mean “having merit,” …

    My bad! Thanks for the correction.

    @50merc

    …the HHR actually grabs one’s ankle and pulls mercilessly? Or did you mean the dead pedal was almost vertical?

    The angle is way too steep, which stretches ones Achilles tendon and crushes ones ankle. If found the dead pedal useless.

    @t-truck

    I would have given the HHR 2.5 stars (dead average), but it should be better than it is, so 2 stars.

  • avatar

    this car is so boring, even this review put me to sleep.

  • avatar
    Kman

    … .hm.? Sorry..wha..?

    Hm. I think I fell asleep while typing comments about this oh-so-boring cazzzzznnort…zzzzz

  • avatar
    sivadj

    Who edits this stuff??? Meretricious has nothing to do with merit – it means worthless trash so why the ‘least’??.

    Also saw eminent and imminent confused in a recent piece.

    Otherwise, a long-time faithful and supportive reader – John

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    i have to question why a car like this even left the back of a lunch napkin

    it’s copying the PT Cruiser, one of the worst examples of retro and a thoroughly ordinary car and a marginal seller

    so why would you try to emulate that?

    at least the chinese copy aspirational cars

    who aspires to own a PT Cruiser? better yet who aspires to own a copy of such?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I guess I’ll keep my Gen 1 05 xB, which rocks.

  • avatar
    NoSubstitute

    What the review comes down to is the writer’s opinion that the HHR is a perfectly competent vehicle that does nothing special.

    Except that if the styling turns you on, it does.

    Having rented one of these recently in L.A., my experience is that people notice the car and like it. That doesn’t happen the other 99% of the time when Hertz gives me a Camry (the Taurus of the 21st Century) or some other Asian appliance.

    Likewise, compared with other cars in its class that I’ve been awarded lately at the airport counter, (Corolla, Elantra, Sentra), if the HHR is merely competent, than the competition is something less. The HHR may be comparable to Japanese generics of times gone by, but it is noticeably better to drive than the current crop. Like others here I found the HHR to be a kinda zippy ride, materially more fun than the sigh-worthy crap being turned out today by purported master builders like Toyota, Hyundai and Nissan (you’ll note that I’m excluding the Civic and Mazda3; I never get one of these as a rental and I assume there’s a reason why).

    So, a better than average ride with styling that a fair number of people really like (something that can’t be said for the vast majority of its competitors). But it’s a non-class leader made by GM, neatly fulfills the 80-90% of what it could be paradigm, and this is TTAC. Two stars.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    It’s hard to remember now, but when the PT cruiser first hit the market the dealers were actually getting over MSRP for them. Same for the VW New Beetle… or the Mini Cooper.

    I personally love the idea of an efficient small car with some styling and design excitement. Of course, the downside is that cars with their appeal based on styling will eventually lose their consumer appeal as something newer hits the market.

    The PT cruiser stayed on the market for too long without an update and faded out of relevance, not to mention continuous decontenting and quality lapses.

    The HHR is a much better car than the PT but it was too late to the party. Still, it seems to sell fairly well…after all, styling aside it does still offer a practial package at a reasonable incentivised price. The SS versions of the Delta cars like the HHR and the Cobalt show what the chassis is capable of, but the regular versions are definitely built to the lowest common denominator.

    GM’s failure, to my eyes, is a corporate unwillingness to shoot for the top of any class. They have terrific engineers but between them and the showroom the products are still dumbed down and targeted to compete with existing competitors rather than aimed at defining and leading any particular segment. Combine this mentality with slower development cycles and they are always too late the party and the beer is warm.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I tried to like this car. I really did, but it’s not as good as the PT Cruiser or Toyota Matrix, let alone the (just) contemporary Focus wagon.

    The PT was probably the most direct comparison, and despite sitting on an older platform and a far creakier engine, even with an automatic it was a reasonably fun car to drive; with the blown four an a stick, it rocked. Plus, you got the benefits of actual visibility and more cargo space thanks to the PT’s lower load floor and more versatile seats.

    The Focus, despite looking dull, handed (handled?) the HHR it’s ass and hauled way, way more stuff, and it’s truly sad that it’s gone. Even the Vibetrix has something to recommend itself (space, fuel economy).

    How the Astra (same platform) was so much better is kind of sad, really. The Delta platform wasn’t a bad one, but (like Epsilon) GM really flubbed the low-margin variants. You have to step up the SS for the car to be fun, and you still have to deal with the compromised ergonomics and space.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    TonyJZX
    I own a PT Cruiser and have for 7 yrs with very few problems. I like it and so do the hundreds of thousands that have bought them over the years. It has not been refreshed and is gone with Chrysler. But my PT has been fun and easy to own. What do you drive so I may give you my opinion?

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    The name “HHR” is so uninspiring that it makes me wonder how it got the handle. Car companies have this code for inoffensive, decide-what-you-want-it-to-mean-yourself alpha-numeric monikers, like L,S (luxury,sedan), X,(extra,extreme),T,(truck,touring), etc. . How Chevrolet violated the established “suggestive” alphabetic code and came up with “H”- for what- Hot ?, hippie-wagon ?, high-maintenance ?, Hap-hazard ?.
    And “R”, retort ?, response ?, regular ?, radical ? -is a puzzle.
    Nothing really comes to mind. Talk about non-descript. Not exactly brilliant marketing.
    At least “PT” stands for something. :-) LOL

  • avatar
    DEVERAUX

    As an owner of an HHR 2008 LT2, leather interior, power everything, sunroof and the 2.4 Ecotec, i can say that after 1 year of driving the car i have had NO ISSUES AT ALL, the only couple of times i have been to the dealer was because of the warranty service and oil and filter service, of course, this is not a sport car, so acceleration is everything but boring, but what the hell, i bought it because i can pack it with my 2 big dogs, tons of bags and my wife for a decent MPG rate, all in all, i’m a happy owner and do not regret my purchase.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    One of the main features of the PT Cruiser which made it a bonafide ‘crossover’ without a clear classification was the removable rear seats. Technically, this made the PT Cruiser something of a ‘mini’ minivan.

    Without the removable rear seats, the HHR becomes just another boring station wagon. Given what should have been unique styling, that was quite an accomplishment for GM. With the exception of the Corvette, time and again, they manage to make the most mediocre cars available. Even something as radical as the old SSR ended up being just…boring.

    Toyota is similiar in their conservative execution but it’s acceptable because at least Toyota has an enviable quality reputation (whether it’s still deserved or not).

    When you build mediocre cars that have a reputation for spending too much time in the shop, well, that’s just not a business model for long-term survival. The HHR is another in a long series of GM vehicles that had potential but ended up being nothing more than another typical GM snooze-mobile (although the now discontinued SS version seemed okay in most reviews).

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    Juniper, I own two cars that are not available on the American market so I neither want nor crave any opinion.

    In fact I am often reminded of Apple fanboys who seek to defend and justify their choice of purchase against any assault as if it matters to anyone but themselves. If you like it, that is fine by me.

    My opinion is that 90% of the cars out there are close to being garbage just like 90% of anything out there.

    I am not a fan of retro design much like I’m not a fan of Chris Bangle.

    I am not a fan of Chrysler designs and/or cars much like most of the population out there.

    But one hardly needs my opinion on the matter. The market has spoken loud and clear I would imagine.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    I guess I need to chime in for a bit here. Last month I traded in my much-loved-but-falling-apart Oldsmobile for one of these. In fact, if you painted the one in the pic above Sport Red Metallic it would look just like mine.

    Personally, I think this is a very underrated car. Granted, the lesser models aren’t all that exciting. At all. But in 2LT trim I found a rather luxurious little station wagon, which is just what I wanted it to be. It feels so much larger than it is when I am inside it, and legroom is never an issue with me or my passengers, front or rear, mainly because I’m only 5’5″ so the seat is far forward and raised up high. It handles far better that I expected it to (credit the 2LT’s wheel and suspension enhancements) and the ride is pleasant.

    My car came with a huge rug for the back, so cargo stays in place. I found that there are hooks for grocery bags under the plastic load floor, all you have to do is place the floor into a half-raised position and they will work well.

    Now I’m neither a fanboi nor an outright basher of GM products, but I think the build quality is quite impressive on mine. I bought an ’06 with 39000 miles on it (it turned 42000 today) and it has nary a creak or rattle in it. The doors close with a satisfying thunk. The leather seems to be of far better quality then what they were using for the past ten years. And…I LOVE the digital interfaces in the dash and radio. I still think that this is one area where GM leads. I also like the little added touches, such as the LED light mounted in the roof that illuminates the center stack at night perfectly without being annoying. The audio controls on the steering wheel. The heated seats. The remote start. Just lots of unexpected features for the class. The one thing I don’t like is having the window buttons mounted down on the lowest part of the center of the dash-horrible design! Of course I see that they fixed that for oh-nine and put them back where God intended, on the door panel!

    As for the overall design and concept, I find it’s looks to be rather interesting and the design engaging. Most people seem to really like it, especially after having gone for a ride in it.

    It’s true that the name HHR stands for Heritage High Roof, and it’s true that it’s a stupid name, which is why I just refer to it as the “Heritage”. I tell everyone that I own a Chevrolet Heritage! Sounds much better, wouldn’t you say? Either that or I just call it the station wagon. Oh, and it’s NOT AN SUV!!! I would never buy one, so don’t refer to this as such! (That’s what I tell my friends)

    And lastly, I’ve been averaging around 27 mpg on plain old 87 octane gas from Walmart.

    Overall, it’s really not a bad little car…

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    i think that if you want a grocery getter that’s fine. I would prefer this sort of thing over an Aveo or hatchback.

    one of my favorite category of car is the small wagon like the Jetta or the Elantra Touring or the European Ceed.

    75% the size of a real wagon but with 85% of the utility and 50% of the running cost

    But conventional wagons aren’t too fashionable it seems.

    I like the concept of something like the Kia Rondo which is in a similar vein to the HHR/Cruiser but I think the Koreans did the right thing and concentrated on utility rather than retro at all cost.

    I dunno? Do you slam GM for building half competent but uninspiring cars? Is that their goal in the 1st place? Can every car be a veritable ‘car of the year’ or Camaro ‘in the spotlight’ queen?

  • avatar
    commando1

    Change the platform to RWD, drop in an LSx engine, hook it up to a six-speed, change the…
    oh, never mind. Design a new one from scratch.

  • avatar
    DPerkins

    We recently purchased a new HHR SS (at a huge discount, not good for GM). The SS is a whole different animal – great ride and handling balance, nice steering and brakes, great power AND fuel economy. And we like the looks (especially the monochrome paint scheme). Three months in and we’ve had zero problems, hope that keeps up.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    I have to give a few things to the HHR:

    1. More cargo space behind the rear seat than the PT which resorted to cargo hooks on the rear of the back seat to make up the difference.

    2. Better reliability, the early PTs spent time parked because of operational issues.

    3. Spongeable interiors are great for parents of rambunctious kids like mine, especially with mud and other spooge caked gear.

  • avatar

    At least the seats fold down flat. Can’t be said for some of GM’s other SUV/CUV vehicles.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    rudiger: One of the main features of the PT Cruiser which made it a bonafide ‘crossover’ without a clear classification was the removable rear seats. Technically, this made the PT Cruiser something of a ‘mini’ minivan.

    That is an awesome feature of the PT. People who deride it forget that it did sell well and steadily throughout just about it’s entire model run (in Canada it seemed to be Chrysler’s most popular model, second to the Caravan) because, funny looking and slow as it was, it was very practical.

    The PT (and HHR) gets slammed in enthusiast forums because it’s a Neon-based (Cobalt, in the HHR) MPV in fancy duds while they were expecting something else. A certain brand of car-nut is of the opinion that if it has classic styling and isn’t rear-drive and equipped with a V8, it’s somehow worse than a conventionally-styled car (eg, the Focus or Matrix) with the same mechanicals. Which is silly: the PT is a very good front-drive tall wagon; people just got an idea in their heads and never got over their initial disappointment.

    TonyJZX: I like the concept of something like the Kia Rondo which is in a similar vein to the HHR/Cruiser but I think the Koreans did the right thing and concentrated on utility rather than retro at all cost.

    The Rondo is another badly under-appreciated vehicle. If I hadn’t gotten a screaming deal on a babied used Sienna, it was my intended buy. Kia did good work, there.

    TonyJZX:But conventional wagons aren’t too fashionable it seems.

    Conventional wagons waste space because of the low roofline and (often) high load floor. Take a look at the Civic hatchbacks of yore versus the Fit, or the Mazda6 wagon versus the Mazda5. The smaller, taller MPVs are more practical in every way.

    The minivan is the new large wagon (the MPV is the new small wagon), and for good reason: it’s better in every way. Even without the driveshaft and rear differential of rear drive, a minivan allows you to package much more space in a smaller physical footprint than a wagonosaur of old.

    BlueBrat: At least the seats fold down flat. Can’t be said for some of GM’s other SUV/CUV vehicles.

    That’s not necessarily a good thing. Too many manufacturers raise the rear load floor to meet the edge of the folded seats, sacrificing seat-up space. The Vibetrix is the worst for this, but others do it, too (eg, the abovementioned Rondo, many CUVs and modern wagons). Conversely, the Versa does not; the Fit does, but because the rear seats fold so low it doesn’t matter).

  • avatar
    A is A

    …blind spots created by the HHR’s thicket of pillars, headrests, and undersized tinted windows. Changing lanes, especially to the right, is a triumph of faith over knowledge, as is backing out of a parking space. A rear-view camera (not offered) or proximity sensors (ditto) would be welcome

    You need no stinking rear-view cameras/proximity sensors. Those complex/expensive gadgets can be replaced with a lo low tech DIY solution.

    Here is my recipe to avoid being maimed/killed by blind spots.

    1. Please do at this page instructs:

    http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~gdguo/driving/BlindSpot.htm

    …but do it in a parking lot, not on the road. Move your car until you get the situation described in the fourth drawing. The blue “vanished” car should be a solitary car parked in the lot.

    2. Paste one of these blind spot mirrors.

    http://www.made-in-china.com/image/2f0j00LhaEVKGWqtZoM/made-in-china.jpg

    …but do not paste it as recommended in the rear view mirror. Paste it whith Silicone in the triangle in the door just behind the A pillar. Silicone allows you to orientate the mirror to cover exactly the blind spot.

    3. Repeat the process at the right.

    Do you want a picture of the finished instalation?.

    Some cars have curved left mirrors. Usually there is no blind spot on those mirrors, but this must be checked.

    Uh, and wear gloves and be extra careful. Silicone is a mess.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    psarhjinian: i see what you are saying. In a world where there’s less and less choice stuff like the station wagon is disappearing except for European niches like the C and E class wagon. I think in some European countries they are more accepting of wagons (estates as they call them).

    Where I am you used to be able to buy Camry and Honda Accord wagons but it seems they have phased these out.

    I am not a fan of hatchbacks, I can see where the sedan/coupe fails and I don’t like SUVs/minivans. But that seems where the bulk of things are.

    I can live with the low roofline of a wagon if they build it on a high performance platform like a Mercedes C63 wagon.

    I like some utility but I don’t need the BIG UTILITY of an minivan or suv. But I like the ‘car like chassis’ of a wagon because it is a car.

    But as you say, the people have spoken and car like wagons will continue to only exist in niches like the ones I described.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    supremebrougham: “It’s true that the name HHR stands for Heritage High Roof, and it’s true that it’s a stupid name, which is why I just refer to it as the “Heritage”. I tell everyone that I own a Chevrolet Heritage! Sounds much better, wouldn’t you say? Either that or I just call it the station wagon.Indeed, name recognition is not a myth. As someone asked earlier, why didn’t GM call it the Nomad? It would have fit perfectly and likely would have increased sales by 10% just because of the name, alone. Personally, I’d much rather drive a ‘Nomad’ than an ‘HHR’…

    I suspect that some marketing genius decided that since Chrysler’s PT Cruiser was so successful, GM’s version had to have a name equally as distinctive. It’s just that I’m not entirely convinced ‘PT Cruiser’ was such a hot choice for a vehicle name, either.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    what is PT?

    I think they wanted to reserve Nomad for an RWD based car like a Corvette etc.

    I’m not a huge fan of slapping on old names just because it’s a ‘close enough’ fit.

    Look how well the GTO turned out.

  • avatar
    tedward

    A is A

    I completely agree with you on #2, I’ve been in cars that step #1 don’t really work for though, or maybe that says more about my lack of trust in stock mirrors.

    I think concave mirrors should be legally required in addition to regular side views. There’s simply no other way to see at a glance what’s going on next door with 100% certainty given how over the shoulder glances won’t reveal a small enough car in a modern, pillbox shaped tall vehicle. At night they’re even better; I think the contrast between the two mirror types allows the driver to account for glare and get a better fix on the range of approaching vehicles, especially in the rain.

    On the other hand it takes some getting used to, I hated them for about the two weeks when I was first exposed (tow vehicle), but have since changed my tune. Every car I’ve owned since then has gotten a pair, usually within a week of me getting my hands on it.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    GM may have lost the ability to use the Nomad name. Seems like there’s a legal stipulation that even if a car company owns a specific name, they still have to actually affix it to a vehicle within so many years or they risk losing it.

    That’s a big reason every so often (every ten years?), Ford releases a ‘Cobra’. There are a plethora of Cobra replica builders that would surely swoop down on the rights to the Cobra name the moment Ford loses the right to it.

  • avatar
    davey49

    How come the HHR gets compared to the Matrix? The Matrix is tiny.

  • avatar
    instant rebate

    I personally believe that this car is nice vehicle and it will sell well on the west coast. Ample room for luggage, board and sandles, couple cases of beer and “whatever”!

  • avatar
    escapenguin

    One of my co-workers bought one of these. I didn’t think it was that bad. I was actually sort of surprised by its refinement and how well it was put together. The only thing I didn’t like was the sea-of-gray interior. That’s something you expect in a work van, but not this.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Funny you guys like this car better than the Pontiac. My God even a wanna be tuner will not tune this car. It is like driving a 1930s car with the twist of 21st century. A multiple personality or should I saw Identity crisis car.

    Geez American consumer indeed! I guess everyone wants to wear white sneakers it doesn’t matter if everyone shoes looks the same.

    I rather buy the Xb more horsepower and spacious.

  • avatar
    dolorean23

    I see HHR’s on Ebay going for p-nuts all the time.

    And that’s the HHR’s biggest problem. They hold very little resale value and they haven’t dramatically changed anything in four years. This means the HHR ends up competing with itself. Why buy a new one when I can get virtually the same car, certified so that most of its early problems are taken care of, and still have a warranty for a lot less money?

    For the record, the HHR is a pretty nice little car. It fits a crap-ton (a little less than a s#^&-ton) of cargo cause the seats fold flat, gets decent MPG, is reasonably fun to drive, and isn’t a Cavalier or a Kia (a HUGE plus).

  • avatar
    rudiger

    instant rebate: “I personally believe that this car is nice vehicle and it will sell well on the west coast. Ample room for luggage, board and sandles, couple cases of beer and “whatever”!This is probably a pretty good bet in a few years when the oldest and most beat-up (but still running) examples of both the HHR and PT Cruiser are selling for next to nothing. They could then be considered the true, modern equivalent of the old ‘woodie’.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Not a bad little car for the money…lots of space and 24 grand before incentives for a nicely equipped model with a good sound system and a sunroof.

    And before anyone makes fun of the styling, have you seen its competitors? The HHR may be retro-ugly, but the Scion Xb is just plain Japanese ugly, and I have no idea what to make of the new Nissan Cube.

  • avatar
    chubbs421

    with the intent of buying a 2007 vw gti, and not a used 2006 due to horrendous quality issues, i looked what i wanted in the gti, 6 speed, sunroof, 4 door, and that was about it price $27,000 plus the insurance premium and required premium gas. ouch. now i am NOT comparing the gti to the hhr but being young i needed something affordable, fwd, and easy to maintain but its GOTTA have personality. the hhr was always a “what-if” but not on my top 3 cars i had in mind. got the hhr on my trip to look at a mazda 3. the mazda was great but lacked something and i can never put my finger on it. so i asked about the hhr. $16,000 for this car. being 22 i was trapped in a world of civics,mustangs(which i previously owned)and whatever looked badass. now growing up with street rods/hot rod/older cars in my blood i looked at the hhr with a different angle.it had everything i wanted minus the performance. its a love it or hate it design and i get the “what made you buy it?” question all the time. this car was driven in washington and hawaii. great in the snow, put my bike/kayaks/surfboard on the top, load up 4 friends, hauls some gear or drop the seats and let me tell you i loaded a sh*tload of furniture with this thing plus 420mi range with 16 gallons. i put eibach springs better tires and new sway bars and it handles great.in summary all the neysayers about the car have their opinions but don’t worry this “eyesore” will eventually be replaced with the chevy orlando. i love it and the owners can tell you likewise.

  • avatar
    meanermom47

    I purchased this vehicle in August during the Cash for Clunkers. So far I have had this car in for some repairs that Quality Control should have taken care before it left the plant. The 3rd button on the stereo didn’t work, the driver’s side visor would not go all the way up, the decal/stickers that they put on the passenger side fenders were peeling and are still doing it today, rattle noise from the sunroof, driver’s side door lock doesn’t always unlock and is doing it again. Now there is a glob of something that is painted the same color as the car oozing out from the rear passenger side fender area. As of today, this will be the 4th time I have had to take this car in for repairs! They also don’t tell you that if you are over 5 foot 2, you are unable to see the traffic lights–I’m 5 foot 2 and half, but my husband has to look out through the sunroof or stop way back from a light or bend over to see it. They are aware of this at the dealership. I don’t know who comes up with these ideas for cars, but this one was definitely put together by a 2 year old. Who ever heard of putting stickers on a car and why. Anything that gets on it does not come off! And, there is no protection on the doors like on some of the other Chevy vehicles so that your doors don’t get banged up by the careless parker next to you. Gee, I can’t wait to see what the motor holds in the future for me?

  • avatar

    I see a few of your points. They could have gone 100 times further with the HHR than they did. I own one, and bought it primarily for my business (delivery). I get “is that a PT Cruiser?” atleast once a week. how annoying.


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