By KBB.com Editors
While some dismiss the 2009 Chevrolet HHR as little more than a PT Cruiser clone, in truth the two vehicles appeal to very different audiences. Where the PT seems to pull in Baby Boomers and Gen X males, the HHR speaks to today's young drivers who like to customize their cars with extreme paint jobs and near-deafening sound systems. By itself, this slick piece of work serves as a practical wagon version of the Cobalt sedan disguised as a retro mini Suburban. There's even a cool Panel version with windowless side panels and side cargo doors. Though smaller than it appears in pictures, the HHR is nevertheless a versatile and fun-to-drive vehicle as equally suited to small families as it is to hip singles.
If you like your retro style backed with substance, the functional, comfortable and eager 2009 Chevrolet HHR will satisfy you beyond its intriguing looks.
While the HHR is indeed versatile, it's still based on a small-car platform. So, if you've got big stuff to haul – or just a lot of stuff – you might need a larger vehicle.
A new turbocharged SS model is added to the lineup and is available in both regular and panel van versions. The 2.2-liter engine receives variable valve timing and bump up in horsepower, while both the 2.2-liter and 2.4-liter engines are made E85 Flex-Fuel compatible. New available features include a rear backup camera and Bluetooth cell phone connectivity.
Driving Impressions One of the best things you can say about a vehicle is that it handles like a smaller car and rides like a bigger one. Such is the case with...the HHR. With its raised seating position and truck-like attitude, you might not expect the HHR to handle like the small car it really is. It's just as surprising out on the highway, where it's smooth for its size and notably quiet. Even when outfitted with the base engine and four-speed automatic transmission, the HHR still feels adequately motivated, although throttle response is a bit slow and the electrically-assisted power steering feels vague and somewhat disconnected. Performance fans will love the 260-horsepower SS trim, which offers a much stiffer suspension, a short throw five-speed manual shifter, larger wheels and improved steering response.
HHRs equipped with automatic transmissions include a remote start feature that lets you start heating or cooling the cabin before you even set foot outside your home.
Audio Input Jack
A front-mounted auxiliary input jack makes it easy to connect any MP3 player or other audio source to the HHR's sound system.
Unlike the retro-on-retro PT Cruiser, the 2009 Chevrolet HHR features thoroughly modern interior styling. Tasteful chrome rings and accents combine with pleasing buttons and knobs in a contemporary interior that looks and feels like nothing from the automaker's past. While there's at least as much plastic as you'd expect, its artfully crafted style is much less objectionable than in many of the cars in its price range. The HHR also treats its occupants to notably comfortable seats. Versatility is definitely one of the car's strong suits, with features like a front passenger seat that folds down to accommodate longer items and a cargo floor that hides a shallow storage bin and also lifts to create a two-tier load area. Panel models feature rear cargo doors that do not have handles but open via a dash-mounted button.Exterior
Featuring a retro design heavily inspired by Chevy's own 1949 Suburban, the HHR plays the stylized delivery wagon to the PT Cruiser's boulevard prowler. This bodes well for the HHR, considering the proven appeal of the utilitarian Scion xB. Up front, a towering hood is fronted by a big chrome grille. Moving toward the rear, flared fenders, rounded corners and circular taillights work in concert to strengthen the HHR's link with the past. As was the case when the PT Cruiser was first introduced, from its pictures it's easy to imagine the HHR to be a much bigger vehicle.
The HHR LS wagon includes a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD sound system with auxiliary input jack and XM Satellite Radio, power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, 16-inch wheel covers, trip computer, OnStar front and side curtain airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and StabiliTrak stability control. The 1LT trim adds an MP3/CD player, eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar support, 16-inch alloy wheels and satin chrome exterior accents. The 2LT trim adds the 2.4-liter engine, FE3 Sport suspension, ChromeTech 17-inch wheels, 260-watt Pioneer sound system, fog lights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The SS trim adds a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, unique front face with mesh grille, sport seats, A-pillar boost gauge, short throw shifter, a rear spoiler and 18-inch wheels.
Features that will take you beyond base sticker price include a more powerful 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, four-speed automatic transmission with standard remote start, leather seating, heated front seats, performance driver's seat, rear backup camera, USB-port, power moonroof, 260-watt sound system with subwoofer, in-dash six-disc changer, MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth and 16- or 17-inch wheels.
While more aggressive drivers will be best served by either the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to the five-speed manual transmission, or the potent 2.0-liter turbo in the SS trims, none of the HHR's powertrain combinations feel the least bit anemic. Both the 2.2-liter and 2.4-liter engines are now E85 FlexFuel compatible. They are also louder than one might expect, especially at full throttle. Vibration and harshness, however, are well in line with other small four-cylinder engines from Ford, Chrysler and Hyundai.
2.2-liter in-line 4
155 horsepower @ 6100 rpm
150 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 (manual), 22/30 (automatic), 16/23 (E85, manual), 16/22 (E85, automatic)
2.4-liter in-line 4
172 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
167 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/30 (manual), 22/29 (automatic), 16/22 (E85, manual), 15/21 (E85, automatic)}
2.0-liter in-line 4 turbocharged
260 horsepower @ 5300 rpm (manual)
260 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2000 rpm
250 horsepower @ 5500 rpm (automatic)
223 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1650 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29 (manual), 19/29 (automatic)
By Cookie on Monday, August 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 70,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Love this car. Bought new, still in perfect condition, smooth ride, great sound system.Too bad they stopped making the HHR. Would recommend to anyone"
By Stig on Friday, August 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 130,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "See comments below."
Cons: "limited visibility, tight rear seat."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned three different HHR's. I also own a Mercedes and a Porsche but I drive the most miles in my HHR. It seems to be a like it or hate it kind of vehicle. My wife hates it. She likes the Mercedes. I currently have a panel and an SS. They provide comfort, handling and versatility. I use them to haul landscape supplies, mowers, bicycles, trash, and hockey bags. My SS really goes, handles and stops. They are reliable. My first HHR was sold recently with over 160,000 miles. My current SS has over 130,000 miles. Neither has had any major repair. These vehicles provide a lot of quality for the price."
By JB on Thursday, July 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 126,500overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Room for cargo"
Cons: "Poor visibility, Poor performance"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Gas mileage is less than I would expect for what I am giving up in performance. Does offer reasonable space for hauling luggage and other items. Poor visibility, use caution on-coming vehicles easily disappear while trying to look around the front pillars. Recalls are a huge issue"
1 person out of 4 found this review helpful
By Billy on Wednesday, July 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,400overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Brakes bad repair then 6 months later repair again. No power even for a 4. Think again before you buy one then don't."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By bug on Tuesday, July 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 51,892overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good price for reliable transportation"
Cons: "Don't like storage/glove box. cup holder position"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Been very good. Easy to drive. Love extra cargo in back. View a little obstructed in front. Didn't like rims that came with package. Good on gas. Fold down seats scratch easily on hard plastic side, able to pull my small boat :)"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Deb on Friday, July 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 63,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, easy to pack for a trip"
Cons: "there was an ignition recall, it has been replaced"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My son had bought an HHR and I fell in love with his car. When I was able to buy a "new" car it was 2012. I wanted the HHR but 2011 was the last year they were made. I had to search for this car, I wanted the bright red model. I finally found one and I could afford to buy it. So I bought it and have been driving it for 2 years now and I am still in love with the car. I would buy a new one if I could. I know about 10 people with an HHR and they all love the car."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful