The cars we loved.

2005-2011 Chevrolet HHR: The Retro Van’s Last Stand?



2008 Chevrolet HHR SS

2008 Chevrolet HHR SS


Chevorlet first contribution to the Retro craze was the short-lived SSR in 2003. The low volume specialty pickup was priced rather high and some dealerships did not even have them. Meanwhile, over at Chrysler, America couldn’t seem to get enough of the PT Cruiser. Chevrolet’s plan? Hire to PT Cruiser’s designer Mark Nesbit, to help make a lower cost high volume car to counter the PT Cruiser.  The answer was the HHR (Heritage High Roof) compact van/truck/car based on GM’s  Delta Platform, from which the Cobalt and Astra sprung from.


08 HHR SS Interior

2008 HHR SS Interior

The interior was a step above the Cobalt and most other small domestic cars. Attention to detail could be seen in the materials used for the dash and the finely detailed guages. The SS models shared a similar two color treatment with the Cobalt SS. Leather sport seats and a expanded guage package rounded out the performance look of the SS. Even lesser models benifited from the overall attention to detail and interior configuration versitility.
With all the safe car, folding seat cuteness asside the model that generated the most accolades from enthousasts and got the most looks from people on the street was the SS model with it’s Colbalt derived 2.0 turbocharged 260 hp engine. Besides its impressive numbers (0 to 60 in 6.3 seconds and a top speed of more than 150 mph), the SS was distinguished by subtle ground effects, wider tires, front spoiler and a distinctive mesch style grille. The SS rides on 18-inch wheels giving it a tastefully agressive look. SS handeling is surefooted, much like the highly praised Cobalt SS.

2008 HHR SS Panel Van

2008 HHR SS Panel Van

The closest competitor, the Dodge Caliber SRT-4, was faster, but suffered from poor handingling and slopy overall excitution. Turbo versions of the PT Cruiser were closer to the mark, but catered to a different market altogether with its softer ride. The HHR SS along with the SS version of the Cobalt went a long way toward saving face for the Chevrolet’s SS branded cars.  The lesser models could not be confused for performance cars as the LT model was described by Auto Week as having boat-like handling in the slalom. Reguardless of trim level, the HHR acellerated better than some competors like the Mazda 5 due to its lighter weight. A seldom seen panel van was offered in 2005 that catered to small business and fleets. They were LT or 1LT like in their equipment levels untill 2009 when a SS model was offered. The two seat hallowed out interior was optimized for cargo duty. All the panel vans were lighter and faster than the standard models, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the performance crowd.

The HHR was a little late to the retro party but managed to steal the PT’s date anyway. After cashing in on the PT Cruiser’s decling popularity, it found itself the sole survivor in the retro car/van/SUV war. With the demise of the Cobalt, G5,Astra and Ion, the HHR remains the last vehicle on the original Delta platform. New funky products like Nissan’s Cube and Kia’s Soul indicate a shift in the market to less retro inspired designs. No announcement has been made on if the HHR will make it to the Delta II platform, but insiders expect 2011 to be the last year for the 1940’s inspired Woody-like Chevy as GM seeks to consolidate it’s small car offerings.


2006 Chevrolet HHR SS


Asian market HHR LT

When shown at the 2005 Los Angeles Auto Show, the HHR created quite a buzz. The PT Cruiser was still popular, but the public seemed to welcome a GM alternative. Inspired by the 1940’s era Woody panel van, sales were initially strong when it came to market in the Fall of 2005 as a 2006 model. Built in Mexico, the HHR was sold mostly in North America, but some were exported by a third part to Japan. In Chevrolet’s US line up it was something of an entry-level SUV, being smaller than the Equinox, but not quite a truck. Despite a truck classification and truck-like pretensions, it had much more in common with the Cobalt. Having a car’s chasis meant that the HHR would perform like one and like the Cobalt it featured a torsion beam rear suspension and a range of 4 cylinder Ecotec engines. They were also available with 5-speed manual transmissions, although most were sold with the 4-speed automatic.
There were actually three engines, four trim levels and two types of HHR. The LS and 1LT came standard with a 155 hp 2.2 L Ecotec four. The loaded 2LT had the option of the 2.4 L 172 hp Ecotec four. 2LT’s come with 17 in wheels as opposed to the 16s on theLS and 1LT. Generally all HHR have been noted for versatility and composed car like rides. High fuel effiency in the two less powerful engines was in the low 30s. The HHR also ranks highly for occupant crash safety with its standard anti lock brakes and four air bags.


One comment on “2005-2011 Chevrolet HHR: The Retro Van’s Last Stand?

  1. pracawdomu
    February 20, 2011

    This is the best blog Im have a bloog too and I inspired by your entries

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This entry was posted on February 4, 2011 by in 00's, 10's Cars, Chevrolet, General Motors and tagged , , , .
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