The cars we loved.
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.
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.