The Chevrolet HHR is a uniquely-shaped compact SUV wagon designed by Bryan Nesbitt. Though the profile is easily compared to the smaller PT Cruiser from Chrysler, the two vehicles have little in common other than some general outward design features. The HHR is built on the GM Delta platform, sharing more in common with the Cobalt, Pontiac G5, and Saturn Ion. Production of the HHR began in 2005, the first model year was introduced in 2006, and Chevrolet’s plans only encompassed production until 2011. It then was replaced by the Chevrolet Captiva Sport in the U.S. and the Chevrolet Orlando in Canada.
HHR stands for Heritage High Roof, meant as a throwback design with modern features. Body styles include a four-door station wagon and a four-door panel van, but the design of either blurs the line between the SUV, the crossover, and the wagon. Basic engines available for all model years include the 2.2-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder, 2.4-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder, and a two-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged Ecotec. The HHR runs on a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission.
The most attractive feature of the HHR is certainly the unique body style, and drivers either love this about the vehicle or don’t love it. The 2008 models offer more than a unique look though, actually upping the power of base models with the SS version. The 250- and 260-horsepower engines were described as fun to drive by many consumers, and the handling is surprisingly impressive. The automatic transmission is very smooth, and of course, you get plenty of cargo room with the fold-down seats.
The manual shifter can feel heavy on the SS version. The backseats can become uncomfortable on rougher streets or on long trips. The wider windshield panels limit your visibility, and drivers should always be aware of a large blind spot when changing lanes.
Overall, the performance features, comfort, and drivability make the HHR a good choice for anyone looking for an affordable vehicle with plenty of cargo space.
Body Styles: SUV wagon
Engines: 149-hp 2.2-liter I4, 172-hp 2.4-liter I4, 250-hp two-liter I4, 260-hp two-liter I4
Transmissions: four-speed automatic with overdrive, five-speed automatic manual with overdrive
Models: Chevrolet HHR LS sport utility, Chevrolet HHR LT sport utility, Chevrolet HHR SS sport utility
Little changed on the exterior of the HHR models throughout production, including the model years of 2007 and 2008. The most significant news of the 2008 model year included the introduction of a more powerful and stylish Turbocharged SS model. For the new model year, Chevrolet made the fold-flat passenger seat standard, and they expanded driver’s choice of engines, with the SS model achieving more horsepower than any of the past HHR base models.
This is where the 2008 HHR sets itself apart, of course. Some details of the overall original look include available 16- or 17-inch wheels, available chrome trim on some models, flared fenders, a one-piece hood harking back to the 1949 Suburban, and single-cavity headlights.
The HHR can seat up to five and has a high roof and plenty of headroom. Fold-down seats make for plenty of cargo room. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows and locks, and GM’s OnStar system. Optional features include a sunroof, satellite radio, and an upgraded Pioneer audio system.
Performance & Handling
All of the 2008 HHR models have 4-cylinder engines. There is the 149-horsepower 2.2-liter regular gas engine, the 172-horsepower 2.4-liter regular gas engine, the two-liter 250-horsepower premium gasoline engine, and the two-liter 260-horsepower premium gasoline engine. These are paired with either a Getrag five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic.
Overall, the HHR provides moderate to good power for its class and price range, and the SS model has descent acceleration. Taking into account the boxy exterior, handling for the 2008 models is surprisingly sporty. Merging and manipulating the vehicle through traffic may actually be an enjoyable experience for many. The ride is smooth on good surfaces; however, passengers may notice a few jolts on bumpy roads. Though the HHR blends a SUV and a wagon, it is definitely a pavement-only vehicle as much as possible, as most would guess from the stock tires and lowered look.
Standard safety features on base models are somewhat lacking, front airbags and side-curtain airbags are standard, but side impact airbags are not available. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are only standard on the LT models, and these are disc drum brakes. All-disc brakes are not available. ABS models also come with electronic stability control.
EPA Fuel Economy
Chevrolet HHR LS, LT: 21/30 mpg city/highway
Chevrolet HHR Panel LS, Panel LT: 20/30 mpg city/highway
Chevrolet HHR SS: 19/28 mpg city/highway
- Unique body style
- More powerful engines available
- Smooth transmission
- Cargo room
You Won't Like
- Heavy manual shifter on SS
- Uncomfortable back seats
- Rough ride
- Limited visibility
Performance features, comfort, and drivability compliment this affordable vehicle having plenty of cargo space.
If You Like This Vehicle
- PT Cruiser
- Ford Escape
- Honda CR-V