2008 Chevrolet HHR Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 23, 2008

The 2008 Chevrolet HHR (Heritage High Roof) may surprise you with its competence and quality.

TheCarConnection.com's editors studied reviews from across the Web and have condensed opinions about the 2008 Chevrolet HHR in this comprehensive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com have driven the Chevrolet HHR (including the HHR SS) on several occasions and offer driving impressions and more details, and they've compared the 2008 Chevrolet HHR with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice--even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The Chevy HHR was introduced in 2006. Some saw it as an "answer" to Chrysler's successful retro-styled PT Cruiser. Whether this compact crossover was indeed a response to the Chrysler PT matters not a whit, as the 2008 Chevrolet HHR stands on its own just fine. For the record, the HHR shares its basic architecture with the mostly unloved Chevy Cobalt (available in coupe and sedan body styles). Thankfully, those roots don't seem to be holding the HHR back, as this tall-roofed crossover is a pretty pleasant piece of work.

In base form, the 2008 Chevrolet HHR gets a 149-horsepower 2.2-liter inline-four engine, with a 2.4-liter version that nets 172 horses available on higher trim levels. Either of these rate only moderate in performance and in noise control. Both engines drive the front wheels via either a standard five-speed manual gearbox or an optional four-speed automatic; the latter version includes a remote-start feature. A sport suspension is included on the LT model for more responsive handling. A flexible cargo management system includes flat-folding rear and front passenger seatbacks, various storage bins, and a height-adjustable cargo panel.

New features for 2008 add to HHR's safety. StabiliTrak stability control, tire pressure monitoring, and OnStar are now standard on all models. Other minor changes include new 16-inch wheels the availability of a new, solid rear quarter panel option that gives the customized look of the unique HHR Panel edition but with a full, five-passenger interior environment. The LT Panel version is intended for use as a nimble cargo delivery vehicle. Cargo carrying is the HHR's forte; the front seats are a little cramped, as are the backseats, but with the second row folded down, the Chevy HHR hauls an amazing amount of cargo.

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Enthusiasts have been waiting for the arrival of the 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS. Unlike some recent Chevys with "SS" decals but no guts, the HHR SS has big muscles;
its turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec four-cylinder makes 260 horsepower that is channeled to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic is optional. What little torque steer there is makes the HHR SS more entertaining to drive.

Safety features include four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock control, plus the HHR's usual assortment of airbags. Stability control is also standard, while side airbags are an option.

The sharpened HHR SS profile includes new front and rear end treatments, a new grille and rear spoiler, those bigger 18-inch wheels, and specific SS badging. Inside, three different color treatments are available, along with sueded seat trim, a boost gauge, a new steering wheel, and a teeny-tiny 140-mph speedometer.

The 2008 Chevy HHR most directly aligns with the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Both are versatile people/cargo haulers, but the HHR is more refined and offers performance with the SS edition that the Cruiser can't match.

The Dodge Caliber is another alternative. The Caliber's styling is angular, and when parked next to HHR, the Chevrolet seems dated. The Caliber SRT4, a high-performance version, is more than a match for the HHR SS. The Jeep Compass shares many of the underbody components found on the Dodge, and both of these competitors offer all-wheel drive. The HHR does not.

The Mazda3 and Scion xB are two other potential Chevrolet HHR competitors. The Mazda3's wagon body style is practical, and its general driving attitude is very sporty. The xB is a funky box on wheels that has been recently improved. Of all the vehicles noted here, it is the only one to best the HHR for cargo carrying and passenger volume.

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