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The editors of TheCarConnection.com have driven the Chevrolet HHR and give driving impressions, along with advice on how it compares to competing vehicles here in this Bottom Line. TheCarConnection.com has also studied road-test reviews from a wide range of sources around the Web, including their highlights in a full review.
The Chevy HHR is a tall-roofed crossover, sharing some common architecture with the Chevrolet Cobalt. Overall, it's a well-orchestrated machine that provides practical cargo space and decent performance. Its basic architecture is similar to that of the Chevrolet Cobalt, with a lineup of four-cylinder engines providing reasonably fuel-efficient operation.
From the outside there's not much else on the road that can match the HHR on styling. The 2010 Chevrolet HHR has a design heritage harking back half a century, thus the name HHR, which stands for Heritage High Roof. The interior is much more "normal" and carlike, with the exception of a slightly higher seating position. Once again, the vehicle is available in two different body styles: a traditional four-door, five-passenger wagon and a two-seat Panel van. The HHR Panel van is geared toward small-business use, with windowless rear cargo panel doors and windowless rear quarter panels, along with cargo-floor storage compartments and a rear 40-amp power point for electronic equipment.
The basic 2010 Chevrolet HHRs are offered with the choice of one of two different four-cylinder engines: a 2.2-liter unit or 2.4-liter mill. A standard five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic comes with either engine on this front-wheel-drive vehicle. Additionally, a remote start feature is offered with the 2.4-liter. Last year variable valve timing was added to the base 2.2-liter mill, and this saw output increase to 155 horsepower, up from 149 horses the previous year. Fuel economy was also improved, yielding a driving range of up to 500 miles between service station stops with this more efficient engine. It should be noted that regardless of the transmission, performance isn't anything to shout about, though it's still decent for this class.
The 2010 Chevrolet HHR SS is an impressive offering that targets performance enthusiasts. Powering the SS is a turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which enables the HHR SS to achieve EPA-rated highway mileage of 29 mpg with the manual transmission and 28 mpg with the automatic. Driver-selectable performance features including the “no-lift shift” help the SS achieve 0-60 mph performance in 6.3 seconds and cover the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 98.5 mph. Equipped with the manual transmission, the SS has a top speed of more than 150 mph. Non-SS versions of the 2010 HHR have a very soft suspension, and it's not very nimble for tight corners or quick maneuvers, but the HHR LT and SS models include a sport-tuned suspension that doesn't sacrifice too much ride quality. The electric power steering in the HHR is a disappointment; it's just too light and imprecise in standard versions, though the revised tuning in the SS is an improvement.
Although the 2010 Chevrolet HHR has a versatile, roomy cargo space that can accommodate a lot of groceries or small pieces of furniture, the HHR is only fair for passengers. Headroom is rather tight, and the front seats provide a pushed-upward driving position that some drivers might like but others will consider odd. Interior appointments aren't anything special; there's a lot of drab plastic trim, and upholstery and materials are rental-car anonymous. On the bright side, the HHR feels tight and refined most of the time, with surprisingly little road or wind noise.
When it comes to safety, the HHR hardly impresses either. Federal crash-test results are five-star for frontal and side impact, but the insurance-supported IIHS rates the HHR just "acceptable" for side impact and a concerning "marginal" in the seat-based rear-impact test. Standard safety equipment for the 2010 Chevy HHR includes anti-lock front disc/rear drum brakes on LS and LT models, as well as anti-lock four-wheel discs on the SS. Stability control and side curtain airbags are standard as well, though front seat side-impact airbags aren't offered. GM's OnStar telematics system is also standard across the HHR model lineup.
Chevrolet has decided not to muck with the successful formula, with the only changes for 2010 consisting of an optional rearview camera and the elimination of the sporty SS trim for the HHR Panel body style. Standard features include air conditioning, an AM/FM/MP3/CD sound system with auxiliary input jack and satellite radio, power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, 16-inch wheel covers, a trip computer, and the aforementioned OnStar system.
- Versatile, cargo-friendly layout
- Ride comfort
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- Transmission only has four speeds
- Tight headroom
- Gauges too small
- Placement of power window controls