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The Chevy HHR is a tall, boxy, car-based wagon that is styled more like a utility vehicle in some respects but based on the now-retired Chevrolet Cobalt. Cargo space is a strength, fuel economy is good, and Chevrolet has done a good job in keeping the feature set up to date, but the interior is cramped for people, and performance is only mediocre.
From the outside, the 2011 Chevrolet HHR is certainly distinctive. There's not much else on the road that can match the HHR on styling; its big-fendered design heritage harks back more than half a century, to the 1949 Suburban, thus the name HHR, which stands for Heritage High Roof. But the down side is that the HHR hasn't changed in more than six years, and some already saw it as derivative of the Chrysler PT Cruiser. In short, overtly retro is played out.
The interior isn't nearly as carefully styled as the exterior, and it's almost as if the designers ran out of time or budget. It's much more "normal" and carlike—almost to the point of being anonymous and drab.
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 overall driving experience in the 2011 HHR is benign and unexciting. The suspension is soft, so it's not very nimble for tight corners or quick maneuvers, but the HHR 2LT includes a sport-tuned suspension that brings a better sense of responsiveness without sacrificing too much ride quality. The electric power steering in the HHR is a disappointment; it's just too light and imprecise. Performance from either of the four-cylinder engines is adequate but not much more.
The 2011 Chevrolet HHR has a very versatile, expandable interior good for cargo items, or a mix of cargo and passengers, but it's actually not that impressive in terms of people space; even some average-height folks will be pushing into the headliner—which is odd, given the HHR's somewhat tall body.
Fold the back seats forward, and the HHR's design makes a lot more sense. There's a nice, neat cargo space capable of swallowing small pieces of furniture or even the largest Costco runs. And the cargo floor is flat. Although we haven't driven the HHR Panel Van, these observations would suggest that its cargo-centric purpose would be right in line with the HHR's strengths.
The 2011 Chevrolet HHR comes with a pretty strong set of standard features. Even if you go with the base HHR LS, you get 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 OnStar. Major options at the top of the line include a sunroof and heated leather seats, and a MY Link option package brings the HHR up with the times with a Bluetooth interface, OnStar Directions and Connections, and a USB port.