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Chevrolet may be late to the party with its new HHR — for “heritage high-roof”— but even years after Chrysler’s PT Cruiser rumbled onto the scene, it seems there’s still life left in the retro wagon shape.

The production version of the 2006 HHR will be unveiled this week at the Los Angeles auto show, from which TCC will be reporting starting Wednesday, January 5. The HHR had been shown in sketch form at previous auto shows. And from those shows, the HHR stood out — because in a parade of retro-flavored GM concept cars, the HHR is the only one to enter production thus far.

Chevrolet says the HHR gets its distinctive look from the ’49 Chevy Suburban, which it calls the original utility vehicle (without the Willys folks around, who can argue?), and from the SSR hot-rod pickup, a semi-useful looker that’s been a sales dud so far for the bowtie division. Sharing its mechanicals with the Cobalt reviewed here at TCC this week, the HHR is the crossover variant of the compact chassis that also underpins the Saturn Ion.

Chevy includes its crossover in its wide spectrum of compact offerings, as Ford does with the Escape. And like the Escape, only less SUV-centric, the HHR puts its emphasis on carrying people and things to places outside the usual compact-sedan mileu. The HRR, Chevy says, offers up enough space for five people and sports an interior that can be configured to suit the passengers, from surfboards of the watery kind to surfboards of the cable-modem kind.

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