With the smaller engine making 155 horsepower and the larger producing 172 hp, there's really not much of a difference between the two mills, and there's no reason to step up a trim level for it. In either case, the HHR functions reasonably well with an automatic transmission, even though it's an old-tech four-speed.
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.