First Test: 2006 Chevrolet HHR
Doesn't do everything a truck can, but it's enough.
The days of black-and-white vehicle definitions are over. Take the new HHR -- its styling was inspired by trucks like the 1949 Suburban and the SSR. Yet it's on GM's Delta platform, shared with the Cobalt. GM refers to the HHR as a crossover; it's closer to a car, but it does have some truck qualities.
The HHR offers functionality that makes it a modern-day sedan delivery, a car-based vehicle thatis as close as you can get to driving a truck while benefitting from a carlike ride. The HHR's front passenger seat folds flat via a release at the seatback, providing space for cargo up to eight feet long that can be toted with the liftgate closed. Further aiding interior versatility is the 60/40 split fold-flat rear seat. The wider portion is on the passenger side, allowing storage of long, wide items. The HHR holds five people, or, if you remove the rear seats, thereis over 63 cubic feet of cargo space, a volume thatis better than in some compact SUVs on the market.
Powering the HHR are two engines: a 2.2-liter Ecotec four with 143 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque or the optional 2.4-liter four, which has 172 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. Standard transmission is a five-speed manual; the 4T45-E four-speed automatic is optional, but is likely the one most will choose. Our tester, with the 2.4-liter and automatic, proved a capable city driver with adequate power, leading us to believe the 2.2-liter would make for a disappointing drive. The HHR is easy to maneuver in traffic. It performed well at the track, taking nine seconds to reach 60 and completing the quarter mile in 16.6.
The ride is quiet and comfortable, yet still keeps you connected to the road, thanks its chassis and suspension work. The chassis was designed with Quiet Steel, increasing strength while reducing noise and vibration. The independent front suspension uses MacPherson struts and the rear, referred to as isemi-independent,i uses torsion beams. There are three trim levels- LS, 1LT, and 2LT. Our 2LT model came with an FE3 suspension, tuned for sportier handling. A softer setup is standard on the LS and 1LT. The HHR comes with rack-and-pinion steering with speed-sensitive, variable-effort electric power steering, which takes some getting used to. Braking is front disc and rear drum, with ABS standard on 2LT models, optional on LS and 1LT.
The HHR is a great vehicle for people who don't have enough parking room or a big enough budget for a truck, yet need to find a way to haul cargo. This sedan delivery, like the comparable PT Cruiser, doesn't do everything a truck can, but is enough.