Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
You'll Like The 2009 Chevrolet HHR If...
If you like your retro style backed with substance, the functional, comfortable and eager 2009 Chevrolet HHR will satisfy you beyond its intriguing looks.
You May Not Like The 2009 Chevrolet HHR If...
While the HHR is indeed versatile, it’s still based on a small-car platform. So, if you’ve got big stuff to haul – or just a lot of stuff – you might need a larger vehicle.
A new turbocharged SS model is added to the lineup and is available in both regular and panel van versions. The 2.2-liter engine receives variable valve timing and bump up in horsepower, while both the 2.2-liter and 2.4-liter engines are made E85 Flex-Fuel compatible. New available features include a rear backup camera and Bluetooth cell phone connectivity.
Unlike the retro-on-retro PT Cruiser, the 2009 Chevrolet HHR features thoroughly modern interior styling. Tasteful chrome rings and accents combine with pleasing buttons and knobs in a contemporary interior that looks and feels like nothing from the automaker’s past. While there’s at least as much plastic as you’d expect, its artfully crafted style is much less objectionable than in many of the cars in its price range. The HHR also treats its occupants to notably comfortable seats. Versatility is definitely one of the car’s strong suits, with features like a front passenger seat that folds down to accommodate longer items and a cargo floor that hides a shallow storage bin and also lifts to create a two-tier load area. Panel models feature rear cargo doors that do not have handles but open via a dash-mounted button.
Featuring a retro design heavily inspired by Chevy’s own 1949 Suburban, the HHR plays the stylized delivery wagon to the PT Cruiser’s boulevard prowler. This bodes well for the HHR, considering the proven appeal of the utilitarian Scion xB. Up front, a towering hood is fronted by a big chrome grille. Moving toward the rear, flared fenders, rounded corners and circular taillights work in concert to strengthen the HHR’s link with the past. As was the case when the PT Cruiser was first introduced, from its pictures it’s easy to imagine the HHR to be a much bigger vehicle.
One of the best things you can say about a vehicle is that it handles like a smaller car and rides like a bigger one. Such is the case with the HHR. With its raised seating position and truck-like attitude, you might not expect the HHR to handle like the small car it really is. It’s just as surprising out on the highway, where it’s smooth for its size and notably quiet. Even when outfitted with the base engine and four-speed automatic transmission, the HHR still feels adequately motivated, although throttle response is a bit slow and the electrically-assisted power steering feels vague and somewhat disconnected. Performance fans will love the 260-horsepower SS trim, which offers a much stiffer suspension, a short throw five-speed manual shifter, larger wheels and improved steering response.
The 2009 Chevrolet HHR LS Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just over $19,000, and a nicely equipped LT tops out at just over $26,000. The SS models start around $25,500. With plentiful competition be sure to shop and compare using Fair Purchase Prices, which reflect current real-world selling prices. Similarly styled and priced competitors include the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Scion xB and Honda Element. In terms of resale value, we expect the Chevy HHR to hold its value slightly better than the PT Cruiser, but not as well as some of its Japanese competitors, such as the Scion xB and Toyota Matrix.
The HHR LS wagon includes a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD sound system with auxiliary input jack and XM Satellite Radio, power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, 16-inch wheel covers, trip computer, OnStar front and side curtain airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and StabiliTrak stability control. The 1LT trim adds an MP3/CD player, eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, 16-inch alloy wheels and satin chrome exterior accents. The 2LT trim adds the 2.4-liter engine, FE3 Sport suspension, ChromeTech 17-inch wheels, 260-watt Pioneer sound system, fog lights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The SS trim adds a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, unique front face with mesh grille, sport seats, A-pillar boost gauge, short throw shifter, a rear spoiler and 18-inch wheels.
Features that will take you beyond base sticker price include a more powerful 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, four-speed automatic transmission with standard remote start, leather seating, heated front seats, performance driver’s seat, rear backup camera, USB-port, power moonroof, 260-watt sound system with subwoofer, in-dash six-disc changer, MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth and 16- or 17-inch wheels.
Remote StartHHRs equipped with automatic transmissions include a remote start feature that lets you start heating or cooling the cabin before you even set foot outside your home.Audio Input JackA front-mounted auxiliary input jack makes it easy to connect any MP3 player or other audio source to the HHR’s sound system.
Under the Hood
While more aggressive drivers will be best served by either the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to the five-speed manual transmission, or the potent 2.0-liter turbo in the SS trims, none of the HHR’s powertrain combinations feel the least bit anemic. Both the 2.2-liter and 2.4-liter engines are now E85 FlexFuel compatible. They are also louder than one might expect, especially at full throttle. Vibration and harshness, however, are well in line with other small four-cylinder engines from Ford, Chrysler and Hyundai.2.2-liter in-line 4155 horsepower @ 6100 rpm150 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 (manual), 22/30 (automatic), 16/23 (E85, manual), 16/22 (E85, automatic)2.4-liter in-line 4172 horsepower @ 5800 rpm167 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/30 (manual), 22/29 (automatic), 16/22 (E85, manual), 15/21 (E85, automatic)}2.0-liter in-line 4 turbocharged260 horsepower @ 5300 rpm (manual)260 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2000 rpm250 horsepower @ 5500 rpm (automatic)223 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1650 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29 (manual), 19/29 (automatic)
While some dismiss the 2009 Chevrolet HHR as little more than a PT Cruiser clone, in truth the two vehicles appeal to very different audiences. Where the PT seems to pull in Baby Boomers and Gen X males, the HHR speaks to today’s young drivers who like to customize their cars with extreme paint jobs and near-deafening sound systems. By itself, this slick piece of work serves as a practical wagon version of the Cobalt sedan disguised as a retro mini Suburban. There’s even a cool Panel version with windowless side panels and side cargo doors. Though smaller than it appears in pictures, the HHR is nevertheless a versatile and fun-to-drive vehicle as equally suited to small families as it is to hip singles.