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Eric
12-22-2007, 09:05 AM
If you don't build it first, at least build it better - then it won't matter as much whose idea it was to begin with.

So while Chrysler gets credit for conceptualizing the retro-runabout PT Cruiser - a versatile and inexpensive compact wagon with old school 1940s styling touches and the look of a custom-built hot rod - Chevy's HHR copycat does a better job of executing the concept.

Like the Dodge Neon-based PT Cruiser, the HHR (Heritage High Roof) is built on a modified small car chassis; in this case, the donor platform is GM's "Delta" architecture and the bits and pieces are shared with the Chevy Cobalt. But unlike the recently retired Neon, the Cobalt's chassis confers more up-to-date small car technology - including features like an electric-assist power steering system that's both precise and energy efficient (less wasted mechanical energy to drive a power steering pump means better fuel economy).

And because the HHR gets the benefit of being based on a newer, more modern chassis, it not surprisingly feels newer and more up-to-date when you drive it than the getting crickety PT Cruiser - which was launched way back in 2000.

The HHR's also a more substantial-looking vehicle; it's fully 7 inches longer, two inches wider and two inches taller than the PT Cruiser - although total cargo capacity of both vehicles is roughly the same inside. The PT actually has slightly more total cargo area with its second row seats folded - 63 cubic feet vs. the HHR's 56 cubic feet. But the HHR's got a bit more usable luggage space - 23 cubic feet vs. the PT's 21.6 cubic feet - plus a neat "hidden storage cubby" under the floor of the rear cargo area that can be used to tuck stuff away and out of sight.

Like the PT, the HHR's design layout lends itself to carrying home large, oversized (and unusually shaped) items that probably wouldn't fit in a small sedan. It's great for swap meets, Home Depot runs, road trips - whatever - and can do many of the things you'd be able to do with a standard minivan, just with a lot more style.

Another area where the HHR's newness shines brighter is under the hood. There's the already mentioned electric assist-steering - but especially noteworthy is the HHR's standard 2.2 liter engine (also shared with Cobalt). Though it's not as large as the PT's 2.4 liter engine, the power output of both engines is pretty much a dead heat - 149 for the HHR, 150 for the PT. But the HHR's smaller, more efficient engine delivers noticeably better economy - in particular, the automatic-equipped model. The PT with automatic transmission is a gas-pig (for a vehicle of this type) with an EPA rating of 20 MPG city/25 highway - hardly better than a typical mid-sized SUV with a V-8.

Meanwhile, the HHR with the automatic transmission kicks it up to 23 city/30 highway.

With unleaded regular now running close to $3 (or more) per gallon, that extra 5 mpg on the highway is more than just chump change in your pocket. The HHR burns regular, too.

The icing on the cake? The more fuel-efficient HHR doesn't completely suck when you floor it - at least, not relative to the PT. Both retro-runners achieve 60 mph in just over 10 seconds - not fast and furious by any means, but acceptable. Especially if you're knocking down 30 mpg on the highway.

I cruised to Richmond, Virginia in my tester from the Roanoke area - roughly a 200 mile trip, one way - and the HHR was comfortable hanging in the left lane at 80-something following discretely behind a Lexus "blocker car" that I politely let lead and set the pace.

My tester even had the optional automatic transmission - which usually means sluggish performance in an economy-oriented vehicle. But it was better than I expected - and certainly livable. I'd probably choose the standard 5-speed manual - just because it adds to the driving fun. But it's not necessary to wring adequate "run with traffic" ability from the HHR.

The step-up engine is a 2.4 liter, 174 hp four which does even better. And there's an SS version of the HHR on deck for mid-2008 that will run it up to at least 260 hp. The package will include 18-inch rims, sport suspension and other upgrades. Info's still sketchy at this point, but the SS HHR ought to be worth the wait.

For now, the '08 HHR comes in base LS ($16,255) and top-of-the-line LT Panel ($17,555) forms, with most of the features and options being carryovers from '07. There are, however, a couple of new things - including standard OnStar and an optionally available electronic stability control system.

As is becoming the trend with even low-priced cars, the base HHR is already very decently supplied with features - including one-touch power windows and locks, cruise control, AC, multiple accessory power points, 16x6.5-inch rims and a perfectly adequate six-speaker stereo with CD player and MP3 capability. The "majors" that aren't standard on the LS and which many buyers would probably want include the four-speed automatic transmission ($1,000), ABS and side-impact air bags (bundled together in a $795 Enhanced Safety Package) and remote engine start ($150).

You can also delete the OnStar if you like - and get an $85 store credit.

On the LT, you can order a sport-tuned suspension package that adds 17-inch rims, foglamps leather-wrapped steering wheel and snarky-looking running boards. There is also a wealth of aftermarket stuff to dress up the HHR - from '30s-looking whitewalls to woody paneling to tubular chrome grilles.

Either way, it's tough to spend more than $20k on one of these things.

That's hard to knock - even if the HHR wasn't first on the block.

END

Disco Man
12-22-2007, 01:00 PM
For pictures of the new 2008 Chevy HHR see the below link:

http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/images/stories/automotive/chevrolet/hhr/08hhr-s.jpg


http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=396&Itemid=10808

misterdecibel
12-22-2007, 03:53 PM
There's a picture of the HHR in the margin of the Webster's New World Dictionary, next to the word "ugly".

Eric
12-22-2007, 04:51 PM
There's a picture of the HHR in the margin of the Webster's New World Dictionary, next to the word "ugly".


Like the PT, the HHR's "love it - or leave it." But apparently (as far as sales tell it) many people like the look. I'm not a huge fan of the cosmetics myself - but I do like the HHR's versatility, ease of use and low price. I also like the Honda Element and Scion xB - for the same reasons... .

misterdecibel
12-22-2007, 06:49 PM
There's a picture of the HHR in the margin of the Webster's New World Dictionary, next to the word "ugly".


Like the PT, the HHR's "love it - or leave it." But apparently (as far as sales tell it) many people like the look. I'm not a huge fan of the cosmetics myself - but I do like the HHR's versatility, ease of use and low price. I also like the Honda Element and Scion xB - for the same reasons... .


PT and HHR were styled by the same guy, weren't they?

chiph
12-24-2007, 11:50 AM
I see that they offer a panel-van version of the HHR.
Florists of North America will rejoice!

Chip H.