HHR Chevrolet: Really Good

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Chevrolet’s HHR  (Heritage High Roof) is a good deal. For a starting price just above $16,000 you get a maneuverable, handy, and distinctive transportation that handles well and has the ability to transform itself into a moving van when the seats are folded flat. It runs on regular gas, gets about 23 mpg in mixed driving, and accelerates well with the optional 172 horsepower engine and automatic transmission. This is a well-made piece with a variety of options that make it ideal for the image conscious. You can even get satellite radio and a remote starting feature.

The new HHR has front-wheel drive chassis based on the sporty Chevrolet Cobalt sedan. Standard features include

air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, a remote keyless entry, and a split folding rear seat. Don’t forget to order the optional curtain side airbags, ABS, and OnStar.

Mom’s view: Despite the HHR’s looks visibility is good to the sides and you don’t feel cramped. I did have trouble with the center dash mounted window controls and the night interior lighting was dreadful. Also, the plastic covering of the rear cargo area, just like the Pontiac Vibe, is so smooth everything you put there slides around. I would have liked a higher seating position and the rear view was restricted by the small rear window. If you are careful with your options you can get a HHR well loaded for under $18,000. Overall, a competent ride that is pleasant in town or on the 210. It is easy to park, is cute, and handy.

Dad’s view: I was surprised at how well the HHR handled and the performance of its optional 172 horsepower engine. Look for 0 to 60 in under ten seconds. You are not going to confuse this with a sports car, but with the right set of suspension pieces, a larger rim and tire combination, this might be an ideal vehicle for having fun both in the San Gabriel Mountains and on Colorado Boulevard. It weighs about 3100 but feels heavier. Only unruly pavement, read the 101 Freeway, make it quiver. The instruments are easy to read, there is even a tachometer, and the stereo and temperature controls simple to operate. I was impressed with its useful nature, pricing, and automatic transmission.

College going male’s view: It is remarkable for a car in this price range to have a driver’s information computer, a very fast acting heater and air conditioning system, over 63 cubic feet of cargo room, and a good stereo as standard. I liked it a lot and it’s a babe magnet, too. The competition is strong. However, the PT Cruiser is too common, the Pontiac Vibe too familyish, and the Scion B too boy racer. The HHR is distinctive, friendly, appealing, and economical. Now if I could just find a girl friend with those traits.

Young working woman’s view: We tested the upscale LT version and weren’t disappointed. I found the look a bit masculine, but it did draw a lot of positive attention. I would have liked more brake feel and the HHR was susceptible to Santa Ana winds, but so are big rigs. This is a practical piece with great pricing and the opportunity for the owner to customize easily. There could be more interior storage bins as there is no place to put your purse. The doors open wide so getting in and out is simple regardless of what you are wearing. The steering well tilts, the step in is low, and it is easy to make yourself comfortable. If you like the look drive it.

Family conference: We liked the Chevrolet Cobalt and we like the HHR. It these days of look alike cars, huge gas hoggish SUVs, and high fuel prices it is nice to know that the HHR can do it all for a price of a Toyota Corolla. For a complete list of vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com and click on business.