Review and photos by Gary Chan
- Handling prowess
- Smooth power delivery
- Utility (63-cubic feet of useful space!)
- Front performance seat hard to dial in
- Notchy shifter with high effort
- Limited rear visibility
Over the past two years, there were two cars that I read about in the car magazines that I eagerly awaited; neither was exotic or expensive, but hopped-up versions of cars you’d see every day commuting to work. More specifically, the MAZDA3 and Chevy HHR. I’ve driven the Mazdaspeed3 and now I had the chance to drive the Chevy HHR SS. I was not disappointed.
A direct-injected, turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 260-hp was more than enough to move the SS forward at breakneck speeds. Despite a high-effort, notchy shifter, merging onto a freeway is effortless while sporty driving on twisty roads remains composed (both the Chevy and myself!). It’s an easy vehicle to drive fast (slow is easy as well) having a suspension that is firm yet possessing damping characteristics to absorb big bumps without jarring the passenger (which the Honda Element was guilty of). As with the Element, you’ll have to check your side mirrors carefully to make sure you’re not going to back into something as the rear visibility is limited by the small windows at the rear. At highway speeds, there’s a slight squeal from wind noise emanating from the driver’s large side mirror. Overall, I enjoyed the responsive steering, crisp handling dynamics and functional features of the Chevy’s high performance HHR.
Our test model had been driven over 8,000 miles and I never heard any rattles or squeaks during my test drive. To the contrary, everything felt solid even when driving over speed bumps or rough surfaces. The dash does have an overabundance of plastic, but it’s all assembled very well with no noticeable interior gaps or mismatched seams. The confluence of the hood and the front fenders did have a noticeable gap. Curves on the hood and fenders are very well manufactured as well as the paint job. Good job, Chevy! One of the best features of the HHR SS is the beautiful one-piece, polished aluminum wheels. They’re beautiful and the design befits the sporting nature of the HHR SS. Engine is well laid out with space to spare. Checking the various fluids is easy.