2006 Chevrolet HHR

Chevrolet’s all-new 2006 HHR – remembering the past, savoring the present

By Bill Keller
Automotive writer & Online editor

Cruising both Interstate highways and county dirt roads, we put the all-new 2006 Chevrolet HHR on a 600 mile test and found this a versatile vehicle suitable for everyday tasks or a long journey.Comfortable seating, enough power and a smooth, quiet ride that left us wanting another 600 miles.

hhr_ogThe Chevy HHR’s official EPA designation is 2WD Sport Utility.That may – or may not – answer your question as to whether it is a truck, car, wagon, hatchback, or SUV. Whichever segment it fits into one thing is for certain – it’s styling is nothing like theordinary. In a shape reminiscent of a 1949 Chevrolet Suburban, Chevy HHR is really in a class of unique, “personal expression” vehicles that say “look at me,” instead of blending in to the masses.And for the boldness in design, we tip our hat to GM for building it.

Built on the same platform as the Chevrolet Cobalt, the HHR is available in two models with three trim levels, the LS, LT1 and LT2. Standards include A/C, and AM/FM with a CD Player with anauxiliary input jack for (iPod/MP3) players, power windows, power door locks and power outside mirrors.

Underneath the hood – like the ’49 Suburban – iseither a 2.2L Eco-tec 4 cylinder (143 hp / 150 lb-ft torque) hhr_ecotstandard with the LS and LT1, or optional for the LT. Standard for the LT2 models is a 2.4L Ecotech 4 cylinder (172hp / 162 lb-ft torque).A 5-speed manual is the standard transmission for all trim levels with a 4-speed automatic optional.

Fuel economy ratings are estimated at 22-mpg city and 30-mpg highway with the standard gearbox, and 23-mpg city and 30-mpg highway with the automatic transmission. For the 2.4L engine equippedmodels, premium fuel is recommended but not required. For testing purposes we chose to put in the premium fuel, unofficially we averaged 27-mpg combined city/highway. Not bad for a vehicle of thissize and carrying capacity.

We were driving an LT2 with the manual transmission and had no trouble getting up to speed. Not the fastest thing on 4 wheels, we thought it a little slow on the on ramps, but we were still ableto cruise effortlessly on the Interstate. Perhaps with the introduction of the SS Cobalt for ’06, a supercharged version of the HHR could be in the works.

hhr_bonA 1000 horsepower Ecotech engine has been developed by the GMPerformance Division, for the Bonneville HHR, a chopped and stretched Chevrolet HHR, developed in conjunction with So-Cal Speed Shop. Longitudinally mounted and rear wheel driven, this definitelynon-production HHR is taking a run at the G/BFCC (G Class/Blown Fuel Competition Coupe) speed record.

ABS is standard on the LT2 and available with the LS and LT1 models. Cars with the automatic transmission and ABS will also get traction control. The brakes are front disc and rear drums. On ourcounty road test I pushed the brake pedal down hard, and We came to an impressive stop on the gravel. Remember with ABS it is stomp, stay, and steer. No need to pump the brakes on an ABS equippedvehicle.

Driving the HHR was a delight; the seating was firm with the side bolsters holding us in place on those quick turns. The steering was responsive and smooth. All models are equipped withrack-and-pinion steering with electric power steering (EPS) – a speed-sensitive, variable-effort system that is tuned to match the performance characteristics of two separate suspension settings.

Standard on the LS and LT1 is the FE1 suspension and our LT2 was equippedwith the FE3 suspension. hhr_intBoth feature a MacPherson strut for the front suspension design and a semi-independent, torsion beam rear suspension. The FE1 is tuned for a softer ride while the FE3 isfeatures sportier handling. Standard 16-inch wheels are on the LS/LT1 while the LT2 had the FE3 suspension with standard 17-inch wheels, our test model had the optional polished aluminum 17-inchwheels.

The instrument-panel layout was easy to read and we liked the inset tachometer beside and above the speedometer, also are engine temperature and fuel gauges. The power window switches seem to bejust out of reach at the bottom of the center console. The center armrests for the front bucket seats are attached to the seat back frame, and when raised up gives access to the large drink holdersmolded into the center consol. At the rear of the consol is one drink holder for the rear passengers. Top center of the instrument panel is an auxiliary glove box holder.

The standard audio system is a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, which features an auxiliary channel and front-mounted auxiliary input jack, so that another audio source can be played through thevehicle audio system. Our test system had the 6-disc CD changer, and the Pioneer 7-speaker system with optional XM radio.

hhr_cgoThe rear seats will fold into the floor, and withthe front passenger seat folded forward, over 63-cubic feet of cargo space is made available.

My 87-year old father has ridden with me several times, in some mighty expensive cars and this is the only car that he actually enthused over and made comments about buying. If he does, I think hewould make a good choice, and for all but speed enthusiasts, I can recommend this car/utility/truck/wagon to just about everyone

COMPARISON VEHICLES: Ford Escape, Jeep Liberty, Scion xB, Honda Element, Chrysler PT-Cruiser.

HIGHS: Cargo Space, Audio System, distinctive and bold styling.

LOWS: Power window switch placement.

VEHICLE PRICING: As tested $20,900.00 Chevrolet HHR 2LT Preferred Equipment Group, Side Curtain Airbags, 17-inch High Polished Aluminum Wheels, XM Radio, AM/FM with 6-disc CD Changer w/MP3, RDSand Auxiliary Jack, Roof Luggage Rails, including destination charge.

FUEL ECONOMY: EPA estimates, manual: 22 / 30 automatic: 23 / 30

For more information www.chevrolet.com

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