Beyond OnStar, the only real tech feature in the HHR is the stereo. In our test car, this stereo featured an MP3-compatible single CD player, XM radio, and an auxiliary input. We don't particularly like the dot-matrix look of the blue lettering in the radio display, but it is very functional. GM makes use of the preset buttons along the bottom of the radio display to control all sorts of functions. For example, if you put in an MP3 CD, you can move back and forth through folders with two of the buttons. If you push the information button, the preset buttons let you select artist, album, or track display.
With our test car's 2LT Preferred Equipment package, we also got a Pioneer seven-speaker system. This system uses tweeters on the A pillars, a midrange speaker in each door, and a subwoofer in the cargo area. The audio quality from this system is above average, but not what we would consider superior. You can hear the instruments in a track fairly clearly, but the bass doesn't really stand out.
Under the hood
The HHR is by no means a powerhouse--it's designed as one of Chevy's more economical vehicles. As such, it has a 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine, which gets the car around reasonably well, but lacks enthusiasm. This engine is actually the bigger of the pair that is available on the HHR, with a 2.2-liter Ecotec as a base model (and don't ask us why Chevy would offer an upgrade of 0.2 liters). This bigger engine puts out 175 horsepower, while the smaller does 149 horsepower.
In our test car, we had a four-speed automatic transmission. A five-speed manual is available on the base model. In practice, we found the combination of the automatic and the engine produced an unpleasant whine when we floored the accelerator to get on a freeway. There wasn't a whole lot of oomph behind this powertrain, either, but it was fine for getting around town. A four-speed transmission has its limitations, too. In this case, the fourth gear has got a high enough ratio to hold the RPMs at 2,500 on the freeway, but that also means very noticeable shifting, as the gear ratios are all pretty far apart.
For fuel economy, the HHR gets 23mpg in the city and 30mpg on the highway under the EPA's old test. The new test gives it 21mpg city and 28mpg highway. During our mixed city and freeway driving, we managed to get it up to 24mpg, which shows the new EPA testing is more realistic. For emissions, the HHR meets California's minimum LEV II rating.
There are three trim levels available on the 2007 Chevrolet HHR, with the lowest being the LS, at a base price of $16,595. We had the LT 2LT model, which includes the bigger 2.4-liter engine and the premium audio system, basing at $19,395. For options, our test car also came with the automatic transmission ($1,000), power sunroof ($750), leather seats ($750), one year of OnStar's Safe and Sound plan ($695), side airbags ($395), 17-inch wheels ($395), and XM satellite radio with three months paid for ($199). Along with the $590 destination charge, the total comes out to $24,169.
Because of its strong retro styling, the HHR will either appeal to you or not. In keeping with the car's exterior style, it's a cruiser, not a sport driver. And you definitely don't want to drag race for pinks, or you won't have the car for long. As a tech car, its stereo has a functional, but ugly, interface, and decent audio, with OnStar handling navigation and hands-free calling. The interior configuration fits that of a small wagon, a segment that's become scattered, considering that other small wagons we've seen lately have been the Subaru Forester and Audi A3, all cars with very different purposes.