Chevrolet HHR

Chevrolet HHR

Chevrolet HHR (Photo: JB Car Pages)

The styling of the Chevrolet HHR (short for Heritage High Roof) was purportedly inspired by the 1949 Chevy Suburban. Indeed, the HHR’s hemispherical grill and squarish flared wheelwells harken back to that post-war, working man’s icon. Yet the concept of the HHR was unbashedly “borrowed” from Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, whose runaway success in five years earlier was too much for General Motors to ignore.

The PT formula? Take the underpinnings of a fuel-efficient car (in the HHR’s case, the Chevy Cobalt), and put on top of it a body that offered ample room for both humans and cargo. Inject some styling cues harkening back to the 50′s hot rods—big grills, chrome door handles, etc.—all while engineering in some nifty features like flat-folding seats, flat cargo areas, etc. Then, as if all of that wasn’t enough, slap on a price tag no higher than most humble, insipid compact cars. How ingenious is that?

The Chevrolet HHR was first introduced for model year 2006, but only select 2008 and later models received an estimate of 30+ mpg highway per the new EPA test cycle. Some 2006 and 2007 models did, however, get an estimated 30 mpg highway per the old EPA test cycle.

Compared to the PT Cruiser, we like the HHR’s styling a little less (to us looks too much like a slightly smaller first-generation Dodge Durango), but it does have some advantages. First off, there are currently far less HHRs on the streets than the PT Cruisers due to being newer. Secondly, gas mileage—both city and highway—is slightly better, despite having slightly larger exterior dimensions.

Note, however, the PT Cruiser actually has slightly more cargo space. The difference is academic as both are cavernous especially with the rear seats folded down. In fact, the PT Cruiser and HHR are perhaps the perfect antidotes to the SUV blues. They are masculine enough for their owners to avoid being called a sissy, and spacious enough for all one’s gear. They are infinitely more fun and get far better gas mileage. No wonder, then, we declare them both as Hot Green Machines.

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