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Original MSRP: $16,005 - $18,005
MPG: 22 City / 30 Hwy
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2007 Chevrolet HHR Performance

This performance review was written when the 2007 Chevrolet HHR was new.

Reviewers have mixed opinions on the 2007 Chevrolet HHR's performance, with some feeling it lags behind the competition. Edmunds says, "The 3,100-pound HHR still doesn't feel as sprightly as lighter rivals with less power. In handling, too, it loses out to more agile wagons like the Mazda Mazda3 and PT Cruiser."

A few other reviewers, however, take a more complimentary stance. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman says the HHR's two engine offerings are "peppy for a compact car, and the HHR's handling feels sportier than it should for something that looks like a transformed hearse." And while one Edmunds reviewer finds the HHR "[n]o fun to drive," New Car Test Drive reports just the opposite: "We found the Chevy HHR to be fun to drive. It isn't a sports car, but it's nimble and we were pleased with its acceleration. The HHR feels more responsive than its horsepower, torque, and transmission ratio numbers suggest. Plus, it gets decent fuel economy."

Acceleration and Power

The HHR offers two four-cylinder engines that bring out mixed reviews. Some auto writers find engine power too modest for the HHR's hefty size, while others such as Kelley Blue Book report that "none of the HHR's powertrain combinations felt the least bit anemic." LS and 1LT models come with an Ecotec 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, while 2LTs get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder. The high-level engine is also optional on 1LT models. Both engines come standard with a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed electronically controlled automatic is optional.

BusinessWeek calls the base 2.2-liter engine "an eager performer in a small, lightweight car." Kelley Blue Book similarly notes, "Even when outfitted with the base engine and four-speed automatic transmission, the HHR still feels adequately motivated." However, others are less pleased, with AutoWeek noting it "has less oomph in the class than all but the xB's tiny 1.5-liter four, which makes 108 horsepower."

Most reviewers find the more powerful 2.4-liter engine a useful upgrade. The Boston Globe says it "provided plenty of power to move even a fully loaded car," and New Car Test Drive finds that on the freeway, "the HHR 2LT really scoots, which makes it a lot of fun." However, some still find it lacking in power. MSN says that "even the most potent HHR engine provides just so-so acceleration." USA TODAY agrees, noting the engine "didn't feel very powerful, requiring the transmission to downshift frequently to maintain speed on mildly hilly interstates." AutoWeek says it "was a good match for the 3,208-pound curb weight," but still notes the 175-horsepower engine doesn't offer best-in-class power: "The PT Turbo makes 220, and the Escape V6 offers 200."

While auto writers are divided regarding engine power, nearly every reviewer appreciates the HHR's low fuel economy. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the HHR with the base engine and manual transmission is expected to net 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway. With the 2.4-liter engine, it is expected to net similar figures. However, the higher-level engine takes premium gasoline, while the base engine takes regular. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman ranks pain at the pump as "low." The Boston Globe says, "[C]onsidering that I got more than 25 miles per gallon overall in lots of fully loaded driving, that's an efficient hauler of people and cargo in these days of prohibitive gasoline costs."

Most prefer the five-speed manual transmission to the optional automatic. AutoWeek reports, "Our drive with the manual trans was smooth and problem-free, even fun," and Consumer Guide says the manual "feels slightly quicker than automatic." But MSN is a bit more critical, noting a downshift from fifth to fourth gear is "necessary for a decent 65-75 mph passing time. Nail the accelerator pedal in fifth gear at 65 mph and nothing much happens. Drop to third gear at that speed and the engine is revving way too high."

Consumer Guide finds the four-speed automatic transmission "responsive" and "quick to downshift." But ultimately, reviewers say the automatic only accentuates the HHR's lack of acceleration. MarketWatch notes, "With a four-speed automatic transmission, there wasn't a lot of power to spare." However, the automatic has one major advantage -- it comes with a factory-installed remote vehicle starter system. The convenient system, which is one of Kelley Blue Book's favorite features, lets the driver start heating or cooling the car before even leaving the house. New Car Test Drive says this is "a nice luxury" and also praises the transmission's performance, noting, "We liked the way the automatic could be easily manually downshifted, even though it doesn't feature a separate manual mode. And we liked how it held second gear going down that same steep, slow hill."

Handling and Braking

Most find the HHR handles well and offers a smooth ride, even if it lacks sporty performance. Automobile Magazine notes that "the HHR's core competency lies in civilized travel, where the quiet interior and the well-damped suspension deliver both composed low-speed driving and effortless freeway cruising." Edmunds similarly comments: "The HHR's best attribute is its smooth, quiet ride. On twisty sections of road, it's best to keep things at a relaxed pace, as the suspension and steering really aren't up to the task of aggressive driving."

LS and 1LT models get a Touring suspension with variable-rate springs and a front stabilizer bar. The 2LT models upgrade to a Sport suspension, which adds gas-charged shocks. Cars.com emphasizes the resulting comfortable ride, saying, "Even in urban settings, the ride is smooth. Occupants might feel pavement imperfections, but few produce noticeable discomfort." Car and Driver has a similar thought, noting, "Ride smoothness is very good, slightly better than the PT Cruiser's, which likely suffered a bit for its 50-series tires, compared with 55s on the HHR." Consumer Guide finds the ride "[c]omposed overall," though notes it "can get bouncy over sharp bumps." The reviewer reports the standard suspension's 16-inch tires "absorb most bumps, but transmit some vibration over coarse surfaces."

Reviewers are less complimentary of the HHR's speed-sensitive variable power steering. Automobile Magazine says it "lacked linearity and was too slow for maneuvering through the urban jungle of our local Wal-Mart parking lot." Likewise, Edmunds says

steering is "much too light and numb for enthusiastic cornering, but its weighting is fine for maneuvering around town." Consumer Guide also notes "[g]ood around-town maneuverability," but again points out that steering is "numb on center" and "requires attention in straightline highway-speed cruising."

Braking is another problem area for several reviewers, with a few of them noting that the HHR exhibits poor straight-line stability during braking. "It doesn't stop straight," complains Edmunds. "This was disconcerting at the track. It was downright scary during a real emergency stop on the freeway. And it crosses the limits of what is acceptable on a 2006 vehicle." The reviewer also finds the tester's stopping distances -- from 60 miles per hour to 0 in 135 feet -- disappointing. But a few others find the four-wheel front discs and rear drums adequate enough. The Boston Herald says they offer "excellent braking," and MSN says, "The brake pedal has a nice linear action, and stopping distances are decent." Anti-lock brakes are standard on the 2LT trim and optional on the other trims.

Performance Options

LS and 1LT

The base model and 1LT trims come with the same engine -- a 2.2-liter 149-horsepower Ecotec four-cylinder engine. A 2.4-liter 172-horsepower engine is optional. A Getrag five-speed manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic with remote vehicle starter system is optional.

2LT

The higher-level model comes standard with the more powerful 2.4-liter 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine. A Getrag five-speed manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic with remote vehicle starter system is optional. The 2LT models also get a special Sport suspension.

Review Last Updated: 8/26/08

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