By Bill Jackson on June 19, 2008
The HHR is a car I've had a lot of experience with as a rental car, driving it for everything from camping trips and triathlons to ski races. The faster, sportier SS version was new to me, though, and I hadn’t written about those previous HHRs, so now seemed as good a time as any.
First off, the HHR is one of those cars I like because it doesn't try to be too clever. Everything is where you'd expect it to be; the seats flop up and back with a simple pull of the lever. That simplicity was what stood out the first time I got one at the rental counter.
It's plenty big enough to take three or four people camping. The cargo net was handy, but I didn't use it for this photo shoot so it would be easier for you to see how things fit. Oddly, unlike a lot of other nets, this one didn't snag on anything I put in or took out of the car, including the bike.
Speaking of the bike, it fit, but since I ride a 58-cm frame and have the saddle set pretty high, it's kind of a tight squeeze through the cargo opening. Taller athletes, particularly mountain bikers who ride larger frames, will want to take a look at that. Shorter athletes won't have that problem.
You know the other thing shorter athletes won’t have an issue with? The low-opening cargo hatch. I didn't bang my head on it this trip out, but I have in the past. Again, it might not be a problem for you, but it’s worth mentioning. Check it out before you buy.
Finally, there were weird visibility issues that could have been from how I had the seat set, but the A-pillar made seeing around corners a bit tough, and the front fenders "disappeared" when I was driving. I had no idea where they were. I'd noticed that in the rental models, too, but not as much, so it might have been the seat this time around.
Overall, this is a good car for athletes, but not a hands-down winner. I'd stay away from the SS version because I'd rather have that extra money for race entries, new wheels, etc.
If you don't want an SUV/crossover and stick to less-expensive trims, the HHR is worth considering.
Weekend Athlete Scores (Out of 10)
Ease of loading gear - 6: Plenty of room for stuff, but the hatch opens to a low height.
Ease of seat operation - 7: Simple is always best.
Bike hauling - 7.5: Again, because I ride a larger bike, the cargo opening seemed narrow. For the same reason, I had to turn the bike’s handlebars to get it to fit all the way in.
Locker room cred - 5: The SS trim did nothing for me, good or bad. When you pull up to the race, folks will know you made a practical – if not athletically inclined – choice.
All-around - 6: It's worth your consideration if you don't want an SUV and like its styling.
Assistant Managing Editor Bill Jackson manages the Research section, and he enjoys triathlons and cross-country skiing. Email William