2009 Chevrolet HHR

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Key Specs

of the 2009 Chevrolet HHR. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Ride quality and handling
  • Even power delivery (turbocharged SS)
  • Brake pedal feel
  • Cargo room
  • Newly optional iPod/USB connectivity

The Bad

  • Heavy manual shifter (turbocharged SS)
  • Wide windshield pillars limit visibility
  • Marginal backseat comfort
  • No telescoping steering wheel
  • Some panel-fit issues in cabin

Notable Features of the 2009 Chevrolet HHR

  • New HHR Panel SS trim for 2009
  • Unique appearance
  • Standard fold-flat passenger seat
  • Choice of three four-cylinder engines
  • Standard stability system

2009 Chevrolet HHR Road Test

Mike Hanley
Editor's note: This review was written in June 2008 about the SS version of the 2008 Chevrolet HHR. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2009, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

The engineers and designers responsible for muscle cars like the Chevrolet Chevelle SS and Camaro SS must be shaking their heads, but that really is an SS badge on the side of Chevrolet's HHR compact wagon. It just goes to show that performance can come in all sorts of shapes — in this case with a turbocharged four-cylinder under the hood.

In today's environment of supercharged energy markets that have led to record gas prices, this new interpretation of Chevrolet's fabled Super Sport badge definitely has its advantages: The manual transmission HHR SS gets an EPA-estimated 21/29 mpg city/highway, which is comparable to regular HHRs with a manual. What's more, this version of the HHR is actually kind of fun to drive, though it's not without some significant visibility and interior quality issues.

Styling
If you're into small, boxy vehicles, the HHR SS is a stylish one from many angles. It's as if Chevrolet mused, "What would Dick Tracy drive?" and designed accordingly. Helping its cause are a number of SS-specific cues, like a black mesh grille that replaces the horizontal silver bars on regular HHRs. SS models also have a large lower mesh grille, a liftgate spoiler, la...

Editor's note: This review was written in June 2008 about the SS version of the 2008 Chevrolet HHR. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2009, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

The engineers and designers responsible for muscle cars like the Chevrolet Chevelle SS and Camaro SS must be shaking their heads, but that really is an SS badge on the side of Chevrolet's HHR compact wagon. It just goes to show that performance can come in all sorts of shapes — in this case with a turbocharged four-cylinder under the hood.

In today's environment of supercharged energy markets that have led to record gas prices, this new interpretation of Chevrolet's fabled Super Sport badge definitely has its advantages: The manual transmission HHR SS gets an EPA-estimated 21/29 mpg city/highway, which is comparable to regular HHRs with a manual. What's more, this version of the HHR is actually kind of fun to drive, though it's not without some significant visibility and interior quality issues.

Styling
If you're into small, boxy vehicles, the HHR SS is a stylish one from many angles. It's as if Chevrolet mused, "What would Dick Tracy drive?" and designed accordingly. Helping its cause are a number of SS-specific cues, like a black mesh grille that replaces the horizontal silver bars on regular HHRs. SS models also have a large lower mesh grille, a liftgate spoiler, large rocker panels and 18-inch alloy wheels (see a side-by-side comparison with the 2008 HHR LT).

Turbocharged Performance
The SS trim level is new for 2008, and the enhanced performance it offers significantly changes the HHR experience, transforming it from a run-of-the-mill economy car into a vehicle capable of satisfying enthusiasts of small cars with small-displacement engines.

At the foundation of the HHR SS is a 260-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (250 hp with the optional four-speed automatic). This engine pulls the HHR SS with satisfying strength, and Chevrolet cites a zero-to-60-mph time of 6.3 seconds.

Unlike the Mazdaspeed3, the HHR SS' four-cylinder doesn't exhibit the abrupt sensation of the turbocharger kicking in, but that's part of what makes the Mazda a hoot to drive. Not everyone likes that kind of on-off power delivery, though, and if you don't, then the HHR SS' more linear response might be more appealing to you.

Chevrolet HHR Fuel Economy (city/highway, mpg)
Trim(s)ManualAutomatic
2.2-liter 4-cyl.LS, LT21/3022/30
2.4-liter 4-cyl.LT20/2822/28
Turbo 2.0-liter 4-cyl.SS21/2919/28

The HHR SS' turbocharged four-cylinder is also a jukebox of engine sounds. Whether it's humming when you accelerate, whirring as the turbocharger spools up or hissing when you take your foot off the gas, the engine always has something to say.

The engine drives the front wheels through a standard five-speed manual transmission. The shifter requires a deliberate hand to change gears and doesn't move with much slickness, but it can be shifted quickly if you're willing to muscle it through the gears. It's more similar to the six-speed manual in Dodge's Caliber SRT4 than the smooth-shifting manual in the Mazdaspeed3. The HHR SS' clutch pedal, however, has a relatively light action and is easy on your left leg.

Ride & Handling
The work done to the HHR SS' suspension nicely complements its drivetrain. The sport suspension provides a surprisingly compliant ride; it's definitely on the firm side, but thankfully lacks the harshness you might expect from a performance-oriented car.

With this comfortable suspension tuning comes noticeable body roll in corners. However, it's not enough to keep you from pushing the HHR SS hard through a turn if that's what you want to do. The electric power steering contributes to the experience, delivering quick responses, though road feel is limited. The thick leather-covered steering wheel fits nicely in your hands.

The Inside
Even though the HHR SS starts at $22,925, it's related to a car with a starting price of $16,730, and that low price unfortunately shows in elements of the cabin. I noticed imperfect panel fit around the driver's-side windshield pillar and roughly finished, loose trim on the driver's door armrest. The HHR's dashboard also has one of the most highly grained surfaces I've seen. It's almost as if Chevrolet took complaints about the interiors of past cars and overcompensated on the HHR's dash.

The driver and front passenger have a chair-height seating position, and the sport seats in the HHR SS offer good comfort with modest side bolstering. All in all, it makes for a pretty nice driving position, but I wish the HHR had a telescoping steering column so I could pull the wheel closer to me (with the seat adjusted for my 6-foot, 1-inch height, I found myself reaching forward for the wheel more than I would have liked).

Something HHR drivers battle that isn't an issue in many other cars is forward visibility. This wagon's unique shape dictates a relatively short windshield, which in turn leads to windshield pillars — which are wide to begin with — that get in the way when checking for cross traffic or pedestrians. Rear- and over-shoulder visibility, however, is good.

Backseat comfort is only marginal. The bench seat's bottom and backrest cushions are hard and the space is legroom-challenged; my knees pressed into the hard plastic seatback.

Cargo
Considering its small exterior size, the HHR SS can swallow quite a bit of cargo. My wife and I loaded all our gear for a weekend of camping — tent, sleeping bags, camping chairs, cooler, etc. — into the back of the HHR with the backseat folded down, and there was still a little room to spare. The folding backseat is split, which lets you extend the cargo area and still carry a passenger in back. It uses a fairly sophisticated design; as you flip the backrest forward, the bottom cushion also slides forward in a single step. The result is a flat floor when the backseat is down.

Cargo Room Compared (cu. ft.)
Behind backseatBehind front seats
Chevrolet HHR SS25.263.1
Chrysler PT Cruiser21.662.7
Dodge Caliber SRT418.548.0
Mazdaspeed316.543.4
Scion xB21.769.9

The HHR SS comes with a cargo net for securing small items. It's not hard to load large items like a cooler into the back of the HHR thanks to its low bumper, but tall people should beware the liftgate when it's up — you could easily bonk your head on it if you're not careful.

Safety
As of publication, the HHR hasn't been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Standard SS safety features include antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. Side curtain airbags are optional.

HHR SS in the Market
The HHR SS is part of a growing breed of multitasking performance cars that include aforementioned models like the Caliber SRT4 and Mazdaspeed3 and feature serious power in practical hatchback and wagon body styles. Chevrolet's managed this convergence of small-car performance with functionality fairly well, producing in the HHR SS an entertaining small wagon that can carry a lot of gear when necessary.

These three models start around $23,000, so if you're looking for a multitasking car at a lower price, the Scion xB starts at $15,650. It doesn't offer the turbocharged power of the others, but it still has an entertaining driving experience, offers quite a bit of cargo room and has a more comfortable backseat than the HHR SS. Plus, its lower price leaves a lot of extra money for trips to the gas station, which is more important than ever these days.

Send Mike an email 



Latest 2009 HHR Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.6)
Performance
(4.5)
Interior Design
(4.2)
Comfort
(4.5)
Reliability
(4.8)
Value For The Money
(4.7)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Best car I ever owned!

by Rebekah from Spring grove, VA on May 21, 2018

It was a perfect size I?m actually looking into buying another one! I?m a Chevy person! I was cute small and spacious! Great on gas, a great family sized car as well! Read full review

(5.0)

Fun to drive and great gas mileage.

by Rufishing from Greenwood,La on March 20, 2018

Very unique and fun to drive. Able to haul large items with back seats down. Big gas saver and very easy in the parking lots. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2009 Chevrolet HHR currently has 5 recalls

Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2009 Chevrolet HHR has not been tested.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 100,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    60 months / 100,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Chevrolet

Program Benefits

Two Factory-Backed Warranties, CPO Scheduled Maintenance Program, Vehicle Inspection & Reconditioning, 3-Day/150-Mile Vehicle Exchange Program, 24/7 Roadside Assistance and Courtesy Transportation, OnStar & SiriusXM Satellite Radio Trial Offers, and a Carfax Vehicle History Report

  • Limited Warranty

    Two Factory-Backed Warranties

    6-Year/100,000-Mile, Powertrain Limited Warranty and a 12- Month/12,000-Miles, Bumper-to-Bumper Limited Warranty, both with $0 deductible
  • Eligibility

    Under 5 years / 75,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 172-Point Inspection & Reconditioning.

    See inspection details.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The HHR received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker