Originally intended to document my experience of DeLorean ownership, focus is often radical and strange, boring and obtuse.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

2009 Chevy HHR Review

2009 Chevy HHR Flex Fuel.

"Take any one you want. The keys are in 'em."

The words echoed in my head as I left National's car rental office a little nervous, and a little excited. Suz and I had arrived in Tampa, beginning our Florida vacation on the eve of Hurricane Fay's departure, and the weather was strange.

I walked up and down the compact car aisle, waiting for something unique to catch my eye. And it did.

The Cheverolet HHR. Wait, scratch that. What really got my attention was the little badge in the corner of the tailgate. A badge that glinted in the unnatural glow of the security lights. A badge that read Flex Fuel E85 Ethanol.

This was a beautiful looking vehicle in all respects, and I was excited to drive it, even if only for the fact that both the HHR and myself were powered by the same thing: corn.

E85 fuel is a mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Knowing you may not get the mileage of pure gasoline may bring a frown to your face, but knowing you're helping stave North America's dependency on foreign oil should turn your mood around.Flex Fuel means flexible fuel. It's bendy. As an added bonus, E85 fuel produces less harmful emissions than those regular fossil fuel-burning engines. And cleaner air makes everyone more comfortable.

Now, if there is one thing GM knows well, it's comfortable seating. And I found no deviation here. Inside I was greeted by a supple leather driver's seat that was soft and snug. The steering wheel shared the same leather and felt very substantial in my hands. Every control was logically placed and knobs, stalks and buttons all felt and moved excellently.

Spending eleven days so close to U.S. 19 gave me a good opportunity to test out the HHR's characteristics in busy, aggressive traffic. The 155 horses propelling the HHR moved it well, but uphill battles seemed lost due to slightly lacklustre torque output of 150 lb-ft.

For a tall vehicle the HHR handled quite well, offering minimal body roll even in tight U-turn situations. Where the suspension's weakness could be seen however, was in every grocery store or mall parking lot in America. Speed bumps were the HHR's achilles heel, sending vehicle occupants bouncing up and down like some wild pogo stick ride.

The biggest problem I found was visibility. Small windows really make the retro look of the HHR, but didn't lend themselves well to safe driving. Being the first car to pull up to a red light, I found that I had to stop almost an entire car length away from the crosswalk in order to see the stoplights suspended above me. I was constantly bending down and looking skyward to see when I was allowed to proceed. Shorter drivers may not have this issue, but at 5'7", I did.

The Chevy did have a few surprises including a factory remote starter. I didn't think I'd ever want or use one, but after hopping into a cooled space on those scorching 98F days, I believe I was mistaken.

Overall I enjoyed our outings in Chevy's answer to Chrysler's PT Cruiser. My biggest disappointment came when trying to locate the very reason I chose the HHR in the first place. I think I saw more unicorns during those eleven days than I did gas stations offering E85 ethanol fuel.

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Blogger SJ said...

Corn? I didn't think of you as the corn fed type.

1:30:00 AM

Blogger Monogram Queen said...

Being the practical, cynical type I was wondering where you'd find ethanol because I don't think i've ever saw it around here. Seriously!

8:24:00 AM

Blogger mmat said...

i've often thought about getting an HHR because i like the style, but if you had issues seeing things at 5'7", i think i may have a worse time at 6'2". i have a similar problem with my Toyota Yaris, although anyone under 6' should be fine in one of those.

8:53:00 AM

Blogger Ms. Creek said...

couple things...
i'm 5-10 and have the "driving view" issue with many vehicles. my honda CR-V is about the best i've ever had as far as being about to see.
secondly, in 1998 i bought a new beetle (the year they were re-introduced) and it was a turbo diesel. i had a hard time finding gas stations that sold auto diesel. now they are all over the place. so i'm thinking in time...with more vehicle demand, more places will be selling ethanol...let's hope!
glad you had a good vacation!

9:08:00 AM

Blogger Akhor said...

Sure this vehicle is all safe and "green" however there is really only one thing that needs to be reviewed on any vehicle...

During night driving when your busy receiving your "driving bonus" aka BJ how many others can see in?

1:38:00 PM

Blogger Velvet Ginger said...

Oh Ellie took what I was gonna say..I am also 5'10" so I wouldn't have sone well and I need good mirrors...you were brave going down there right after Fay....so did you find ANY gas stations with the corn gas??? lol that would be my luck!

7:54:00 PM

Blogger ZoeyBella said...

I'm 5'10 as well so I'm in the same boat I guess. But that's still a sweet looking car.

2:02:00 PM

Blogger Martini said...

Wow! It's the 510 club here. I find that a little weird.

11:56:00 PM

Blogger Michael Manning said...

It never ceases to amaze me at the teams (or lack of teams) that create these cars. I rented a Chevy Cobalt and was astonished at how much gas it ate. My Honda CRV has 125,000 miles on it and I recently met someone with 3,000,000 miles on hers. Improvments to the CRJ include a wider wheel base, a loweer center of gravity, moving the full spare tire from the mounting on the rear door above the bumper to the inside storage area inset. Sounds like the HHR could use a makeover too.

11:18:00 AM

Blogger Martini said...

Like most people, we've had a lot of bad luck with extremely low-quality GM products. But aside from the windows, which was essentially an aesthetic design feature, the HHR was a big surprise and very much unlike GM products of the past. Then again, it only had 1,000 miles on it so not sure what would be in store another 3 years down the road.

9:44:00 PM


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