Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS  inside story chevrolet
2008 Chevrolet HHR SS. Click image to enlarge

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General Motors Canada

Review and photos by Michael Clark

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2008 Chevrolet HHR SS

What does your SS stand for?

When it comes to regular production Chevrolet’s since 1961, that double-S dress denotes the Super Sport package. It has adorned the likes of Impalas, Chevelles, Novas, and Camaros over the years, with varying degrees of performance. This scribe recalls opening the hood of a 1965 Impala Super Sport hardtop, only to find an inline Turbo-Thrift six in the engine bay.

These days, the SS moniker has been rightfully reserved for Bowties with a little more poke than stock, as is the case with the SS Turbocharged edition of the HHR retro wagon. At Inside Story, we’re more concerned with whether or not the SS stands for ‘Super Stuff’, as in more convenience factors than the base model. This week’s tester weighs in at an MSRP of $31,910. (Prices shown do not reflect freight, taxes, or regional incentives.)

The cockpit/centre stack

There are minimal cues to the SS bump, with the most notable being the turbo boost gauge on the driver’s side A-pillar. An SS logo for the horn plug on the leather-wrapped tilt wheel completes the performance persona. Headlamps receive an Auto setting, on the turn signal stalk.

Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS  inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS  inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS  inside story chevrolet
2008 Chevrolet HHR SS. Click image to enlarge

Delay wipers exist for both front and rear swipes, though Chevy has opted for a low-mount rocker switch for the rear function, found at the bottom left of the centre stack. As with most corporate GM steering wheels, the HHR incorporates the cruise control, audio, and OnStar voice prompt switchery on the 9-and-3 spokes.

An info switch accesses the Driver Information Centre, with everything from economy readings to tire pressures. The six-disc CD changer head unit is the usual GM fare, with an auxiliary audio jack. Switches for the StabiliTrak system and fog lamps are found above the CD head unit, as well as the IP dimmer switch, which has no markings as to its function. The HVAC system is a manual dial-in array. The five-speed shifter is in need of a more precise gate, more befitting of all those racy appliqués and exterior body bunions.

The first of two 12-volt DC powerpoints is found next to the rear wiper switch, with the second portal found at the rear of the centre console. The front and rear doors possess storage pockets, with no depth or official provisions for bottle grab. The driver’s door pod houses the controls for the exterior power break-away mirrors, as well as the power window controls, with Auto-descent for the driver.

Cubbies!

Two boxes are better than one, especially when they’re gloveboxes. The non-locking traditional box is more of a literature parking zone, while the top-mount unit gets a rubbery anti-rattle pad for its bed. There are three cupholders housed in the centre console, with removable rubber footbeds for each receptacle. The forward cavities seem far too low for convenient bevvie grab. There is no cinch system in play for any holder.

Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS  inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS  inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS  inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS  inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS  inside story chevrolet
Inside Story: 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS  inside story chevrolet
2008 Chevrolet HHR SS. Click image to enlarge

The console tunnel is in definite need of some privacy, with no covered compartments to speak of. The seatbacks house a mesh storage pocket behind the driver, while the passenger-side seat gets a flip-forward feature, with Road Warrior workbed.

The overhead

Ever wondered how to cheese off your lady friend? Supply a vanity mirror with no backlighting. Both visors contain the unlit pane, as well as the ability to slide for supreme sunbeam protection. The rear-view mirror houses the OnStar controls, as well as dual maplights, auto dimming, and digital compass. The power sunroof has a tilt feature, as well as an express-open slide, which reveals a mesh-style wind deflector.

Seat treat

The driver’s glutes rest atop an eight-way power driver’s seat, with power lumbar bladder and manual reclination. The Inside Story Comfort Dummy returned no complaints, according to the print-outs received from his electronic brain in both the front and rear seating positions.

Cargo embargo

You won’t shed a tear for this two-tiered cargo platform system. The rear cargo floor biscuit can be positioned in upper channels, with a reversible surface that includes cargo net tie-down points. Robust wall-mount tie-downs also exist. The 60/40 folding seatbacks get downright flat, with a protective hard plastic jacket. Ahead of the cargo floor biscuit are two flip-top compartments, best suited for cargo net storage or smaller items.

Spare care

Unlike most cargo floor biscuits, the HHR has a protective cover that conceals the spacesaver-style spare tire. Note the rear-mount location for the battery. Chevy will change that tire for you, during the first five years or 160,000 kms of ownership.

The mill

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo mill is the identical horsepower rating (260) of last week’s Solstice GXP, with an understandably tighter fit. Accessory belt replacement, as well as any engine work at the front of the mill will require long and skinny technician fingers. Fluid level fill points are well marked, with easy access. The hood is held aloft by two hydraulic struts.

The Verdict

The last HHR that I had the opportunity to test was a base model Panel, with a surprising amount of similar equipment. Add a rear seat, and blind spot-reducing windows, and you’ve got the makings of a nimble people hauler that loves to eat cargo when called upon. The centre console needs to evolve, regardless of the thin real estate that it occupies. Nothing gets my Victory Red blood boiling more than the continued option tick charge for side curtain airbags, a $595 boost. If you can dim the rear-view mirror, you can sure as heck include back-lit vanities. Lastly, give me the option of deciding which interior hide completes my ride. (Let the Ultralux roam free!) Four stars.

Next week: Acura TSX




About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).