NEW FOR 2009:

– New HHR Panel SS model
– SS adds reconfigurable performance display, available solid rear quarter windows, standard XM satellite radio, standard curtain airbags
– 2.2-litre engine adds variable valve timing for more power and greater fuel efficiency
– FlexFuel capability on 2.2- and 2.4-litre engines
– Standard StabiliTrak stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, CD with USB port and auxiliary input jack
– Available Bluetooth hands-free connectivity
– Revised centre console and overhead lighting
– Available 17-inch ChromeTech wheels on LT
– Available Smoke or Silver accent stripes
– Exterior colours: Silver Ice Metallic, Gold Mist Metallic and Aqua Blue Metallic added

For 2009, the Chevrolet HHR undergoes numerous changes, including a new turbocharged Panel SS to match the regular SS released for 2008, and important new safety features, including standard stability control and anti-lock brakes.

Available in LS, LT and SS trim, the HHR comes as a conventional five-passenger vehicle, called the "Utility", or as the Panel, with solid rear metal panels and a full cargo area instead of a rear seat. A new window delete package also allows for the "best of both", with windows for the second row, but with the rear quarter windows deleted for more of a custom car look.

Both the LS and LT use a 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine; the LT can be optioned with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder. Both engines use a five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. The SS models use a turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-litre four-cylinder with five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

Features on the LS models include 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, power mirrors, running boards, variable intermittent wipers, fixed intermittent rear wiper, cruise control, floor mats, driver information centre, tilt wheel, power windows with driver’s side express-down, cloth bucket seats, fold-flat front passenger seat, CD stereo with auxiliary input, theft alarm, and power locks with keyless entry. Regular models include a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, while the Panel includes a full-length rubber floor covering and locking under-floor storage bins.

The LT adds 16-inch painted steel wheels, eight-way power driver’s seat, and CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input.

The SS adds 18-inch alloy wheels, SS-specific fascias, fog lights, rear spoiler, turbo boost gauge, tire pressure monitoring system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, premium cloth seats with bolsters and UltraLux seat inserts, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, XM satellite radio, four-wheel disc brakes, bright finish exhaust tip, performance suspension, curtain airbags, and OnStar.

Based on the Chevrolet Cobalt platform, the HHR stands for "Heritage High Roof", and its styling is meant to invoke the 1949 Suburban. The smaller engine can get wheezy when asked to move it around, and the 2.4-litre is the better choice, especially when mated to the five-speed. The SS models are flat-out fun, with a "launch mode" that will get you into triple digits effortlessly on the speedometer.

The interior is exceptionally well-done, with good fit-and-finish and high-quality materials, and even the base model features air conditioning and numerous safety features. The Panel is a funky little hauler, with the look of an old-fashioned sedan delivery, thanks to its lack of rear windows and exterior door handles; it’s perfect for small businesses, offering decent hauling capacity without a full-size van’s size or price-tag, and metal sides that make great billboards.

Connect with Autos.ca