2007 Chevrolet HHR Panel LS
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Review and photos by Michael Clark

Photo Gallery: 2007 Chevrolet HHR Panel

Every week, the wheels of commerce turn. The physical wheels of that commerce are usually attached to either a slab-sided one-ton van with dog-dish hubcaps, or a diminutive hatchback with the back seat torn out. Back in the day, the popular business solution was the sedan delivery, which was essentially a station wagon with a front bench, and rear windows swapped for sheet metal stampings. They hung on for as long as they could. (I still remember the Ford Pinto versions used by the T. Eaton Company.)

The wagon may now be called an SUV, or a CUV, or some other snappy collection of letters ending in V. Chevy’s popular HHR harkens back to the styling that was all the rage for Suburban’s and panel trucks, circa 1949. Therefore, the HHR Panel was really only a matter of time. It is also the only vehicle of its kind in the segment, purpose-built for those who need a day-to-day cargo solution, without feeding a V8 or letting oversized cargo flop out the hatchback door. Let’s find out if it works.


Engine compartment

2007 Chevrolet HHR Panel LS
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All HHR’s receive motive power from a front-drive arrangement, with a choice of four-banger mills. The LS Panel model shown has the Ecotec 2.2 litre, mated to an optional four-speed automatic. Remove the plastic engine cover, and the Two-Two should provide respectable service access. Fluid fill points are predominantly funnel-free, with the exception being the angled gooseneck for the brake fluid. Note that the plastic engine cover won’t stop oil dribbles if you miss. The battery is mounted in the spare tire cavity, with boost points clearly labelled underhood. The automatic transaxle doesn’t have a fill point or dipstick accessible by backyard mechanic hands; it’s strictly a dealer-service item. The same appears to be true for the headlamp bulb replacement, with no simple access panels to be found. The hood is held aloft by twin gas-charged struts.


Spare tire/Cargo compartment

2007 Chevrolet HHR Panel LS
2007 Chevrolet HHR Panel LS
Click image to enlarge

The spare tire well is covered with the HHR plastic shelf biscuit, which can be positioned in the upper inlets for additional cargo space organization. Flip over the biscuit, and you’ll find tether points purposely designed for optional cargo netting. There is a separate plastic cover of a thinner gauge than the biscuit; this hides the temporary spare, battery, and the jacking tools. Roadside assistance keeps your dungarees spiffy for five years or 160,000 kilometres. There is a 12-volt inlet found on the passenger side of the cargo wall. Heavy-duty oval tie-down points are found on the walls, as well as the cargo floor. The two-piece protective rubber mat is a $125 touch, and well worth the splurge.

There is additional storage space in the ‘pod’ that occupies the real estate of the former rear seat bottom. Two storage compartments sport prop rods for easy loading. They’re not cavernous, but they do make perfect sense for stowing cargo nets or bungee cords. It’s a $35 bump if you would like them to be lockable. There are some obvious rush-to-production oversights of note; the rear seat anchors on the fenderwells, the rear cup holder, rear reading lights, a rear-mount 12-volt inlet, and my personal favourite; rear curtain airbags, so that your cargo might live.

2007 Chevrolet HHR Panel LS
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On the positive side, the anchors make good bungee points, the cup holder means an extra Coke, and you can never have enough accessory power points.

The curtain airbags are a $595 boost, which should see a price reduction if the rear bags go bye-bye. The rear doors have no exterior handles, but they are easily opened with the dash-mount ‘poppers’. Add $280 for the roof side rails, which will then require additional infusements of cash to actually attach anything to them. At least the running boards are beefy enough to stand on. The rear hatch is held aloft by twin robust struts, with an extremely deep tint on the rear glass to shoo away prying eyes. A cargo version rear bumper, with a scuff pad, is needed immediately.


Interior

2007 Chevrolet HHR Panel LS
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Even at the base LS level, there is plenty of think in the HHR. The wheel is tilt, with cruise control and information access keys. The dashtop has a handy pop-top bin. Dual cup-holders in the E-brake address have removable biscuits to aid in cleaning out the Timmy’s slop. They can only accommodate standard cup sizes, with no cinch mechanisms. There is a dash mount 12-volt inlet, and an MP3 jack on the $325 deluxe CD audio system. I would have preferred the rear wiper/washer switch to be mounted with the front wiper stalk, instead of down low on the IP stack. There’s something of a ‘mood light’, which cascades down from the headliner. The headlamps have the much-appreciated ‘Auto’ setting. The glovebox should be renamed the Owner’s Manual box; that’s all it can really hold.

Both seats have inboard fold-down armrests, and the passenger seatback can flip forward for additional cargo or work-related space. The driver’s rear seatback has a cargo net-style pocket, while the seat itself has a manual height adjustment lever. The driver’s window features auto-down, with both window controls found at the bottom of the IP stack.

2007 Chevrolet HHR Panel LS
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Exterior mirrors are power-adjustable. Visors have unlit vanity mirrors, and the ability to slide for the right sun blockage.


Clarkey rating

The simple question to ask of any company requiring a cartage vehicle is this; how often is it full? If the answer is anything in the neighbourhood of ‘Seldom’, the HHR Panel is the treat for your fleet. The oversights are few, and it’s hard to ignore the promotional capabilities of those swoopy slabs, as well as 10.2 litres per 100 kms in the city. Fix the sniggly bits, and the future HHR Panel will easily score a five-star rating, up from the current model’s four-star showing this week.

Next week: Mitsubishi Lancer DE

Michael Clark is a Winnipeg-based freelance automotive writer

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