August 30, 2012
2006 Chevrolet HHR LS. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
By Chris Chase
Photos by Peter Bleakney and Jil McIntosh
The Chevrolet HHR – short for Heritage High Roof – was Chevrolet’s 2006 response to the Chrysler PT Cruiser retro wagon, only five years late to the party.
If you boiled the HHR down to its basics, you’d find that it was essentially a station wagon version of the Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac Pursuit/G5 twins. To that end, the HHR came with the same choice of 2.2L (143 hp/150 lb-ft) and 2.4L (172 hp/ 162 lb-ft) four-cylinder engines as the Cobalt/Pursuit. Likewise, transmission choices were between a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic. Like the PT Cruiser, the HHR stood out looks-wise, but used pretty mundane powertrains.
In 2006, a base LS model got the 2.2L and also included air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors as standard, plus keyless entry, fold-flat front passenger seat and 16-inch wheels. An upgrade to the LT got you the 2.4L motor, plus a power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, chrome exterior accents, ABS brakes, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, and sport suspension.
For 2007, both engines got more power, to the tune of 149 hp/152 lb-ft in the 2.2L, and 175 hp/165 lb-ft in the 2.4L.
The 2008 model got a real power boost, though, with the introduction of the HHR SS, powered by GM’s 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder, with its 260 hp (with the stickshift; automatic models made do with 235 hp). Stylistically, it differed little, save for 18-inch wheels. Also new that year was the HHR Panel, a cargo hauler with no rear windows or rear seat.
2006 Chevrolet HHR Panel LS. Click image to enlarge
In 2009, Chevy made the Panel available with the SS powertrain, creating the perfect vehicle for small companies offering an express delivery service. The addition of variable valve timing to the 2.2L bumped power to 155 hp/150 lb-ft, stability/traction control were made standard across the line, and Bluetooth was offered as an option for the first time.
The safety quotient improved in 2010, when head curtain airbags were made standard in all trims. An upgraded stereo was added to LT and SS models, and the SS also got a standard sunroof. A rear-view camera was optional.
Chevrolet discontinued the HHR SS in 2011, and made the 2.2L available in all LS and LT models (whereas before, it couldn’t be had in the uplevel 2LT trim).
Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption ratings were 10.1/6.4 L/100 km (city/highway) for a 2.2L model with the manual transmission; with the automatic, highway consumption increased to 7.1 L/100 km. The 2.4L’s ratings weren’t far off, at 10.2/6.8 with the manual, and 10.4/7.0 with the automatic.
2006 Chevrolet HHR LS2006 Chevrolet HHR Panel LS. Click image to enlarge
The variable valve timing added to the 2.2L in 2008 (or 2009, depending on who you ask) lowered consumption to 9.5/6.6 L/100 km with the automatic, or 10.3/6.6 with the stickshift, and a 2.4L with automatic was now rated at 9.6/7.0. The SS’ ratings were 10.9/6.9 with an automatic transmission, or 9.8/6.8 with the more entertaining manual gearbox.
The HHR’s power steering system is run by an electric motor (rather than driven by the engine, via a belt), and that motor is prone to failure. You’ll find helpful information at this thread at ChevyHHR.net, this post in a different discussion, regarding a Canadian recall to fix the same problem, and this post at YourCobalt.com.
A hard-shifting automatic transmission is commonly caused by a bad camshaft position actuator solenoid.
It’s common for the ignition switch to bind, making it hard to turn and/or remove the key. GM extended warranty coverage to fix this, but not for all model years, a decision that irked many HHR owners, who feel that this problem does indeed affect older models.
A shifter that won’t move out of park is caused by a bad brake/shift interlock. Another apparent problem with the shifter is that the button at the top of the lever gets stuck in the “in” position, allowing the shifter to move freely through the gear positions, and also causing a stuck key. Here’s a charming homemade YouTube video from one HHR owner who had this problem in his car.