Don't be fooled by all the negative reviews about the HHR, I would say this has a lot to do with voluntary response. A few people had such a terrible time with this car that they felt compelled to respond. This doesn't happen often when people have a positive reaction to something (go figure).
My HHR was the first new-ish car I had ever purchased. I got an excellent deal at the dealership; a silver 2010 Chevy HHR LT 2.4L with 35k miles for $11,500 in Dec of 2012. I got the 1 year 100k warranty along with it. After driving in a 1988 Chevy Celebrity for two years it was like a dream. During my first few months there was a recall for my power steering motor and I just took it over to the dealership and had it fixed in a couple hours. Easy-peasy.
I'll talk about the negatives first to get them out of the way. Firstly, it does have very big blindspots. I did have to purchase those additional circular mirrors you put in the corner of your side-view mirrors for some additional help merging and parking. The view out of the front is very square and small, not like a normal 4-door sedan where the windshield is rather large. Something you have to get used to and is not for everyone. Again, I'm very small so the small windshield doesn't bother me. The one feature I always wished it had was a USB for my IPhone. It would be cool to be able to charge my phone AND play my music simultaneously but honestly the auxiliary port has been a perfectly good substitute. I would say considering the kind of gas mileage most 4cyl are getting today (2012-2014 models) the HHR does leave something to be desired in MPG. Right now I get 22/30 and I think the new Chevy Cruise gets up to 36 freeway or something like that. In terms of engine performance it is only a 4cyl 2.4L so the acceleration leaves something to be desired. No wonder.
Other than that it has been smooth sailing, my favorite part about this car is that it is easy to keep maintenance up at home like a lot of Chevys. I changed my own brake pads, changed my own oil (after the warranty expired) etc, during the summer and during the winter just took it in if necessary. I even put new rotors on at 50k and it was a snap. Being a very small lady this says something. Parts are very cheap for this guy. Also keep in mind I've put A LOT of miles on this bad boy. I've had it for three years and I just hit 85k (yikes) and it still runs like a dream. Otherwise I made many long trips with this car, even took it to Florida and back a couple times. Space-wise I LOVE it. I have been moving once a year for the past 5 years and with this car I could comfortably pack all of my furniture and make one MAYBE two trips, no UHaul needed. I was also always the one driving a group road trips because my car was the most comfortable for 4 or 5 people.
Winter driving: I was basically Santa driving his flying sleigh through the snow. Enough said.
I really can't think of anything I genuinely didn't like about this car. I feel like most of the people who complain about performance didn't properly maintain their car so boo-hoo on them. At 85k, with proper maintinence, I can't even tell if my car is on sometimes it runs so quietly. I haven't even had to bother getting a tune-up because I have the 100k spark plugs etc. My brother owns a 2008 HHR and his still runs excellent at 130k. Of course he has had to replace his suspension which was expected but it was only 650 bucks. The only weird thing about the 08' is that the window buttons are on the center console. No idea why but mine is normal so who cares.
Long story short, if you are trying to decide whether to get this or a normal sedan, get the HHR. It has so much utility and is just overall just a great little easy-keeper car. I have every intention of driving this car until it can't run anymore.
I will state the car never stranded me but once save the recalled ignition seizing up. ALL recalls effected my vehicle, the ignition one was amazing on how long it took the dealership to replace, I kept getting notices in the mail and each time I called they either were not approved to do the recall, out of parts or some other reason why they couldn't get it in. It finally took me saying its going to get dropped off tonight whether your ready or not! Because my cars ignition will not turn. Remind you this is 6 months after I initially called and each time was told they would call me when they can get it in. Now going into that you would think they would have offered a rental....no. They had it for a week while I drove a family members car, after a week I finally had enough called back and they said they still cant get the part in...I demanded a rental...they said ok with some hesitation. 2 minutes later they call back and miraculously they found the part and I could pick it up in 30 mins. Fast forward 3 months...now my power steering intermittently starts cutting out. I search online and see there is recall for that...not wanting to go through the same deal I just went through I just dealt with it. Fast forward again, I see another recall for the air bag, this was an issue I brought up during the warranty that the light would intermittently turn on that it needs service...they looked at it twice...no shipshape. There was another issue with the door that kept it from closing some plastic pc that they charged me 350.00 after the warranty was up. It broke yet again so I took it to a mom and pop garage... 18 bucks to replace....so much for good service. Car only has 94,000 miles on it I change the oil often and run mobile 1 synthetic. And I have 2 rear doors which I barely ever used that no children were getting in and out of slamming it but they wont stay shut unless I rig them to stay closed. This week my car randomly acts like its stuck in 3rd gear and will not take off from a stop occasionally, even stalling once, once up to 35mph or higher it acted fine. Check engine light also illuminated he next day so I RELUCTANLY schedule them to take a look at it and see whats wrong with the trany and fix the recalls...thank god I made the powertrain warranty of 100k only being at 94k Wrong because the previous owner bought the car in 2009 the 5 year is up, I bought in Nov 2010 btw. with 20k miles., that the powertrain would not cover it...so I say fine whats wrong with it? Well they cant tell without dropping the tranny, that's out of the question, they charged me 350.00 to replace pc of plastic I can only imagine what that would run me just to check the problem. Long story short I have a car that I owe money on still that may very well be shot, that I cant afford to fix. Not to mention they may try to charge me 98.00 to run a diagnostic...good luck with that btw. My only hope is I can role the negative equity with a trade to the Ford dealer across the street with nothing down, because I for damn sure will not deal with this Chevy dealer again. Or likey any other Chevy dealer for that matter.