What's New for 2011
The sporty SS trim has been dropped, but other 2011 Chevrolet HHR models carry on with minor changes only.
When it came time to develop a small compact wagon, the Chevrolet designers chose to go down the same road as the wildly successful Chrysler PT Cruiser, harnessing retro styling themes to a utilitarian package with a look that captures the spirit of the 1949 Chevy Suburban. Since its introduction in 2006, the Chevrolet HHR (Heritage High Roof) has carved out an effective niche for itself, and now with the passing of the PT Cruiser into history, the 2011 Chevrolet HHR has become a more compelling choice for people looking for a small car that's really practical.
As before, the strong points of the 2011 Chevrolet HHR include its comfortable ride, versatile and roomy interior and impressive fuel economy. But its interior quality and driving dynamics could be better, and it continues to face stiff competition from less expensive hipsters like the Nissan Cube and Scion xB as well as the more refined and athletic Honda Fit and Mazda 3 five-door. Meanwhile, those interested in the HHR Panel van would be wise to check out the Ford Transit Connect.
The 2011 Chevrolet HHR continues to be a respectable choice, particularly if you're fond of its retro styling. Just be aware that there are lower stickers and better-driving cars to be had, depending on your focus. The high-performance HHR has been dropped from the lineup for 2011, and we wonder if the impending replacement of the Chevrolet Cobalt by the Chevrolet Cruze will have an impact on the HHR's future at Chevy.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Chevrolet HHR is available as a traditional four-door, five-passenger hatchback wagon or a two-seat Panel variant. The HHR Panel is meant for business owners with its windowless rear cargo panel doors and rear quarter panels, cargo floor storage compartments and rear 40-amp power point for accessory equipment.
The HHR is offered in three trim levels: LS, 1LT and 2LT. The HHR Panel comes as an LS only. The base LS model starts off with 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, full powered accessories, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat (regular HHR only), OnStar and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack.
The 1LT includes 16-inch alloy wheels, body-color mirrors and a power driver seat. The 2LT adds a larger four-cylinder engine, a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth and a seven-speaker Pioneer audio system with subwoofer. Options are limited on LS models, while LTs have access to a sunroof, remote ignition, rearview camera, an iPod/USB interface, leather upholstery and heated front seats.
Powertrains and Performance
Chevy's front-wheel-drive HHR gives buyers a choice of two different engines: the standard 2.2-liter inline-4 that makes 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque and a 2.4-liter inline-4 offered on LT models that generates 172 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. Both are mated to either a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic.
With the automatic transmission, EPA estimated fuel economy for both the 2.2-liter and 2.4-liter engines checks in at a respectable 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. Opting for the manual results in only a slight increase in fuel economy.
Standard Chevrolet HHR safety equipment includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, OnStar telematics and side curtain airbags.
In government testing, the HHR earned a perfect five-star rating for both front- and side-impact crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the HHR its highest rating of "Good" for frontal-offset impacts, and an "Acceptable" rating for side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Chevrolet HHR also earns praise for its attractive, roomy passenger cabin. The standard cloth seats are comfortable enough; the more supportive optional leather-trimmed seating is even more inviting. The layout of controls is simple and straightforward, with good outward visibility on wagon models. However, we recommend the optional rearview camera system for extra assistance on Panel vans due to their non-existent sight lines out back.
Folding down the wagon's front passenger seat and split-rear seatbacks creates a useful flat load floor and 58 cubic feet of cargo space (63 cubic feet for the Panel van). The only real criticism we have of the HHR's cabin is the relatively cheap look and feel of some of the materials used.
Even the more sporting HHR 2LT actually feels fairly soft around the edges, tuned for a quiet, cushioned ride rather than a fast pace in the corners. This is a kind of a wagon, after all, meant for carrying rather than driving. To us the effort level of the electric-assist steering feels too light, and the stopping distances with these tires and this front-disc/rear-drum brake package is relatively unimpressive.
Both of these inline-4 engines feel coarse when revved hard, a condition that's hard to avoid when accelerating quickly. With that in mind, we prefer the HHR's more energetic 2.4-liter power plant, since it doesn't have to work as hard and is just as fuel efficient with an automatic transmission.