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.
We bought this car for my wife in 2010 (new). The only problem we've had is with the ignition switch, which got stuck in the ON position & the car would not shut off. This happened on a Sunday afternoon & onstar was spectacularly unhelpful. The operator told us to find a shop that was open & go there, then sent us to Honda dealer which was closing by the time we got there (5pm). We finally had the running car disabled & towed to Bachman Chevrolet, per Onstar's instructions. (something to do with warranty regulations blah,blah,blah). Bachman Chevrolet had the car up & running free of charge by 3PM Monday, so pretty good service on their part.
500+miles on the road on a tank of gas $17,000.00 out the door with Power Windows, locks, remote start, navigation system, am, FM, XM, cd, and onstar. Drives nice and a lot of car for the price I have a 2008 max pick up that refuse to pass a gas station. For the price and the cost to operate this the the best that it have been for me.
We have an HHR LT with the 2.4L Ecotec FlexFuel, automatic. Drives great.
Plenty of pick-up.
But no one mentioned the engine is NOT happy using the Ethanol gas we have to put in it!!
To get decent gas mileage we have to put in an additive by Lucas every time we fill up! That's a pain. I would think about it before buying.
Another problem is that the interior has MANY blind spots. You have to be extra careful to look more than normal to make sure you see properly.
(Esp. for someone short in height.) It sits comfortably and the power driver seat works well.
The round air vents are nicer than the standard louver ones.
There are ample cup holders compared to many more expensive cars.
Early HHRs had many teething problems; some of them serious. My 2010 model has been trouble free. The car went in for two recall items: ignition switch and power steering, even though I was not experiencing any problems. Neither visit cost me anything. My mileage isn't great - about 22mpg (80% street). I don't use ethanol. A drop of ethanol has about 85% the energy of a drop of gasoline. Not to mention some water content. The car is plenty peppy for me.
The A pillars are very thick; take a little getting used to, but the interior is very comfortable. Entry/exit is very easy unlike some cars with a low roofline. I also like the useful cargo area and A/C. There is a little compartment in the middle of the dashboard - very handy.
I do my own oil changes and the HHR is the best car for this. The new type oil filter is so neat, no mess. Owners of earlier models have reported transmission problems at around 40K+ miles. I only have 33K miles; no problems yet. So far I'm very happy.