Own a 2009 2LT version. It does everything I wanted it to. I'd only change a few things: 1. install four wheel disc brakes instead of the "disc/drum" brake combination. 2. install the full roof rack instead of just half of it and expecting the buyer to purchase the other half as an aftermarket option. 3. upgrade the radio/cd player so its more robust. CD's keep sticking inside the player necessitating playing games to get them unstuck. 4. change the engine intake air filter housing design. The housing removal is a major pain when you want to change out filters.
Don't let the funky retro styling fool you, this is a very practical vehicle. We are empty-nesters who seldom have more than two people in the vehicle but haul a lot of stuff around with our hobbies and this is just the ticket. We have a 2.4L Auto with the 1Lt package and it has plenty of features. The high seats are good for us older types, the short doors make entry/exit easy in tight spots and the rear view camera is definitely recommended. Drives well, plenty of power at highway speeds, and quiet.
After working at GM for 30 years and seeing a lot of different designs this one has been an eye catcher from the start. There are several areas that cold have made this little ride even better. Such as a six speed auto transmission for mileage with the double overdrive and a independent rear suspension. Other than that a very practical vehicle. Getting in and out is very easy for someone short or a 6 footer plus. Two problems, brake rotors too small but there is a fix. When buying new rotor buy the ones for an SS model they are 11.680 inches in diameter as opposed to 10.850 original rotor. The only other thing you must do is change both brake caliper brackets and still use your old calipers, then bleed the brakes. If you still feel a shack in the front-end if you have over 100,000 miles on your HHR it probably needs new lower control arms. Don't buy anything but Moog, others are poor quality. Number two problem is plastic inside door handles. When buying new ones consider chromed metal handles available on Ebay for around $22.00. These thing I have learned are from a retired GM tool maker/machinist, ME.
I like this car. But Edmunds only lists the 2.2L engine with Man trans. I got the 2.4L with 4 spd auto. Interior is hard plastic, but leather seats are good. Mileage is 27 mpg avg. I downsized from a Mini Van. After purchase, started noticing so many HHRs out there. Rear view camera is valuable. I got 2LT pack, like the 17" wheels, seems very solid, lots of sound deadening material. Practical design, fold flat seats good. Windshield not very high, but got used to it quickly as did with steer by wire steering. All in all, I'd say give this a look. At least it doesn't look like all the rest of small suvs. Lots of aftermarket stuff to add on.
This car purchase occurred when my beloved Volvo wagon got totaled. I bought a Chrysler Pacifica because it was AWD. My wife drove a 2003 Cavalier that she, apparently, loved. I hated that thing -- it was low to the ground, had awful safety ratings, terrible reliability. She was carting around the kids and her mother on shopping trips almost daily in a cramped compact. I gave her the Pacifica because of the AWD (Northeast winters), the extreme level of comfort you can achieve with proper (frequent) maintenance, better safety rating and I took the Cavalier. I couldn't stand it and drove it to a dealership 2 months later. I bought a 2011 HHR in 2015. Yes, I realize that the HHR is a glorified Cobalt which is a "newer" Cavalier. There is nothing cool about this car if you're under 70. There is no resale value to this car. I cared that I was buying a 2011 Something with 55K in 2015 for under $10K that still carried a tiny slice of a GM warranty. -- The ride quality is "acceptable"... a little rough, but not annoying. Halfway decent pick-up. -- The ability to haul moderate sized items is "very good". You can put in a standard walk-behind lawnmower relatively easily with room for a child's car seat. -- The MPG is "alright"... 23 MPG, but it seems like I fill up rarely. -- The interior is "alright"... it's true, it's a pile of plastic inside, but it cleans easily. -- The instrumentation is "alright/very good"... the dash has a lot of info (shows MPG, 2 trip odometers, tire pressure, radiator temp, outdoor temp), but my button to change between categories can become unresponsive at times, telling me this isn't a strongly assembled system. Plus, I know that the outdoor temp is usually wrong. I take it with a grain of salt. Plus, this is an 1LT edition... but it lacks nearly ALL of the 1LT upgrades. I think I got one power seat out of the deal. -- The stock speakers are "acceptable"... slightly better than the old Cavalier. It has an AUX jack which is helpful alongside a CD player. -- It has, as of now, never needed repair.