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Versatile HHR carries cargo in style

SUNDAY DRIVER -

November 13, 2005|By KEN CHESTER, JR.

With distinctive styling, a spacious, easily configurable interior and economical engines, the all-new Chevrolet HHR suits any lifestyle.

Borrowing elements from the 1949 Chevrolet Suburban SUV and the SSR roadster, the front-wheel-drive HHR is uniquely identifiable - anywhere. Based on the automaker's Delta global small-car platform, its chassis architecture provides the fundamental structural integrity that gave Chevrolet engineers the ability to fine-tune road feel with excellent ride and handling characteristics.

The HHR is a four-door vehicle with a rear touchpad liftgate. Its high roof evokes the look of the 1949 Chevrolet Suburban, while other exterior cues carry the expressive attributes of the SSR roadster - all part of Chevrolet's design language.

All HHR models include an impressive roster of standard features such as air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, power outside mirrors and remote keyless entry. In addition, every HHR sound system features an auxiliary channel and front-mounted auxiliary input jack, so that an iPod or other audio source can be played through the vehicle audio system. A powerful, 260-watt Pioneer enhanced-performance audio system with subwoofer is available.

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Built at the automaker's Ramos Arizpe, SL, Mexico, manufacturing complex, the HHR is available in LS, 1LT and 2LT trim levels. Standard power for the HHR is provided by an Ecotec 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, with an Ecotec 2.4-liter four-cylinder mill an available option. Torque is communicated to the street through the standard Getrag F23 five-speed manual gearbox. The optional Hydra-Matic 4T45-E electronically-controlled four-speed automatic includes the company's Remote Vehicle Starter System.

On the road, the HHR is responsive from rest - easy to maneuver at speed - with handling and control that are safe and predictable. Starting with the rigid foundation provided by the Delta chassis architecture, the HHR uses a independent MacPherson strut-type suspension with a stabilizer bar up front and a semi-independent torsion beam suspension with a stabilizer bar at the rear. Two suspension systems are available: FE1 on the base and midrange models and the FE3 for the top-of-the-line model.

The FE1 suspension is tuned for a softer ride and includes 16-inch wheels. The FE3 offers sportier handling traits and standard 17-inch wheels and monotube shocks, which provide improved ride and handling. Forged aluminum high-polished 17-inch wheels are available.

Inside the cabin, HHR's interior combines high visibility and the cargo flexibility of an SUV with the comfort, appointments, driving ease and ergonomics of an upscale sedan. The vehicle's high roofline provides increased headroom and creates an open, airy environment. Detailed jewel-like instrument displays and chrome accents contribute to the interior style. Interior color combinations feature darker colors on upper sections of the interior and lighter colors for the lower sections.

Quality is also conveyed in the tailored seats, which provide firmer support, sculpture and plenty of comfort for long drives. The 60/40-split rear seat folds flat with the cargo floor and offers generous and comfortable seating for three, along with good legroom.

Additional clever and useful configuration options include the following: an auxiliary glove box with flip-up cover located at the top center of the instrument panel; the front passenger seat folds fully flat, extending the total load length from the liftgate to the instrument panel; and the center armrest of the front seats is integrated into the seat back frame, so it is out of the way when pivoted into a stowed position.

The thoughtfully designed cargo area features a primary load floor that can become a shelf when raised and mounted approximately one foot higher. The shelf can be mounted level or at a 45-degree angle to provide quick access to the cargo beneath it when the liftgate is opened. A five-inch-deep recessed bin below the load floor can conceal 2.8 cubic feet of additional storage capability. The spare tire is located beneath the bin. There are two storage bins located forward of the load floor, nestled behind the rear seat. Plastic bag holders are conveniently located under the cargo shelf and there is a carpeted cargo mat.

QUICK VEHICLE STATS



Measurements (in inches): Wheelbase: 103.5: overall length: 176.2; width: 69.1; height: 63.1.

Engine: 2.2-liter four-cylinder - 143 hp at 5,600 rpm and 150 lbs-ft of torque; 2.4-liter four-cylinder - 172 hp at 6,200 rpm and 162 lbs-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed manual, or four-speed electronically-controlled automatic.

EPA fuel economy: 2.2L/2.4-liter four-cylinder engines - 22 city/30 hwy., (manual); 23 city/30 hwy., (automatic).

Cargo capacity: 63.1 cubic feet.

Payload capacity: 900 pounds.

Towing capacity: 1,000 pounds.

SAFETY FEATURES



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