And the automotive scene is the same. It’s no secret that retro-styling is in fashion. But it’s also practical. The PT Cruiser’s throwback looks helped Chrysler recoup much of the investment needed to keep the Dodge Neon up-to-date. And now General Motors hopes this 2006 Chevrolet HHR will do the same. It too is built on a modern small car chassis, but with a theme that is pure memories.

The philosophy behind the 2006 Chevrolet HHR, which stands for Heritage High Roof, is pretty simple; give buyers a compact vehicle that’s high in style, fun, and affordable, and they’ll buy it. And the 5-door HHR is stylish. Its classic lines recalling the 1949 Suburban, yet looking a lot more muscular than the smaller Chrysler PT Cruiser. The front end with its high dome hood, chrome 4-bar grille, and over-fenders is pure old school. The side windows look chopped in the best street rodder style. At the rear is a useful hatch, flanked by stacked tail lights and prominent wheel arches.

While 16 and 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels add modern flair. And that’s the first clue that the HHR is anything but classic. Built on the same Delta front-drive small car platform as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, wheelbase is a compact-sized 103.5 inches.

HHR powers comes from GM’s Ecotec engine family, either a 2.2 or 2.4-liter dual overhead cam 4-cylinder. The 2.2-liter with 143 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque is standard on LS and 1LT trim. Move up to the 2LT and you’ll find the preferred 2.4-liter with 172 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque.

Transmissions include a 5-speed manual and our car’s 4-speed automatic. The 2.4 automatic weighs in at a stout 3,200 pounds, resulting in a leisurely 0 to 60 time of 9.4 seconds, and a quarter mile of 16.9 seconds at 83 miles per hour.

The engine revs slowly, but smoothly.  Power is impressive at the bottom end, but then tapers off rather quickly as the revs rise.  While hardly a track star, the HHR moves briskly through city traffic and cruises easily on long stretches of highway. 

Hop on to back roads, however, and you find yourself keeping the gas pedal closer to the floor to move its mass up twisty switchbacks. Another practical point of the HHR is fuel economy. It ranges from 22 city/27 highway for the LS manual, to 20 city/25 highway for our 2LT automatic.

On twisty bits we were generally pleased with the strut front, torsion beam rear suspension. In FE3 tuning, it gives the HHR a very nimble small-car character. Like the Cobalt, the HHR uses electric variable-assist steering. But on the HHR it seems to respond faster with better feedback. FE3 tuning also kept body roll moderate, with the HHR only exhibiting serious lean when pushed hard into tight corners.

Where the brakes performed quite well.  Disc front/rear drums, with ABS a necessary option. To haul people and packages, this crossover sports a spacious, well-equipped interior with air conditioning, tilt wheel, and power windows, doors and locks.

Interior styling takes a different turn from the PT Cruiser. It’s all quite modern, and nicely laid out, with impressive build and material quality. Safety features are up to speed. Dual-stage front airbags are standard, with optional side curtain airbags for both rows of seats.

Seat comfort is better than most small utilities with thick padding and good support. The LS has 6-way manual adjustments for the driver seat, while the LT models boast 8-way power. Leather is an extra. Audio equipment ranges from the standard 6-speaker CD stereo with IPOD input, to a top line 260-watt Pioneer system with subwoofer. XM satellite radio and OnStar are available.

The rear cabin is comfortably adult-sized, with good head and leg room. And the 60/40 split seatback easily folds flat for cargo. Which combined with the folding front passenger seat allows for 8-foot long loads, and up to 63.1 cubic-feet of space for stuff. Chevy designers also included a removable shelf, and a wealth of bins and boxes for small item storage.

And here is one more practical point on the Chevrolet HHR. Prices start at $15,990 for the LS. The 1LT goes for $16,990, while the top trim 2LT costs $18,790.

In fact, prices are so affordable they seem a little retro, too. Add in head-turning style and SUV versatility and the 2006 Chevrolet HHR is one captivating little crossover. A retro wagon that loads of modern buyers can love.



  • Engine: 2.4-Liter Dual Overhead Cam 4-cyl
  • Horsepower: 172
  • Torque: 162 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 9.4 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 16.9 Seconds @ 83 MPH
  • Fuel Economy: 20 City/25 Highway