Is A Chevy HHR The Ultimate Rent-A-Wreck Car?

Illustration for article titled Is A Chevy HHR The Ultimate Rent-A-Wreck Car?

A good side effect of the Jalopnik March Madness Beat-Off is that it's reminding you of some bad cars that have more or less faded into history. Which is always useful for some laughs, like the Chevy HHR.


Do you remember the Chevy HHR? You should now. It was a knock-off PT Cruiser, or a Chevy Cobalt in a funny hat. Neither of which are good things to compare it to. It was reasonably popular, but it isn't in demand very much these days. That means it's bound to end up in unseemly places.

Like in a Rent-A-Wreck fleet. Andt turns out FriscoFairlane is familiar with the typical selection of vehicles Rent-A-Wreck proudly (?) offers:

The Kia Sephia and 1st gen Rio are on my short list of the absolutely most hateful crapcans I have ever driven. I used to work at a Rent-a-Wreck, so I got to drive a lot of hateful little crapcans. The list is as follows, starting with the worst:

1. Chevy HHR. There is absolutely nothing good about this car. Limp asparagus drivetrain. Ugly, half-assed retro exterior. Horrid visibility. Laughable ergonomics and materials. Drives like a shopping cart with a mattress on top of it.

2. Gen 1 Kia Rio & Sephia (TIE). These cars just epitomize cheap. No, not just inexpensive, CHEAP. Everything from the floppy transmission, the wind that zips past the seals in the doors to, deafening road noise, and the VW Vanagon-like acceleration, it is surprising that the car is not round like a ball because so many corners were cut. At least they were fairly bulletproof, unlike my next selection.

3. Chevy Aveo. As far as I can tell, this is one of the worst cars ever built since the first Hyundai Excel. Despite having the driving dynamics of a Radio Flyer wagon full of sand, it could have been a respectable commuter capsule. Except absolutely everything fell apart. Stitches came out of the seats. Everything fell off the door panels, including the door panels themselves. Ignition switches held keys hostage, got stuck, or otherwise fucked you over. Door lock cylinders fell into doors. MAF sensors fail every 2 weeks. Airbag lights are constantly on, and wires in the harnesses were probably strung out of rusty old nails. Rotors warped if you looked at them crooked (rental car brakes are always thoroughly abused, but the Aveo brakes would shake the steering wheel off about a week after being serviced). Pretty much everything failed.

Of all the shitty Neons, Chrysler 200s, Kias, Hyundais, Focuses, and other low-brow cars at the Rent-a-Wreck, the Aveos were the only ones that 1. Constantly left people stranded, no matter how much maintenance we threw at them. 2. Cost more to maintain than the cars were worth. Freaking. Nightmares.

Based on the descriptions, the Chevy Aveo seems like the definitive Rent-A-Wreck from new. Or maybe it's because the thought of a Chevy HHR SS as a future classic clouds my judgement.

Still, where to improve the list?

Photo: Getty Images



I rent constantly and the list is definitely missing the worst rental car of the last 10 years...the Dodge Caliber. In rental spec form the interior is a sharp plastic jungle...but what really kills it is the worst CVT of all time. The throttle is binary. Barely pressing it maintains your current speed while pressing it more than a quarter of an inch makes the engine jump to near red-line while the CVT barely accelerates. It's nuts. I seriously cannot fathom how people bought those things.