Not Cease from Exploration

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's Election Day, So I'm Going To Write About...Cars


There will be enough political ruminating to go around over the next few days, so why I'd just as soon talk about something else, namely cars.

Now I actually own three cars: a PT Cruiser, a Saturn Vue and a Chevy Cavalier. As part of my job I often have to drive to other offices in northeast, mainly in New Jersey and Connecticut. Now I could drive one of my own cars, but instead I usually rent a car. My last two rentals have been a Chevy HHRs.

Interestingly enough, the HHR is something of a cousin to the PT Cruiser, as I understand they were both designed by the same person (who worked for Chrysler but then was later hired by GM). There is something a family resemblance between the two cars, as both are famous (or infamous) for their retro style. There are also similar styling cues in the interior, with rounded vents, and "ball" shifter (although one of my HHR rentals didn't have the ball). Appearances aside, there are some distinct differences between the two vehicles:

Size -
Length...HHR is longer
Width...PT Cruiser is wider

MPG/Cruising Range -
HHR has an enormous cruising range...I made a round trip to and from Islen NJ with almost a half tank top spare; best guess...the HHR could probably go 400+ miles at highway speed; I'm thinking a highway milage of about 30-33 mpg;
My PT Cruiser gets, at best, about 25 mpg on the highway with a good tailwind; the cruising range is about 100 less than the HHR;

Handling -
HHR has predictable handling and decent acceleration for it's hard-working 4 cylinder engine;
My PT Cruiser has almost pitiful acceleration, but Cruisers with a Turbo Charger move very quickly. Cruisers are also well known for having fairly wide turning circles;

Controls -
The 2006+ PT Cruiser (which I have driven on several occasions) has, in my opinion, blan...almost horrible controls. I much prefer the 2005 and earlier PT Cruiser controls, as I think they are both functional and better in keeping with the overall aesthetic of the of vehicle. The HHR's controls remind me of the 2006 + Cruiser...namely boring.

Comfort -
The Cruiser winds, hands down. I hit my head about three times getting into and out of the HHR, with it's strangely low door openings. The HHR suffers from a worse view in the rear, with a smaller rear window that is even more obscured by rear head-rests. Seating wise, both cars have high roof lines and "chair" seating. If you are looking for Buick-esque comfort you won't find it in either car.

Now, which "cousin" do I prefer? Well maybe I am slightly biased, but while I give the HHR higher overall marks for functionality, the PT Cruiser seems to have more "soul". I'm not sure if that means much, as the HHR has actually won the market race: it continues to be produced (and in fact HHR sales are actually up in 2009 vs 2008...one of the few vehicles to achieve this) while Chrysler has actually killed the PT Cruiser.

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