California Autos Examiner

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Chevy HHR Rental Review Part 1

As mentioned in my last podcast I rented an HHR this evening. As you might recall my last encounter with Hertz SFO was not the best. I had reserved an Audi S4 and when I got there they didn't have it. They make the argument that they only guarantee the class of car, not a specific model, but yet when they sell you the gold membership one of the listed perks is "Reserve a Specific Brand and Model."

Okay, so today I thought I had all my bases covered. I called the 800 number and asked for the local branch to confirm that an HHR was there and in my name. I got the local brand and was greeted with "HHR what? What's an HHR?" Fudge. I explained that the HHR is one of the "Fun Collection" cars that they offer. "Oh" she says, "Hopefully we'll have one for you when you get here."


No! I explained to her that I don't really NEED a car. I specifically WANT this car. "Oh" she says, "Let me check with dispatch." I waited and waited. "Sir, dispatch is going to pre-reserve the car for you" she chirped. I failed to get her name. This would turn out to haunt me.

I arrive at the rental car lot and walk up to the "Gold" board with high hopes of seeing my name and stall number. Yeah, right. My name is not there. Okay, to the counter we go. The clerk asks me my name and if I'm a gold member. Then he asks me, "So, sir you were looking for a PT Cruiser?"


I informed him of my reservation for an HHR. “A what?”

Now honestly. In the few minutes that I was there I saw so many flip books that showed every car in the Hertz fleet. Does the staff not have fifteen minutes do go through it and learn about the cars that are parked 10 feet behind them?

“A Chevy HHR” I told him. “Oh, we don’t have that right now” he said. At this point I would be really pissed except the exact thing happened a couple of weeks ago so I wasn’t that surprised. I explained about my phone call earlier in the day. “Did you get her name?” he asks. Dammit! I didn’t. He makes a few phone calls, then disappears behind the wall. I start thinking about what else I might want. Maybe an Audi A6, Nissan 350z…hmmm. He returns behind the counter and makes more calls. He then announces that he’s “found” an HHR and hands me the keys. “Stall 202,” as he waves me on.

I arrived at stall 202. My name isn’t there, it’s somebody named Fred. They have given me Fred’s car. The paperwork all matches up, so I get in to the car. What do I find? “We appreciate your business! Please enjoy our complimentary upgrade.” These losers have upgraded Fred to a car that I had reserved weeks prior! Fred didn’t even ask for an HHR and would probably be fine with any number of other cars, but instead they’ve taken a very limited availability model and given it to Fred. A car that I had to beg for.

Not feeling sorry for Fred in the slightest I start the car and motor onto 101. A cricket seems to have hitched a ride with me. Squeak Squeak Squeak. I pull over to find rear folding seats that aren’t full latched. A quick click and I’m on the road again.

I like the car. I think it’s a dynamite design and I love the curve of the hood. PT Cruiser wannabe? Whatever, it’s a fun design. The “high output” engine is a bit raucous when floored but I don’t mind it. The dash is nice. Logically laid out and well lit. The speedometer is adjustable from MPH to KMH so that it doesn’t have those tiny little KHM numbers below the larger MPH ones. I really like this feature. I makes the gauge looks so much cleaner. Why doesn’t everybody else do this? There is a light in the roof that shines down to illuminate the controls. The Jaguar X-type uses a very small, orange colored light to do this, but the HHR has a rather large blue, white light that can be a bit distracting. They should use a more focused, smaller bulb. The steering wheel has cruise, trip computer and radio controls but the font is too small to read. The controls are illuminated and once you’re familiar with the car the font point is moot. The new corporate “bow tie” radio is good, featuring station information and a jack for plugging in whatever audio device you might have. The sunroof is very large. The headliner isn’t the old style “rat fur” but a nice weave. The window controls are located in the center console, a feature that I don’t mind but one that seems to bother others. The armrest is a little short in my opinion, but I’m happy that it is there at all.

Those are my initial thoughts on the car. Overall, I’m a big fan of the HHR. I like the look and it is quite roomy. Click here for the second part of this review.

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