I have owned an HHR since they first appeared (three years, I think) and I love my orange car. She is extremely quiet (much better, in my brother's opinion, than the PT Cruiser, which he has ridden in but I have not), and sails over bumpy roads like a smooth little boat. She's got room and is fuel efficient... no gas guzzling bloated vehicle for me. I love my HHR, and have had nothing but reliable service from her.
GM has had problems with cheapness in the past and is still being criticised for it here and there, but overall the situation is improving. Chevys look and feel better than they have in the last 20 years, and the same improvement can probably be seen in other GM makes. But Chevrolet is GM's part of The Cheap Three- Plymouth (defunct 2001), Chevrolet, and Ford. A Chevrolet is not supposed to look and feel like a Bentley; giving the customer the best quality for the price is the main priority. So if it looks and feels a bit cheap, that's because it is. Pay the higher bill for a Buick or Cadillac if you want premium quality materials.
I have been riding around in friends' Honda's and Toyota's lately. They are just slathered with the type of hard plastic many of you are calling "cheap" hard plastic. The reason I say it is the type of plastic you are referring to is because it is the exact same plastic that is in my GM's. The only difference is, people call this type of plastic "cheap" when it is in a GM, but think it is perfectly acceptable when it is in a Honda or Toyota. I will never understand that. But let's get real here. I would rather not have an extra $1,000.00 added on to the cost of my ECONOMY CAR for opulent dash materials, where no matter which ones GM uses, they will never satisfy the domestic vehicle critics anyway.
GM clearly spends its development funds on building solid drivelines that perform well, are fuel efficient and provide long term durability. That is where I would much rather have my money going.
I should also mention, the "cheap" plastic in the Honda's and Toyota's I have been riding around in lately is falling apart. But I suppose the import fans look the other way on these types of issues too.
I do agree with the comment above. I have driven two Toyotas (Yaris and Camry), an HHR and a Lexus. I think the HHR feels just as good as any Toyota or even better.
I, however, would stick with an old Mercedes if you want quality and value in the same package. Oooh, the thunk when you close those German doors!
I rented an HHR with only 5,000 miles on the clock when my car was in the shop ONCE AGAIN (it was a Ford at the time. I've since purchased a far more reliable Honda CR-V).
The HHR was the worst vehicle I've ever driven. It was extremely loud at all speeds. Road noise was very pronounced and the engine made a constant low (and LOUD) hum. Holding a conversation with passengers was a challenge, as you constantly had to raise your voice any time I stepped on the accelerator.
The interior fit and finish was deplorable (as is the case for most GM products). Panels were misaligned and there were many rattles. The glove box wouldn't stay shut.
Looks are in ones opinion, but to me, the HHR is downright hideous.
Overall, definitely the worst car I've ever driven.