Small MPVs like the Citroen Xsara Picasso, the Fiat Multipla, and the Renault Scenic have become the preferred family vehicles in Europe over the past decade. With their tidy exterior dimensions, they're easy to maneuver on the narrow streets of crowded cities. Although their cabins are not as cavernous as those of U.S.-market minivans, they have tall roofs, and they make very clever use of every single square foot of space. The general consensus was that we Americans had little or no interest in European-style MPVs, since we so love our big SUVs and minivans. Nonetheless, when Chrysler introduced the PT Cruiser here almost six years ago, it was an immediate success, because it wasn't just utilitarian and affordable; it was stylish, with an appealing retro-delivery-van exterior design that resonated with baby boomers.
Chrysler has had the retro-wagon market to itself until now. For 2006, Chevy introduces the HHR, which is virtually identical to the PT in concept. GM says the styling was influenced by the current Chevy SSR convertible pickup as well as the 1949 Suburban. Park the PT and the HHR side-by-side, and it will be obvious to you that they are competitors. Both are fairly low-slung, tall-roofed wagons with four doors and a hatchback that lifts to reveal a versatile load area with movable shelving and other clever features.... Read full article