Since its introduction to the UK in 2000, the car has remained largely the same – with the exception of the addition of a diesel engine – while Chrysler’s marketing gurus have attempted to claim the car is anything from a compact MPV to an outlandish alternative to a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra.
Early in 2003, prices were cut by about £2,000 to coincide with Chrysler dropping aspirations to try to compete with the likes of the Renault Scenic and Citroen Xsara Picasso, and it was easy to forget the car still had generous interior space with fully removable rear seats.
The latest evolution in the range is the replacement of the 2.0-litre petrol engine with a more powerful (and Euro IV compliant in readiness for impending emissions regulations) 2.4-litre motor.
We sampled the latest engine on a transcontinental trek in search of Belgian chocolates, salami and cheese topped off with several cases of beer and wine once we hit Calais – all for the purpose of research, of course.
Add to this an already fairly substantial load of overnight bags for two people for a stay in Bruges and the Cruiser’s more-than-adequate bootspace for the size of vehicle becomes apparent.
Its folding/removable rear seats, together with its multi-position rear shelf, can apparently transform the vehicle’s interior into 25 seating positions. With the rear seats removed it offers more than 1,800 litres of cargo volume and the front passenger seat can also be folded forward to provide enough space to carry an 8ft-long item with the boot closed.
Prices for the new model are the same as for the 2.0-litre model it replaces: £12,995 for the 2.4 Classic, £14,520 for the Touring and £16,820 for the top-of-the-range Limited, with auto box. A special edition 2.4-litre petrol GT model, which gets a manual gearbox, costs £14,995.
Chrysler Group managing director Simon Elliott said: ‘The PT Cruiser is still unlike any other vehicle on the road. It’s a spacious family car wrapped in an innovative, fun and distinctly American design.
‘For 2005 the PT Cruiser maintains and builds upon Chrysler’s strong reputation for delivering high specs for low cheques – there are no price changes for 2005, with the new 2.4-litre engine costing exactly the same as the outgoing 2.0-litre unit.’ The vehicle comes in four trim levels – Classic, Touring, GT Special Edition and Limited.
Behind the wheel
OUR trip to and from Bruges consisted mostly of motorway roads, which offered ideal conditions for the car.
As a ‘cruiser’ this car proved to be exceptionally capable, although I was expecting the engine to feel rather more eager.
It is rare to find a £13,000 car equipped with a powerplant as large as 2.4 litres, but performance does not feel that much different from the outgoing 2.0-litre unit. The petrol engine produces 143bhp and 158 lb-ft of torque compared to the 134bhp and 139 lb-ft of torque for the 2.0-litre. It has a top speed of 121mph and a 0-62mph time of 10.6 seconds.
However, drivers will notice the need to refuel more frequently as well as paying higher BIK tax bills – fuel consumption on the combined cycle is now 29.1mpg for the manual compared with 31.7mpg for the old model with a leap in CO2 emissions from 212g/km to 231g/km.
The Cruiser still scores highly for equipment and our Limited-specification test car with manual gearbox included leather/suede seats, heated front seats, chrome-finish alloy wheels, leather-covered steering wheel and cruise control for £16,020 on-the-road.
Although our relatively direct route to and from Belgium meant we were unable to test the car’s performance on winding country roads, past experience with the PT Cruiser has shown this may not be its natural habitat.
But give the car a straight road to swallow up and it performs the role well. The car was comfortable, spacious and well-mannered with a ride that was neither outstanding nor poor.
The steering was nicely weighted and responsive at cruising speed, although the turning circle seemed rather large leading to awkward manoeuvring when parking. It has quite a funky interior with the retro theme of the exterior continued inside. However, build quality was patchy with air-conditioning ventilation caps coming off easily with a light tug. Not great if you’ve got kids.
THE PT Cruiser does exactly what it says on the tin – cruise. And this it does perfectly adequately without offering the best driving experience ever. But anyone choosing this type of car will probably go for its looks and practicality rather than its all-round driving ability.
Model: PT Cruiser 2.4-litre
Engine (cc) 2,429
Max power (bhp/rpm): 143/5,500
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 158/4,150
Max speed (mph): 121 (106)
0-62mph 10.6 (11.5)
Fuel consumption (mpg): 29.1 (26.9)
CO2 emissions: 231 (251)
Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 57/12.5
Transmission: 5-sp (4-sp auto)
On sale: December
Price (OTR): £12,995 - £16,820
Figures in brackets for Touring/Limited with auto box