Fleet News

Chrysler PT Cruiser

Review

THE PT Cruiser is a clever piece of 1950s retro-Americana that taps into a rose-tinted age of high fins and post-war optimism, and one that Ford has followed with its Thunderbird and Forty-Nine Coupe.

Except that the only Thunderbird the PT Cruiser could outpace, with its wheezy 140bhp 2.0-litre petrol motor, is Virgil Tracey, particularly with a load on board. Despite a 0-60mph time of 9.6 seconds, it struggles after that.

So bolting in a Mercedes-Benz derived 2.2-litre common rail diesel, with all its resultant torque, should help matters greatly, and at the same time make it a more attractive fleet option. The 2.2 CRD, which has been developed specifically for the European market - the Americans are not bothered even how you spell diesel let alone run a car on it - is the same unit that has appeared in the C-class and E-class, with a few revisions to squeeze it under that bulbous bonnet.

To get it in, the engine has had to be turned east-west. This throws all the vibration and sound calculations out, so balancer shafts have had to be added to smooth it out.

The motor also gets a different turbocharger and intercooler and smaller intake and exhaust manifolds. The result is less power than its German cousins, at 121bhp compared to 141bhp, but there is more than enough torque to pull it along, particularly for overtaking.

And of course there is the benefit from having diesel fuel economy, which is 40.9mpg on the combined cycle, compared to 33mpg for the petrol.

From a company car driver's point of view though, the 3% diesel surcharge on personal benefit-in-kind tax throws a spanner in the works.

The 2.2CRD emits 185 g/km of CO2, which puts it in the 22% bracket, compared to the 2.0-litre petrol which is 1% lower with emissions of 196 g/km. Add to that a higher on-the-road price - the Touring CRD is £17,940 on the road compared to £15,995 for the petrol model, while the Limited CRD is £18,890 to the petrol's £17,395 - and it will cost the driver £839 and £907 in tax for the diesels and £732 and £796 for the petrols.

Behind the wheel

The 2.2 CRD engine is good. It is smooth and has plenty of surge and is quiet once the car is cruising. It is a big improvement over the petrol version and feels quicker on the road despite a two second slower 0–60mph time.

It still will not hustle along though. Like all the best manufactured pop stars, the PT Cruiser's looks are more impressive than its performance, because under the hot rod exterior lies a family mini MPV, and it is set up as such. The ride is pliant to the point of wobbly, especially noticeable on fast motorway lane changes where the car pitches and wallows, and the gearbox is designed for a leisurely trip between cogs.

But the seats are soft and huggy and there is a decent amount of space for front and rear passengers, although the interior manages to veer between nice retro touches such the steering wheel and 'cue ball' gear stick, and hard, bland American mass production like most of the switchgear.

The CRD gets a good amount of equipment, such as air conditioning, remote central locking, front and side airbags, anti lock brakes, traction control, cruise control and electric height adjustable driver's seat.

I would pay the extra for the diesels, but the problem will be getting hold of one, as there are likely to be only 1,000 in the UK this year.

  • Will the PT Cruiser diesel find a place on your fleet? Email your views to fleetnews@emap.com

    Top speed (mph): 114
    0-62mph (secs): 11.3
    Combined fuel economy (mpg): 40.9
    CO2 emissions (g/km): 185
    Price (OTR): £17,940 (Touring CRD), £18,890 (Limited CRD).

  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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