And that makes it feel all the more treacherous that the inevitable pang at its return to Chrysler was tinged with more than a little relief.
It was the lack of manoeuvrability in tight spaces that finally got to me. The large turning circle wasn’t just an irritation and a waste of time. Having to execute a three-point turn to get into a parking spot was embarrassing as onlookers might assume I was a new driver not up to the task of slotting into a parking bay.
Previous testers all loved the car’s quirky retro looks, as well as its striking Electric Blue Pearlcoat colour scheme, though one pointed out that it was very much a ‘love-it-or hate-it’ kind of vehicle that would emphatically divide opinions.
As to performance, our tester Jeremy Bennett said: ‘The Cruiser is a little lacklustre in first gear, taking a moment to respond to throttle pressure, but this is barely of concern when the car is such an impressive cruiser, giving an ultra-smooth ride and, at speed, great throttle response through the 2.2-litre Mercedes-Benz common-rail diesel engine, which offers one of the highest torque figures (221lb-ft at 1,900-2,600rpm) in its sector. You can be confident of safe overtaking with a 40-60mph time of 5.4 seconds and 50-70mph time of seven seconds.’
I second all that, having previously extolled the Cruiser’s virtues on the straight – it’s just made for long motorway journeys.
But editorial assistant Kate Batchelor complained about the seating position and I’d agree with her too, particularly when it comes to driving along twisty country roads.
She said: ‘Driver and passengers feel as though they are sitting on top of the seats rather than in them and there’s very little side support, so they are left clinging to the steering wheel and grab handles as they list.’
The manufacturer says the PT Cruiser is the perfect alternative to a typical MPV with no compromise on space. Apparently, the fold/tumble/removable seats offer 25 configurations and create a loading surface long enough for an 8ft ladder.
There is also plenty of luggage space in the boot and ample leg room for passengers in the rear. Back in April, Fleet News predicted the Cruiser would be ‘fun, frugal and functional’ and it has satisfied in all those respects. At the time, we said if it could do that, ‘we’ll be on our way to finding a near-perfect five-door hatchback, not something the fleet industry would expect from a Chrysler’. If that’s the case, it’s a shame one smallish niggle has put me off.
What the team thinks
DRIVING the Cruiser was like dating a supermodel. Initial impressions were dominated by its looks – it is a stunning car and the risk Chrysler took to bring such an outlandish-looking model to mainstream motoring paid off even now, so long after its launch. There’s still nothing on the road that can really match it for looks. However, get under its skin and it may leave you wanting more. Changing gear was less knife-through-butter than fence post in treacle and the car had to go back to the manufacturer to have the steering wheel centred.
THE PT Cruiser is a stunning looker and we see more of them on the roads than we used to. But my experience with our test car was that the driving didn’t match up to traditional hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and new Vauxhall Astra and its never-ending warning bleeps drove me mad.
Chrysler PT Cruiser 2.2 CRD Limited
Price (OTR): £17,220
Final mileage: 7,981
CO2 emissions (g/km): 185
Company car tax bill (2004/5) 22% tax-payer: £81 per month
Insurance group: 12
Combined mpg: 40.9
Test mpg: 39.6
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,225/37%
HSBC contract hire rate: £367 per month
Final expenditure: Nil Figures based on three years/60,000 miles