2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser
This 2005 review is representative of model years 2001 to 2005.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The new two-door Chrysler PT Cruiser doesn't have the utility of the four-door hardtop version but looks much slicker and turns lots of heads. It's also the lowest-priced 4-seat convertible offered.
This early 2005 convertible has the same retro 1940s-car front end look of the PT Cruiser hardtop, but has different styling behind the windshield and thus doesn't have the hardtop's ungainly rear look. More than half its parts are different than the hardtop's. But it still looks more like a retro convertible than a modern one because of that front end and tall 61-inch height.
Chrysler annually sells about 20,000 of its more conventional Sebring convertible, which starts at $24,945. It's thus costlier than most trim levels of the PT Cruiser convertible, which begins at $19,405. Only Volkswagen's New Beetle convertible comes close to that price in the four-seat convertible market, with prices beginning at $20,900.
Chrysler has kept up interest in the PT Cruiser hardtop by doing such things as adding higher-horsepower turbocharged engines and customization packages. But the same body style has been retained and has become rather old despite its utilitarian design.
I drove a prototype version of the PT Cruiser convertible several years ago at Chrysler's Michigan proving grounds, where personnel said no production version would be offered until the car was entirely "ready to go."
Ready To Go
The base PT Cruiser convertible has a 150-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and average acceleration with its 5-speed manual gearbox. No automatic transmission is offered for this trim level.
Nifty Power Top
The mid-level Touring version is $22,900 with the 150-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and manual gearbox. You can get it with a 4-speed automatic transmission for $825-and also with a turbocharged 180-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and (mandatory) automatic transmission for an extra $2,105.
That turbo engine provides livelier performance, and there are larger 16-inch (vs. 15-inch) wheels for better roadability.
The Touring also adds speed control, fog lights, an AM-FM stereo with a CD player and a snap-on boot to cover the lowered top for a smoother look. You can get anti-lock brakes on the Touring for $525, or those brakes and traction control for $825-a standard setup for the GT trim level.
The $27,565 GT has a high-output turbocharged 220-horsepower 4-cylinder engine with more torque. It gives the GT fast acceleration and smooth power delivery with no turbo lag. This engine comes with a standard heavy duty 5-speed manual Getrag gearbox, but you can order it with a responsive $290 4-speed automatic transmission with Chrysler's Autostick manual shift feature.
The Most Fun
The chrome-plated wheels cost $700 but look great, although keeping them clean on dirty, salty northern winter roads would be a chore.
All PT Cruiser convertibles have a tachometer, but the GT has stylish silver-face gauges and a speedometer than reads to 140 mph. The GT engine easily handles 70 mph cruising at a leisurely 2600 rpm.
The convertible has a generally solid feel because it was designed to be a convertible-not a PT Cruiser hardtop with its top chopped off and two doors removed. However, rough roads caused minor steering column shakes.
The deeply recessed gauges are hard to read under certain light conditions, and the dashboard-mounted window controls are offbeat. So is the 4-spoke classic looking steering wheel.
Rear Blind Spots
Entering or leaving the rear seat area calls for extra effort even for nimble folks, despite a front passenger seat that tilts and slides forward for easier entry. There's decent space in the rear for two 6-footers, although knee room is tight for a person behind a tall driver who moves his seat back enough to get comfortable. The center of the rear seat is too hard for comfort.
Safety features include front-seat side airbags that are optional for the Touring version and standard in the GT.
Awkward Folding Seat
Like the PT Cruiser hardtop, the convertible version has an original design and promises to be a strong seller.