2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Is the party over for the Chrysler PT Cruiser?
Probably not for awhile, although DaimlerChrysler began offering a $1,000 rebate for it for the first time early in 2002. That shows the PT Cruiser no longer is the hot number it was a year or so ago.
This writer has driven experimental convertible and hot-rod versions of the PT Cruiser at DaimlerChrysler's proving grounds in Michigan, and they stand a good chance of being produced to keep the PT Cruiser on vehicle buying lists.
Still, there's nothing quite like the current solid, roomy PT Cruiser. Introduced in March 2000, it was designed during the adventuresome days of the old Chrysler Corp. and remains as uniquely styled and practical as ever. No other production vehicle looks remotely like it.
Also newly offered are 1950s custom-car-style vinyl flame decals that ripple over the hood and front fenders. They cost $495 and nicely set off the PT Cruiser's retro styling.
The Dream Cruiser version is a limited-edition trim. High-volume versions of the front-drive PT Cruiser come in Base, Touring Edition and Limited Edition trims, starting at $16,200 and going to $20,265.
Practical Retro Design
The retro styling makes sense and shows that pre-World War II stylists knew a thing or two about occupant "packaging" in that seemingly ancient automotive era. For instance, the tall body and chair-like seating also found in 1930s cars allows easy entry and good room for four to five tall adults with all seats in their normal positions, although the PT Cruiser is considerably shorter than a Dodge Neon.
You can even create a flat loading surface long enough for an 8-foot ladder. And a multi-position removable shelf panel can be put at the same height as the folded rear seatbacks; it's handy during chores such as grocery shopping.
Fun to Drive
Front-seat side airbags cost $350 for Base and Touring Edition trims, but are standard on the others.
Anyway, other new stuff for 2002 includes—finally!—a front passenger-side armrest, AM/FM/CD sound system and a front passenger underseat storage bin. Not to mention what DaimlerChrysler calls a "rear-seat trapped occupant release handle" Steel Blue Pearl Coat is a really cool new color.
The Base trim is offered with a new, optional Power Convenience Group that contains such items as remote keyless entry and power door locks. The Touring Edition includes popular features previously offered in the Touring and Luxury Touring option groups, and the Limited Edition adds a driver's lumber adjuster.
More Power Needed
Add the optional ($825) 4-speed automatic transmission and acceleration becomes lazy, partly because the PT is rather heavy at 3,108 to 3,190 pounds. A V6 would be an especially welcome option for automatic-transmission models.
Poor Fuel Economy
The PT Cruiser offers a lot for the money. But some may want to wait for the convertible or higher-performance versions.