2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser

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2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2001 to 2005.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Nicely done convertible version of PT Cruiser is a head-turner.
Pros:
  • Lively turbo engines
  • Good ride and handling
  • Fairly roomy back seat
  • Nice top
Cons:
  • Long, heavy doors
  • Awkward folding back seat
  • Low cupholders

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.

Sales Assist
The new soft top promises to significantly increase lagging PT Cruiser sales, which fell to 107,759 units last year from 138,260 in 2002. Chrysler won't say how many convertibles it will build to increase PT Cruiser sales, but promises it will "make a PT Cruiser convertible available for every customer who wants one."

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.

Head Turner
The PT Cruiser hardtop arrived for 2001 and thus is a familiar sight that doesn't turn heads. But my bright purple ("Dark Plum") test PT Cruiser convertible with chromed wheels in top-line GT trim drew plenty of stares, especially from young folks—not to mention drivers of all ages of PT Cruiser hardtops.

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 nicely developed, made-in-Mexico PT Cruiser convertible definitely is ready to go. Chrysler says buyers will "fit into a psychographic of fun-living, confident, style-conscious consumers that goes beyond age, sex or income (and who) value creativity and individuality."

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
All versions of the new convertible come with a fast-acting power top. It's a three-layer, snug-fitting cloth top with a glass window and defroster. The base convertible also has power windows, a tilt wheel, a color-keyed "sport bar" that looks like a roll bar, two-tone interior, air conditioning, power mirrors and split fold-tumble rear seat.

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 GT naturally is the most fun because it has the best acceleration and a sport suspension with 17-inch wheels. It also has a chrome-accented grille and fascia, leather-covered seats and a driver seat power height adjuster, along with GT emblems and a sound system with CD and cassette players.

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.

Good Roadability
The power steering in my test car was rather heavy, but also was quick and precise. The car had athletic handling and good braking, with progressive pedal feel. The suspension provided a comfortable ride despite the car's rather short 103-inch wheelbase.

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.

Awkward Doors
Low floors allow easy entry to the front of the quiet interior. Long, heavy doors are awkward in tight parking spots. The front bucket seats provide above-average support, and there are large climate controls and decently sized audio controls. Front doors have storage pockets and an under-seat storage drawer has slots for CDs and cassette tapes.

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
Most cupholders are too low, but all seats are high enough to allow good outward visibility, although the raised top causes bad rear blind spots for a driver. Stylish interior door handles are easily grasped, as are the oversized, chromed outside handles.

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
The back seat folds forward awkwardly to significantly increase cargo space via a pass-through area between the small trunk and rear seat compartment. One must hook part of the folded rear seats via adjustable nylon web straps to keep them out of the way of cargo.

Like the PT Cruiser hardtop, the convertible version has an original design and promises to be a strong seller.

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BB04 - 9/16/2014 8:29:32 AM