2009 PT Cruiser New Car Test Drive
The Chrysler PT Cruiser combines the retro look of late-'30s American iron with modern performance, efficiency and features. The PT Cruiser comes in two body styles, a versatile five-door wagon and a not-so-versatile two-door convertible.
The five-door model's tall body boasts lots of room for people and cargo. In fact, its interior volume and versatility compare well to a small SUV. Fold the seats down and you can carry an eight-foot ladder. Pull the rear seats out and you can haul a load of building materials or a big-screen TV. Yet the PT Cruiser is small and easy to park.
It's also easy on gas. The lower-level models are competitively priced, and we think they make the most sense.
The PT Cruiser convertible is one of the least expensive convertibles on the market. It looks like a chopped-top gangster-mobile with the top up and puts the wind in your hair with the top down. Roomy seats make it great for four passengers. Its trunk is tiny and awkward, however; in fact, we can't think of a trunk that's less convenient than the one on the Cruiser convertible.
The PT Cruiser doesn't fit within existing automotive marketing segments, but competes on some levels with the Chevy HHR, the Scion xB, and the Mini Cooper. Like them, it is essentially a car: The PT Cruiser is based on the Dodge Neon, a compact car noted for sprightly performance. So it drives like a car, though the handling is not as good. Cruiser is an appropriate name.
Chrysler has dropped the high-performance GT models for 2008. Frankly, we thought they were over-priced and favored the standard model that is still available.
New for 2008, a tire-pressure monitor and front side air bags are now standard on all models and the base wagon is now called LX. In addition, the Touring model gets a standard automatic transmission and 16-inch wheels. The 2008 Limited model now has 17-inch wheels, the 2.4-liter turbocharged engine, ABS and traction control as standard equipment.
The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser comes in two body styles: a five-door hatchback/wagon Chrysler calls a sedan; and a two-door convertible. The wagon is available in three trim levels: base LX, Touring and Limited. The convertible comes as a single model.
All PT Cruisers are powered by a 2.4-liter, twin-cam four-cylinder engine. In all but the Limited model the standard engine is tuned to deliver 150 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional ($825). A 180-horsepower turbocharged version of this engine is standard in Limited wagons and optional ($1905) in Touring wagons and the convertible. The price includes antilock four-wheel disc brakes and traction control. (The 230-horsepower High Output turbocharged version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder is no longer available.)
The base PT Cruiser wagon ($14,940) comes with AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo; fabric bucket seats and floor console; tilt steering wheel; power windows; speed-sensitive power locks; remote keyless entry; engine immobilizer; tinted glass; rear window defroster, wiper and washer; 65/35 split folding and removable rear seat; trip computer; theft-deterrent system; rear spoiler; and P195/65R15 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers.
The Touring wagon ($18,930) adds air conditioning; cruise control; YES Essentials cloth upholstery that Chrysler says is odor, stain, and static resistant; a six-way power driver's seat with lumbar adjustment; power mirrors; fog lights; and P205/55R16 tires on alloy wheels.
The convertible ($18,530) adds all the same equipment as the Touring wagon, plus a firmer touring suspension, a power convertible top with soft boot cover, and a 50/50 split rear seat.
The Limited model ($22,660) is well equipped with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a sunroof, a universal garage door opener, Sirius satellite radio, the touring suspension, and P205/50R17 tires. (Yes, you read that right; the Touring suspension comes on the Limited, not on the Touring model.)
A Street Cruiser Sunset Boulevard Edition ($845) for the base wagon includes a sunroof, illuminated visor mirrors, map lights, rear privacy glass, P205/55R16 tires on chromed alloy wheels, chrome interior and exterior trim, and Street Cruiser and Sunset Boulevard Edition badges.
Options include a 368-watt Boston Acoustics premium sound system ($695) that comes with Sirius satellite radio and is also available with a six-disc CD changer ($750 convertible, $800 Touring and Limited); a sunroof for Touring wagons ($795); heated front seats for the convertible and Touring wagon ($250); Sirius satellite radio for the base wagon ($195, including a one-year subscription); and Chrysler's UConnect hands-free cell phone link ($360) for Limited. Many of the standard features on higher-line models are also available as options on the less expensive models.
Safety features include dual front airbags; torso-protecting front side-impact airbags; and a tire-pressure monitor. The front belts have pyrotechnically charged tensioners, just like in luxury cars, to tighten the belts for the initial stages of an impact. The rear bench is equipped with child-seat tethers. Antilock brakes and traction control are standard on Limited. They are also included with the optional turbocharged engine and are available as a $625 option for other models.