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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh
Having sold copies to just about everyone who wanted it for its retro design, and no doubt bracing for the similarly-styled Chevrolet HHR due later this year, DaimlerChrysler ups the appeal of the aging PT Cruiser by performing major reduction surgery on its price tag.
Until the end of 2005, the base Cruiser drops by $4,200 to an all-time low of $15,998.
“Base” is the key word here, and this model certainly is, although some options such as air conditioning, power locks and an automatic transmission can be added, at prices that will increase the car’s purchase or lease payments by less than $20 a month.
The base PT is powered by a 150 hp, 2.4-litre four-cylinder that moves the heavy little car with leisurely acceleration.
More expensive models come with a 220 hp high-output turbocharged version of that engine, or a mid-range 180 hp turbo that’s possibly the best of the three, offering decent performance on regular gas without the high-output’s need for premium fuel.
The base transmission is a five-speed manual that’s surprisingly smooth and well-done, and comes with a way-cool billiard ball shifter.
This rock-bottom model is pretty much decontented; there’s no air, no cruise control, no rear power outlet, and without power locks, the rear hatch lacks a handle release and must be opened with a key. It also feels like there’s less sound-deadening material. Still, it does come with a rear wiper, a CD player with six speakers, tilt wheel, sliding sun visors, floor mats, manual remote mirrors, and no doubt to save on door redesign costs, the power windows, with express-down on both front ones, that are standard equipment across the PT’s range.
The payoff for the lack of amenities is utility: this is an incredibly versatile machine, and more mini-minivan than car. Despite having a wheelbase and overall length that’s shorter than the compact Dodge SX 2.0 (upon whose platform it’s based), it has more rear-seat headroom and legroom than the full-size Chrysler 300 sedan. I’ve ridden from Oshawa to Detroit and back in the rear seat of one, a round trip of over 800 km. That’s something I wouldn’t dream of doing in most small cars, but I emerged comfortable and unscathed.
Reconfiguring the rear seats opens the cargo area from 65 cm to a maximum of 150 cm. The seats can be folded or flipped forward, or removed entirely for a completely flat cargo floor. They’re not light and it takes some grunt power to get them out, but they do roll to their storage spot once they’re free.
I don’t know what else could have been eliminated to make up the cost, but unfortunately, the fold-flat front passenger seat available on the pricier models isn’t on this one. When it’s folded, it’s possible to carry eight-foot boards with the rear hatch closed.
The front seats are minivan-styled as well, offering firm but comfortable seating and a commanding view of the road, with good visibility all around. The steering is direct and responsive, although there’s a bit of torque steer, and the turning radius is wider than expected on a car this small.
If you’re really gentle with it, you can coax fairly good fuel economy numbers out of it; EnerGuide rates it at a combined city/highway average of 8.6 L/100 km. But take it up over posted highway speeds for any length of time, as I did on several longer hauls, and you’ll pay dearly it for: my final figure at the gas pump was a heart-stopping 15.0 L/100 km.
The PT Cruiser remains the only car to go directly from showrooms, right from its introduction, into the hands of thousands of owners who immediately customized them (most, unfortunately, with too many stick-on accessories). Hundreds gather in Niagara Falls, Ontario each summer for a massive cruise-in, one of several held annually around the continent. You can’t deny the popularity of the little retro-styled car that, although it looks vaguely like a 1937 Ford, isn’t actually based on any antique car.
Even in this stripped-down form, the PT Cruiser feels solid and stable; the low price tag doesn’t mean you’re in a cheap car. And if you absolutely must, you can always bolt on a set of fender skirts and pretend it’s the 1950s.
Technical Data: 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser
|Price as tested||$17,048|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger compact hatchback|
|Engine||2.4-litre inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves|
|Horsepower||150 @ 5100 rpm|
|Torque||165 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Tires||P195/65R15 Goodyear Eagle all-season|
|Curb weight||1408 kg (3101 lbs.)|
|Wheelbase||2616 mm (103.0 in.)|
|Length||4288 mm (168.8 in.)|
|Width||1705 mm (67.1 in.)|
|Height||1601 mm (63.0 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||620 litres (21.9 cu. ft.) (behind rear seat)|
|1818 litres (64.2 cu. ft.) (rear seats out)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 9.8 L/100 km (29 mpg Imperial)|
|Hwy: 7.5 L/100 km (38 mpg Imperial)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/ 60,000 km|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|