2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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For a long time, the iconic Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf Cabriolet occupied a unique position in the marketplace and garnered a loyal following – particularly among women buyers. With its convertible top stacked up on top of the rear deck like some kind of folded beach umbrella, this funky convertible emulated the design of European convertibles of the 30s and 40s. It was succeeded by the retro-styled New Beetle convertible, also very funky – and was joined more recently by the Mini Cooper convertible and the Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible.

The ‘accordion-style’ folded roofs of the New Beetle, Cooper and PT Cruiser convertibles are necessitated by a lack of space in the trunk to store them. But practical considerations aside, I suspect this roof design has been for carried forward into the 21st Century as a styling gimmick. Combined with the retro styling of the vehicles themselves, these convertible roofs echo the charm of a bygone era.

The Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible was first introduced in the Spring of 2004 as a 2005 model, and the 2006 model remains one of the least expensive, four-seater convertibles in the Canadian market starting under $28,000.

There have been some minor design changes for 2006. The PT Cruiser’s front bumper is new, as are the headlamp covers and grille design – but the changes are so subtle that most people won’t even notice them.

A revised interior design includes new seats and fabrics, a new instrument panel with three larger gauges that are easier to read, and a radio/CD player with new MP3 capability that’s been moved higher up above the heater controls. There are also new rotating air vents, a round clock, a new passenger grab handle, a larger glove box, and a new centre console with sliding armrest. As well, all PT Cruisers now have advanced multi-stage front air bags.

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible
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Pricing and standard equipment

The 2006 PT Cruiser convertible comes in two trim levels: ‘Touring’ starting at $27,790 and ‘GT’ starting at $32,650. The former comes with a standard 2.4-litre DOHC 16-valve four cylinder engine with 150 horsepower, or an optional turbocharged 2.4-litre four cylinder engine ($1,550) pumping out a respectable 180 horsepower. The uplevel PT Cruiser GT convertible, like our test car, offers a High-Output version of the same turbocharged engine with 230 horsepower (up from 220 in 2005). Touring models with the base engine offer the choice of a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission ($1,150), but with the turbocharged engine, only an automatic transmission is available. GT models, which have the High Output turbo engine, are available with a five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick manual shifting mode ($1,350).

In Touring trim, convertible PT Cruisers come well-equipped – there is no base version of this convertible. Standard features on the Touring convertible include 205/55R-16-inch all-season touring tires and alloy wheels, non-functional sport roll bar, front disc/rear drum brakes, fog lamps, AM/FM/CD player with six speakers, air conditioning, power black or beige cloth convertible top and matching vinyl boot cover, glass rear window with defroster, tachometer, power windows and door locks, remote entry, manually-adjustable front seats with driver’s lumbar adjustment, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, split 50/50 folding seatbacks, front and rear 12-volt powerpoints, and round dash clock.

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible
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The GT convertible adds a more powerful High-Output turbocharged engine, 205/50R-17-inch all-season performance tires and alloy wheels, four disc brakes with ABS, leather upholstery, heated front seats, 6-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and fake carbon fibre dash trim. My test car included driver and passenger multi-stage airbags, side airbags in the front seats, and a driver’s knee airbag. As well, there are LATCH child seat anchors.

Options on my GT convertible test car included an in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 player ($455), and chromed aluminum wheels ($650). With Freight ($1,050) and A/C tax ($100), my test car came to $35,335.

A new premium stereo is also available for 2006: a Boston Acoustics Audio system with 368-watt amplifier and six speakers ($730).



Interior Impressions

After you press the button on the old-fashioned chromed door handle and pull open the rather heavy driver’s door, you’ll find a very tall, upright seating position. It’s like sitting up at the dinner table, and though my first impression was negative, a week of driving which included a 700-km road trip didn’t produce any back discomfort. Still, I never really liked the seating position because I felt it was too high even in its lowest position. And I’m five-foot nine.

The PT Cruiser convertible seats four passengers (the hardtop model seats five), and there is sufficient legroom and headroom at the rear for adults up to about five-feet ten inches tall. The right front passenger seat folds and slides forwards to make entry to the rear easier, but it’s still a bit of a scramble to squeeze through. The sport bar (not designed for rollovers) obscures forward vision for rear seat passengers, and sitting back there with the top up feels claustrophobic because of the small rear window and enveloping top.

The appearance, fit and finish of the interior is quite upscale. A mixture of leather surfaces, two-tone soft plastic, faux-metal and chrome trim on the dash, gauges and cupholders, a new chrome clock in the centre stack, and a round ball shift knob on a chromed shift lever add a lot of character and colour to the interior. As well, the painted sport bar in my test car matched the exterior colour, and the beige fabric convertible top coordinated with the cream-coloured exterior.

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible
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The front perforated leather seats, heated on the GT model, are quite comfortable, but the rear seats and backrests are stiff. I found the dash controls easy to use even if the central position of the power windows buttons is unusual.

The PT Cruiser convertible comes standard with split 50/50 folding seatbacks – a great idea because there isn’t much trunk space (210 litres/7.4 cu. ft.). These rear seats not only have folding seatbacks, but they flip and fold up against the front seatbacks, or they can be removed entirely. The only drawback is that the opening to the trunk isn’t that big. The trunk lid opens upwards and it’s somewhat difficult to load items through the vertical opening. The flexible vinyl boot cover, when carried in the trunk, consumes quite a bit of trunk space too.

Still, when you own a convertible, you expect compromises in trunk space in order to have that wind-in-the-hair experience. As compact convertibles go, the PT Cruiser convertible is actually quite spacious: it has seating for four, split folding rear seatbacks, and a small trunk.



Convertible top

The cloth convertible top, available in black or tan, is a very well-made top. The exterior is made of a quality fabric material, while its fully lined and insulated interior keeps out drafts and wind whistles. As well, it doesn’t flap or billow at high speeds, and even provides some sound insulation against outside noises. I did experience a wind whistle near the driver’s side mirror, but it wasn’t coming from the top.

The power-operated can be lowered by releasing a lever in the windshield header and pressing a button which lowers it in about 10 seconds. This can be done without getting in and out of the car, but if you want to install the boot cover, you’ll have to get out and it takes about five minutes to do install it. The boot cover has a couple of snaps on the sides and must be fitted under a ledge. It’s a bit fiddly, but it works.

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible
Click image to enlarge



Driving Impressions

With 230 horsepower from its turbocharged 2.4-litre twin cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine, the PT Cruiser GT convertible is a surprisingly fleet-footed vehicle, and a great highway cruiser. Though it’s a four- cylinder engine, it develops a hefty torque figure of 245 lb-ft. between 2400 rpm to 4500 rpm, so there’s plenty of power on tap for passing. 0 to 100 km/h takes less than 7.5 seconds, and torque-steer is manageable. Low-speed traction control helps prevent wheelspin on slippery surfaces.

Official fuel consumption figures are 10.4 L/100 km (27 mpg Imp.) city, and 7.9 L/100 km (36 mpg Imp) highway, and the High Output turbocharged engine requires Premium 91 octane fuel.

The PT Convertible’s standard manual five-speed transmission has notchy, direct and easy throws, and clutch action is light. A four-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick manual-shift mode is available as an option.

Handling is well controlled but not sporty – the PT Cruiser has front MacPherson struts and a rear twist beam axle but the car’s tall body and high ride height produce some lean when cornering. Its standard power-assisted rack and pinion steering provides an easy steering feel and good straight-line tracking at high speeds. However, with the 17-inch tires, the GT Convertible’s turning circle is over 40 feet, and U-turns are a challenge, if not an impossibility. Curiously, the PT Cruiser Touring convertible, with its 16-inch tires, has a turning diameter of only 36.7 feet. The GT has four disc brakes with standard ABS, while the Touring model has front discs/rear drums without ABS.

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible
Click image to enlarge

With the top down, the windshield vibrates alarmingly when the car hits bumps or potholes. There was so much shudder, I was concerned the windshield might even pop out of its frame! But it didn’t of course, and on normal paved roads, I found windshield shake minimal. Wind buffeting in the front seats is minimal, particularly with the side windows up, but rear passengers will have a bad hair day.

Visibility for the driver to the front and sides is excellent, but with the top up, there is a large blind spot to the right-rear. As well, the lower ledge of the rear glass window is high, obscuring the view of the front of the car behind you. With the top down and the vinyl boot in place, the driver can just barely see over the top of it through the rear-view mirror. In the PT Cruiser convertible, drivers need to take more care when changing lanes or when backing up – but it’s the same problem with the New Beetle convertible and Mini Cooper convertible.

2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible
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Safety and Reliability

NHTSA government crash tests have not been performed on the PT Cruiser convertible, but the PT Cruiser hardtop received four stars for the driver and four stars for the front passenger in a 35 mph frontal crash test. When equipped with side airbags, the PT Cruiser hardtop received four stars for the front passenger and five stars for the rear passenger.

The PT Cruiser convertible is Recommended by Consumer Reports and has an Average predicted reliability rating.



Verdict

An attractively finished four-seater convertible with retro looks and surprising power, the Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible has a lot of character but visibility to the rear is a problem for the driver.


Pricing


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications for the 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible


Crash test results


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