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By Jil McIntosh
Photos by Paul Williams
Say what you like about sedans – there is nothing like a hot summer night, an open road and the top down. Cool wind in my hair, warm smell of colitas and all that (no, I have no idea what colitas are, either).
So when I picked up the Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible, the first thing I did was lower the top, despite threatening skies. And it stayed down, even when I hit a bit of rain. If you saw an idiot out on the highway, looking up at the sky and yelling, “I don’t care what you do! I am NOT putting up this roof!” that was me.
The ragtop has come full circle: we haven’t had this many available in decades. Chrysler claims that, at $26,995, the 2005 PT is currently the cheapest drop-top in Canada.
That gets you the base Touring model, with a 2.4-litre, 150 horsepower 4-cylinder engine. An extra $1,500 attaches a turbo, for 180 horsepower; the GT starts at $31,785, and its high-output turbo tops out at 220 horsepower. Transmission choices are a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic, with a way-cool cue ball shifter.
I’ve owned a PT for four years, and I found my tester’s 180 horses hit a happy medium. The base engine in our hatchback can be anemic, while the 220 horsepower’s neck-snapping momentum off the line gets tiresome. The base turbo also takes 87-octane fuel, while the GT prefers 91. That can add up. The PT is thirstier than many 4-bangers, returning 10.9 litres/100km for me. But hey, the top goes down! (I can forgive a lot when motoring open-air.)
Overall, the convertible shares characteristics with the hatchback – responsive handling, comfortable upright driving position and simple controls, thoughtfully placed. The ragtop has considerable cowl shake, but doesn’t feel flimsy. Much of that is due to the reinforcing carrying handle – oops, sport bar.
The top is a simple operation – turn a handle and hit a switch, and roof and windows go down. Attaching the vinyl boot cover is fiddly, but a retractable panel would raise the price considerably.
The vinyl boot cover also robs a great deal of rearward visibility, especially for shorter drivers. But hey, the top goes down! It’s quieter than expected with the top up, and the rear window is glass, with an electric defogger.
The design also compromises the hatchback’s legendary cargo capacity (but hey…). The trunk lid swings up and out, so you have to bend in half to access the 74 cm trunk. However, the rear seats both fold and tumble – via trunk-mounted latches, so you can lock belongings securely with the roof down – to a maximum 124 cm of storage.
The question to ask, if you’ve never owned a convertible, is if you will do the extra maintenance. Soft tops don’t need cotton-wool coddling, but there are a few realities: they can mildew if lowered too long when they’re damp, and they should be washed by hand, not an automatic car wash. You can’t treat it like a metal roof.
It’s not as functional as PT hatchback, and the squared-off roofline is controversial – but hey, the top goes down, and summer nights beckon. How did we kid ourselves into thinking that a sunroof was ever good enough?
Technical Data: 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Touring turbo convertible
|Options||$ 4,515 (turbocharged 2.4 litre engine $1,500; 4 speed automatic $1,120; side airbags $500; 4 wheel disc brakes with ABS $765; AM/FM/CD 6 disc changer $455; driver’s seat power height adjustment $175)|
|Price as tested||$32,560|
|Type||2-door, 4-passenger convertible|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||2.4 litre 4-cylinder, turbocharged, DOHC, 16 valves|
|Horsepower||180 @ 5100 rpm|
|Torque||210 lb-ft @ 2800-4500 rpm|
|Tires||205/55R-16 all-season touring|
|Wheelbase||2616 mm (103.0 in.)|
|Length||4288 mm (168.8 in.)|
|Width||1704 mm (67.1 in.)|
|Height||1539 mm (60.6 in.)|
|Trunk volume||210 litres (7.4 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel type||unleaded regular 87 octane|
|Fuel consumption||City: 11.7 l/100 km (24 mpg)|
|Hwy: 9.1 l/100 km (31 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain Warranty||7 yrs/115,000 km|
|Assembly location||Toluca, Mexico|