By Jeremy Cato
Chrysler is now launching a convertible version of the PT Cruiser, the little
car/truck/utility vehicle that took the market by storm when it hit showrooms three
years ago as a 2001 model.
The retro-style PT Cruiser has been around long enough to get a firm handle on where
it stands in both the new and used car market. Used car buyers, of course, concern
themselves with reliability and price, and on both fronts the Cruiser tells an
For the most part, the Cruiser has held up well in terms of quality and reliability.
Consumer Reports has it on the “recommended” list and a deep dive into technical
issues shows that aside from a few issues with the powertrain control module, there
doesn’t appear to be much for nearly-new buyers to worry about. There have been four
safety recalls since 2001, also (see Buyer’s Alerts).
Price? A three-year-old PT (PT stands for Personal Transportation) is selling for
about 60 per cent of its original sticker. That’s slightly below the industry
The Cruiser, of course, is one of those vehicles you either love or hate. Personally
I’m a fan, although I do wish this Neon/SX 2.0-baseed vehicle had sharper driving
responses. The steering is heavy, the ride is a bit stiff and at higher speeds the
cabin can be noisy. The braking is very, very good, though, and the Cruiser has done
well in government crash tests.
On a more practical vein, the interior is extraordinarily versatile. The rear seats
are removable and the front passenger seat can be folded to enhance cargo space.
There is easy access through all four door and the high seating position is both
comfortable and good for outward visibility.
Do note that the 150-horsepower four-cylinder engine provides okay power and it’s
only marginally fuel efficient. To boost horsepower, a turbocharger arrived for 2003
and it adds 65 horsepower to the 2.4-liter four-cylinder, for a total of 215. A
hefty 245 foot-pounds of torque (up from 162) cures the PT’s terminal case of the
cutes. Turbos do generate a lot of heat, though, and heat causes extra wear and
So this tall, five-seat hatchback with the removable seats and the cabin room of a
minivan, this “gangster” car all wrapped in bulging fenders, flared sills, wide
wings, bullet-shaped taillamps and deliciously brilliant chrome door handles, has a
lot to offer as a used car.
I doubt anyone ever guessed this would be the case way back on that day in January
1999 when the Cruiser was unveiled at Detroit’s North American International Auto
Show. But because this wagon that looks like it was pulled out of a Dick Tracy comic
strip has been successful and remains attractive because it not only looks stylish,
it also offers sensible features.