2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser. Click image to enlarge
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By Chris Chase
Chrysler PT Cruiser, 2001-2009
I remember when I first saw the Chrysler PT Cruiser in its original Plymouth Pronto Cruizer concept vehicle form at the Ottawa auto show in the late 1990s. It was just so… different, though it wasn’t the first retro-styled new car making the rounds at the time; VW’s New Beetle went on sale around the same time.
The difference was that while the New Beetle was a reincarnation of a particular car from years past, the PT was a truly original design that didn’t attempt to imitate any particular vintage vehicle. Its nifty looks (though some consider it quite ugly) made the PT quite desirable when it was first launched, and it’s remained popular ever since.
While the PT’s outsides were unique in 2001, what was under the skin was quite familiar: the sole powerplant was a 2.4-litre four-cylinder borrowed from the Chrysler Sebring. Transmission choices were a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible. Click image to enlarge
In 2003, Chrysler added a 215-horsepower turbocharged version of the 2.4-litre motor to the mix to create a higher-performance version of the PT; this engine’s output would increase to 230 hp in 2006. In 2004, a “light pressure” turbo motor, good for about 180 horsepower, was added. A convertible was added in 2005, and the PT got a mild cosmetic update in 2006. Transmission choices have remained the same.
A convertible was added in spring 2004 as a 2005 model; it was discontinued after the 2008 model year.
The high-output turbo engine was dropped in 2008, and the light-pressure turbo motor left the lineup the following year.
While the PT’s base engine tends to feel underpowered at times, it’s a reasonably efficient performer, with Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption ratings of 12 L/100 km (city) and 8.5 L/100 km (highway) for older automatic-equipped models; that rating improved in 2004 to 11 L/100 km (city) and 8.1 L/100 km (highway), and manual transmission models did even better. Chrysler recommends premium fuel for turbo models, but these cars can be run on regular or mid-grade in a pinch. Whatever you do, expect a turbo model to use only a little more gas than a non-turbo version, when driven gently.
PT owners posting in PT-related online forums complain of poor fuel consumption, but one I drove a couple of years ago used a reasonable 9.5 L/100 km in highway driving, at an average of around 120 km/h.
Spending some time in PT Cruiser-related discussion forums reveals a few trouble spots with these cars. One is engine overheating, which appears to be very common. In some cases, the cause could be a malfunctioning radiator fan, but owners report overheating problems even with working fans.