It’s all in the details

David Yochum

Chrysler’s cruiser focuses on accents, enhancements

Like writing a final exam, details are the most important part of the PT Cruiser.

Motor Trend‘s 2001 Car of the Year winner, the retro PT has cruised through six years with minor body enhancements, engine upgrades and slightly restyled fascias.

Combining chrome door handles, color dashboard accents, white face gauges, and power windows and doors at a base price of $14,485, the Cruiser is an attractive entry-level buy.

But it’s losing steam.

Testers were hard pressed to notice subtle styling changes on the PT Cruiser, having mixed feelings for its exterior.

“It’s heart-like,” Dinovo explained. “The front hood doesn’t blend well with the shape of the car.”


+ Colorful dash

+ Retro getting old

+ Chrome everywhere

– Stiff back seats

– Dashboard window


– Touchy brakes

Dinovo said she felt the PT Cruiser had distinctive classic and modern design, while Goffe wrote the car “looked old and small.”

The PT Cruiser’s cabin, set off by an “inferno red” dashboard, glistened with retro styling cues such as a ball-shaped gearshift knob and analog clock.

Chrysler’s interior layout looked as if a design team put long hours into the vehicle, but testers thought they may have overlooked ergonomics.

“I don’t like the window controls in the center of the console,” Dinovo said. “I’d like to see a light near the front of the roof too.”


Base price: $14,485

Price as-tested: $17,175

Engine: 2.4L DOHC 16V 4-cylinder

HP @ rpm: 150 @ 5100

Torque @ rpm: 155 @ 4000

Transmission: 4-speed auto

Base weight (lbs): 3,147

EPA mpg (city/highway): 22/29

No student could understand Chrysler’s use of a dashboard analog clock.

“You have to look at the clock and think,” Rogers explained. “Digital is easier to read.”

Mixed feelings about the PT continued throughout its road test.

Rogers found the Cruiser’s braking to be “firm enough to give someone whiplash.”

Sheth, crammed in the drivers seat, said the wagon’s brakes were worse than the similar proportioned Scion xB, while Dinovo felt PT Cruiser’s standard 150-hp, 2.0L engine was the car’s downfall.

“It doesn’t feel very powerful,” Dinovo said. “Better than the xB, though.”