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More than a retro styling exercise, the PT Cruiser is also fun to drive and surprisingly functional.
Unique styling, low purchase price, roomy and flexible interior.
Only 150 horsepower, engine noise at high rpms, initial demand will exceed supply.
Classic styling and modern utility were the guiding forces behind Chrysler's PT Cruiser. Based loosely on the Neon platform, this small van offers a flexible interior, head-turning looks and, sadly, only 150 horsepower. A more powerful engine is already in the works.
Chrysler has done it again. In 1984 they gave birth to the minivan and forever changed the face of family transportation. Then in 1993 they brought us the Jeep Grand Cherokee, an attractive combination of luxury appointments and off-road prowess that helped establish the current popularity of SUVs (that's right, it's partially Chrysler's fault). Now comes their latest segment-buster: the PT Cruiser.
Based on the Neon platform, Chrysler expects the PT Cruiser to serve as the ideal "city car" with its combination of compact exterior dimensions and spacious interior layout. Although shorter than a Neon in overall length, the Cruiser sports 120.2 cubic feet of interior space. Chrysler took a page from the New Beetle/Focus/Echo design school when creating the PT's tall shape. The result is an interior package that bests the Neon by 18 cubic feet and supplies both front- and rear-seat passengers with plenty of head and legroom. Adding to the PT Cruiser's functionality is a highly flexible interior that allows for easy removal of the 65/35 split-folding second seat. With the second seat gone, 76 cubic feet of cargo-carrying capacity await your load-hauling needs. If still more room is required, the front passenger seat can be folded nearly flat, allowing longer items to be carried within the Cruiser's confines while keeping the rear hatch closed. A final storage provision comes in the form of an adjustable cargo-area shelf that can be used to stack items or positioned as a tailgate table during those summer picnics.
Powering this stylish package is the rather pedestrian 2.4-liter inline four that has served duty in Dodge's Stratus and Plymouth's Breeze. With 150 peak horsepower and 162 foot-pounds of torque, the engine doesn't live up to the PT Cruiser's "hot rod" image. A turbocharged, 200-horsepower version of this powerplant made the show-circuit rounds in a concept car dubbed the "GT Cruiser." We've heard a rumor that next year, a turbocharged or supercharged PT will be available for sale.
Standard features you will find on every PT Cruiser include air conditioning, AM/FM stereo radio with cassette and six-speaker sound system, driver and front passenger one-touch down power windows, and a user-ready child seat-restraint anchorage system; all for $16,000 plus destination charge. Jumping from the standard model to the Limited Edition PT Cruiser gets you a Touring Suspension, leather front seats, fog lamps, a chrome exhaust tip, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for front occupants, overhead console, power moonroof, speed control, fold-flat front passenger seat, power heated fold-away mirrors, remote keyless entry, power locks, and 16-inch chrome alloy wheels. Options include ABS and traction control, and a fully loaded Limited Edition model tops out around $20,000.
Chrysler has a history of creating fun cars that appeal to a wide range of customers. The PT Cruiser looks to be another successful blend of price, practicality and personality.
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