The Chrysler PT Cruiser defies easy categorization. Essentially a throwback model based on the styling cues of 1930s-era panel trucks, the five-passenger, front-wheel drive PT Cruiser is a compact vehicle underpinned by the same platform supporting the Dodge Neon sedan.
2001 to 2010: Chrysler PT Cruiser
Introduced as a four-door wagon in 2001, the PT Cruiser was joined briefly by a two-door convertible version from 2005 through 2008. Although this model shares its architecture with the Dodge Neon, it has its own body shell and interior layout.
Up front, the PT Cruiser is marked by a waterfall grille and teardrop-shaped headlamp assemblies. Oversized arches run from the front of the car and across the front wheel wells, and again from the rear wheel wells to the back of the car. Upper character lines, lower body sculpting and a tapered roofline add to the PT Cruiser’s retro charm. From the rear, this model is dominated by its hatchback door and teardrop-shaped rear combination lamps.
Inside, the PT Cruiser features bucket seats up front and a split-folding rear bench seat that can also be removed to expand its storage capacity. A two-tier storage compartment is unique to this model.
Upon its debut, the 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser offered a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and paired it with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. Those earlier models made 150 horsepower.
Beginning in 2003, Chrysler added a high-output turbo engine that makes 215 horsepower and was produced through 2007. Beginning in 2006, this engine reached 230 horsepower.
Starting in 2004 and continuing through 2009, Chrysler offered a second turbo variant based on the 2.4-liter engine for select trims, this one making 180 horsepower.
From 2005 through 2008, the two-door PT Cruiser Convertible was offered, and this four-seat model has a retractable cloth top and an integrated sport bar to increase body rigidity. It's available with both the naturally aspirated and turbo engines and comes with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
Numerous factory special editions were produced from 2002 to 2009, beginning with Flame and Woodie packages. Various Street and Dream Cruiser models followed. Useful technology features were added over the years, beginning in 2006 with the available Uconnect interface that adds Bluetooth. An auxiliary input was also added in 2006.
For its final year, one trim level was offered: Classic. Chrysler also dropped Bluetooth, the turbo engine and the five-speed manual transmission. The automaker also made four-wheel disc brakes, cruise control and a driver’s information center standard.
Chrysler PT Cruiser shoppers might compare this model to the Chevrolet HHR and the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen. Similarly sized models include the Pontiac Vibe, Toyota Matrix, Suzuki Aero, Scion xB and Kia Soul.