On test: Chrysler PT Cruiser 2.2 CRD review (2001-2005) – MSN Cars UK

19 Oct 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on On test: Chrysler PT Cruiser 2.2 CRD review (2001-2005) – MSN Cars UK
Chrysler PT Cruiser

On test: Chrysler PT Cruiser 2.2 CRD review (2001-2005)


Engine:2.2 in-line 4-cyl

Fuel type:Diesel

Transmission:5-speed manual

Date of test:December 2002

It’s a hot rod. Well, almost. Of all recent retro cars, this is the most imposing, purely because it’s so much larger and brasher than a Beetle or a MINI.

The bonnet in particular stands out as a throwback to 1950s Americana, while even the wheels are suitably lashed in chrome. But the reason it’s so big is that it’s actually Chrysler’s mini-MPV offering; a roomy, tall-roofed car for five, with lots of stowage slots and a user-friendliness to make smaller families very happy.

Where does it fit?

It’s one of three Chrysler MPVs, alongside the larger Voyager and Grand Voyager from a class above, while the company’s only other passenger car, the more conventionally shaped Neon saloon, is dated and a bit of a waste of time. The Neon donates some of the PT Cruiser’s mechanicals – a gruff 2.0-litre petrol engine in particular – but, thankfully, the American company’s owners, Mercedes, supplies this 2.2-litre diesel engine. Effectively, the PT Cruiser is a competitor for Renault’s Scenic, Citroen’s Picasso and Vauxhall’s Zafira, although it is arguably more of a ‘coupe’ MPV alongside those rivals; it’s easily more eye-catching, at the expense of ultimate room.

Is it for you?

You won’t turn quite as many heads as in a MINI, but only because the PT Cruiser is now a relatively familiar sight on our roads. Rest assured, people will look – particularly if it’s painted in some of the gaudier colours on Chrysler’s palette, but you can probably forgive that because the PT Cruiser is roomier inside than a regular hatch, with space in the rear to keep even teenagers happy.

Whether they’ll enjoy their parents gaining so much ‘street level’ respect, however, is another matter entirely. Meanwhile, the diesel Cruiser makes the petrol version look pointless; it’s fast and efficient, where the petrol one is slow and thirsty – and, amazingly, noisier too.

What does it do well?

The 2.2-litre engine is a real gem. Producing 119bhp, it’s a punchy unit delivering surprising pace. Acceleration is strong, even at 80mph and above, while a heavy right foot will easily have the front wheels spinning in second gear – or in third if it’s wet. It’s a good job that there’s traction control.

The gearshift and clutch are extremely tactile, if surprisingly heavy, though there’s enough pull to ensure they don’t have to be used much. The engine’s smooth and revvy too – in fact again, most un-diesel-like. A smooth ride makes the PT Cruiser a comfortable drive, while the wacky interior is a delight, particularly the metal gearlever with its snooker cue ball knob, plus deeply-recessed instruments and body-colour panels throughout.

Chrysler PT Cruiser

What doesn’t it do well?

This is no sports car, and it shows little enthusiasm for corners- a feeling compounded by steering that’s too light and oddly ‘viscous’ when turning into a corner. Delicacy is demanded. There’s also a lot of wind noise at speed, negating some of the benefits of the refined engine, while a sharp clutch and fierce throttle response can make city driving overly jerky. The brakes are also a bit heavy.

Meanwhile, the interior lacks the sheer space of rivals (definitely a case of style over space-efficiency) and the front seats are hopeless- they don’t hold you in around corners, and are too soft to offer any sort of long-distance comfort.

What’s it like to live with?

Initially, it can seem infuriating beyond belief. It won’t start unless you dip the clutch, then beeps if you don’t but your belt on, don’t shut the door properly, put it in reverse, leave the lights on, run low on fuel. all with very noble motives, but why is the noise so unpleasant? And why is the key such a fiddle to remove? And why is so much muscle required to engage reverse?

Annoying niggles, yet it’s American, so we must forgive Chrysler. Instead, focus on 41mpg fuel economy, low tax brackets, decent retained values and a decent warranty. However, insurance is a steep Group 12, and dealers can be a bit thin on the ground.

And most diesel rivals are more economical.

Would we buy it?

We’ve saved our biggest PT Cruiser criticism until last; its price. It’s simply too expensive, despite a reasonable standard spec, and particularly when rivals such as Citroen offer more capable and more practical vehicles for many thousands of pounds less.

And while the Chrysler is quick, thanks to its excellent engine, you’ll pay the penalty at the pumps, particularly if you utilise all that power to the full. There’s no denying it’s a great car to look at, and a very brave design from one of America’s largest manufacturers, but until Chrysler reviews prices we’d struggle to recommend it over talented rivals. However, we’d love to own it all the same – it’s that endearing.

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