With the death of the traditional full-size station wagon in the mid-1990s, it was clear that if automakers were going to be able to wring any more life out of this one-time staple of family transportation, they would have to think outside the box --literally. One of the complaints directed towards makers of wagons was that many of them were simply sedans with an enclosed cargo compartment grafted on. While some vehicles managed to avoid this type of awkward styling, such as the Ford Taurus, it was clear that for many American and Japanese car companies wagons were an afterthought. As more buyers moved towards minivans and SUVs to handle their high capacity people moving needs, wagons slowly faded from the public consciousness.
Chrysler had removed themselves from the large station wagon game many years previous, although they had kept their compact program alive throughout the 1980s. As one of the pioneering forces behind the minivan, they were comfortable with letting the competition fight it out over the scraps left over on the wagon market. However, at the end of the 1990's so many manufacturers had withdrawn from the segment that the company sensed an opportunity to capitalize with a breathtaking design that would cause ripples throughout the industry.
The PT Cruiser was a retro-inspired vehicle that bore many of the styling cues common to cars from the 1940s and 1950s: outboard front fenders, a tall roofline and a sloping rear that was modernized through the introduction of a large hatchback. Even the rounded taillights mounted on the rear flanks suggested an era when gentlemen wore top hats and ladies carried parasols. The PT Cruiser combined these sensibilities with a slight panel-truck stance, making the vehicle seem as practical as it was attractive to look at. With the space of a small van but the chassis of a compact car, the PT Cruiser was not only convenient in terms of interior volume but also easy on gas and simple to park. It found an immediate audience amongst buyers interested in a more spacious automobile but not willing to make the leap to a minivan or compact SUV.
This article examines the best used wagon available from the Chrysler corporation, the first generation PT Cruiser, and goes beyond the vehicle's exterior styling to discuss the features and specifications which make it such a popular choice amongst young families and those who require efficient personal transportation.
2001 - 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser
The 2001 - 2007 PT Cruiser is a vehicle which displays remarkable stability in terms of powertrains across its entire production run. In fact, there are only two engine choices available, one of which was offered only for a limited time. Over 90% of PT Cruisers to be found on the secondhand market are outfitted with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 150 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. This motor can be mated to either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission, with the manual offering a much peppier driving experience. Starting in 2003 a turbocharged edition of the same engine became an option on the PT Cruiser GT, and depending upon the model year produces between 215 and 230 ponies. Later versions of the car produce the most impressive power figures. This engine was shared with the SRT-4 Neon, and while it does offer impressive acceleration, torque steer is present and handling is twitchy, making the vehicle a bit of a handful when driven at the limit.
The inside of the base PT Cruiser can seem a bit austere - plastics both hard and soft dominate the cabin trim, with little ornamentation save for attractive dash pods color keyed to the body's paint hue. Leather seats can dress up the vehicle's interior, but in general, the 2001 - 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser is focused on utility, not luxury. Seating is high and upright, and leg room is excellent for rear passengers. With 120 cubic feet of space available for cargo with the second row of seats removed, the vehicle feels cavernous, and the amount of gear that can be swallowed by the compact is astounding, giving it van-like features without the larger footprint.
The 2001 - 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser makes a solid used wagon thanks to its SUV-like cargo capacity and efficient 4-cylinder engine options.