Yeah, I know, the COAL: PT Cruiser thing has been done to death. We had RLPLAUT’s 2002 PT back in 2016 and RETROJERRY’s 2004 PT this last January. But this one is different, it has the updated grille!
I thought about skipping this car, what can I say about the PT Cruiser that hasn’t already been covered? It was actually purchased by my wife as her first ever fun car. I took over the reins for the last 6 months of our ownership, so for the record I guess it needs to get a write up here. I heard you laugh when I said it was her first fun car, but given her previous roster of cars, this one did qualify as fun (I know when she reads this she’s going to object, citing her 1988 VW Fox). She had become principal driver of our 2001 Mazda MPV long after it had lost it’s luster and by 2007 it was time for something new(ish). She decided a PT Cruiser was to be her next ride and the kids could take over the MPV. Our brother-in-law had been driving a 2003 Turbo since new and loved it (he’s still driving that PT). Once we started shopping, we quickly figured out that a one year old program car could be had for substantially less than a new one. After we settled on a color, Magnesium Pearl, it didn’t take long to find one with less than 10,000 miles. The car, a Limited Edition model, looked like new inside and out.
You could choose from essentially five levels of trim for the 2006 model year, with the base, Touring and Limited G package models received the 2.4 L normally aspirated engine putting out 150 hp. The Limited K package got the turbocharged 2.4 L with 180 hp and finally Turbo received the high output version of the 2.4 L with 230 hp.
All but the base package got the multi-position rear package shelf and a fold flat front seat. These two items could turn the PT into a very capable cargo hauler, as anyone who made a run to the local DIY center can attest. I discovered this during a remodeling project, finding that I could fit a substantial amount of lumber in the passenger side without hitting the dash while still getting the hatch closed tight.
In the Limited models, the seat fabric was something called Alias which was supposedly more wear and soil resistant. I guess it held up well enough, certainly an improvement over the previous year’s mouse fur. I quite liked the dash layout with the body colored instrument and passenger side inserts, it reminded me of my old Beetle. The Limited package also got you a leather wrapped steering wheel, fancy cup holders, cruise control, and a 6 way power driver’s seat. Rounding out the interior retro theme was a dash mounted analog clock and cue ball shift knob.
Rear seat accommodations weren’t awful, especially for kids and that fabric did hold up well with our children.
The very large hatch and the low lift over height, combined with pretty usable space, allowed plenty of room for groceries and such. Here you can see the various mounting points for the cargo shelf, which was actually a pretty robust piece of hardware, unlike many of the flimsy covers one sees in hatchbacks. The 60/40 split seat allowed you to angle those 2x4s to avoid scuffing the hard plastic interior bits.
But what about that grille? This was a point of contention, especially for those early PT Cruiser adopters. The original design featured a similar style grille that was bisected by a separate bumper. The rear got it’s own bumper as well.
With the 2006 refresh, the lower section of grille is gone as are the distinct bumpers. I preferred the new look, especially for washing the car out in the driveway, much less fussy. Headlights got a scalloped look which I was not quite as fond of, too busy to my eye.
So, negatives? Well, the turning radius for one. Awful, impossible to make a U-turn on urban streets. And that’s about it for the stuff I didn’t like. The car was reliable, capable, fairly interesting to drive. We did have one tiny rust issue, but I want to say it wasn’t the PT’s fault. I got to learn about rail dust with this car. Right in the middle of the hatch, a tiny little piece of metal burned through the paint and eventually caused a little bubble of rust to appear. I sanded it out, applied some rust converter and repainted it. And because the paint wasn’t perfect, I slapped a sticker over the spot and called it good. We held onto the PT for about 5 years, eventually selling it to one of my wife’s coworkers.
Now that the PT Cruiser is mostly gone from around the Twin Cities, I’m starting to miss them a bit. I wouldn’t mind a late model turbo in yellow…