Car reviews - Chrysler - PT Cruiser - Cabrio range
Cool looks, quiet cabin even with the roof up, price
Room for improvement
Scuttle shake, creaky windows, average acceleration, over-stuffed and unsupportive seats, front seats too high, small boot
19 Jun 2006
CHRYSLER says the "PT" in the retro-look PT Cruiser stands for "personal transportation".
Drive the two-door cabrio variant though and you’re also making a statement about the type of person you are.
Like the hatch, it is the type of car that attracts extroverts, with its bold bulldog looks reminiscent of the Prowler, muscular wheelarches, long nose and low-slung black soft-top. Shy-retiring types – or Camry drivers – need not apply.
However, while the looks are one thing, those looking for a revvy V6 or even a small V8 under the bonnet of a PT will be disappointed.
Just one engine is available in Australia: a normally aspirated 2.4-litre four-cylinder driving the front wheels, which the cabrio shares with the five-door hatch.
With a kerb weight of 1.6 tonnes the cabrio’s acceleration could best be described as leisurely.
This may be an issue for some, but this Chrysler is all about pose value - not about getting somewhere quickly.
In reality too, you don’t want to go fast because this car is designed the catch the sun’s rays and pose around town.
Chrysler’s designers have delivered what is perhaps the best execution of the PT Cruiser design, purely because it looks so in-your-face. Even more so than the hatch.
Its engineers have successfully taken the architecture of the five-door and chopped the roof off, lowered the roof height of the soft-top by 65mm, given it a "sports bar" rollover hoop behind the front seats and turned the five-door into a three-door.
From most angles except perhaps the chubby rear-end and conventional lift-up boot, the cabrio works.
As it is based on the same 2616mm wheelbase as the five-door, it is also still a true four-seater, which cannot be said about some of its opposition.
Interior-wise the cabin is much the same as the hard-top. The high-mounted front seats – too high in our opinion – lack shape and support, while the retro dashboard and interior colours are carried over.
Rear-seat passengers sit deep and low and access to the rear is easy thanks to the folding front seats.
Equipment levels are on a par with the hatch and in the Limited models we drove the heated seats were appreciated, even in Brisbane.
Like the hatch, the cabrio benefits from the refreshed look that arrived at the end of last year. The front-end is smooth and the grille gains chrome accents and the Chrysler winged badge.
The restyled headlights have been given a scalloped bottom edge, which creates a quite menacing, aggressive look in keeping with the car’s overall stance.
Chrysler says it has spent a lot of engineering work on making sure the cabrio is quiet, with or without the roof up. Indeed it is.
With the roof up there is barely any wind noise and the same can be said when the top is down, even if the cabin becomes quite drafty if you’re chasing the sunshine.
The cabrio gets a new windscreen frame that masks the leading edge of the folding roof, and the trailing edge of the bonnet has a raised lip to lift airflow over the wipers while. The door mirrors are also designed to reduce wind noise.
The operation of the folding roof is simple. A single D-ring handle releases the roof’s leading edge and then it’s a matter of pressing the button. The whole operation takes just 10 seconds for the roof to go down or up and the "all windows" up button is a useful feature. The rear window is a heated glass unit.
The fabric roof itself is a fully lined three-layer unit with thermal insulation.
Like many convertibles though, there is plenty of scuttle-shake in the PT Cabrio. Body flexing with the roof down can be quite severe over rough roads.
One car we drove also had a persistent squeak from the door rubbers.
Apart from this the ride is compliant and comfortable. The MacPherson strut front-end and coil-sprung twist-beam rear do a reasonable job of isolating the worst bumps. Steering and brakes are also up the task.
Handling is quite neutral until the front-driver is pushed, when the car’s tendency to understeer – or push wide through corners - becomes more pronounced. For every-day driving the car’s handling traits are fail-safe.
In pure motoring terms, there may be a lot to criticise about the PT Cruiser cabrio, but we came away smiling from the experience of cruising Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
The mood was made all the better with a selection of hits from The Beach Boys blasting out on the car’s CD player.
This cabrio is about the journey, not the destination.
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