Car reviews - Chrysler - PT Cruiser - Cabrio range
19 Jun 2006
SOMETIMES things just do not translate. Take the PT Cruiser, which has been on sale here since 2000.
In its homeland of the U S of A, the wildly designed retro machine was well received as an attractive, yet functional, hatch in the Chrysler line-up.
The curvy 1940s-style body with a hugely practical interior carried over to an interesting interior theme of faux polished dash and cue-ball shifter.
Around town the PT experienced a similar visual impact to the New Beetle. People stopped and stared.
But the Chrysler was let down by a small, front-wheel drive 2.0-litre four-cylinder when it looked – and everyone expected – at least a V6.
Less than 6000 examples have hit Australian roads since its launch but the PT has grudgingly massaged its way into our consciousness across a very conservative buyer landscape.
Now Chrysler may have something to crow about, delivering cool in the form of the PT Cruiser cabrio, a sleek soft-top, three-door boulevard cruiser that will be available in Touring and Limited variants.
A four-seater, the soft-top PT Cruiser is perhaps the car Chrysler should have done in the first place, utilising the retro theme to its best effect.
Based on the Chrysler PT show car revealed at the 2001 Paris motor show, the Cruiser cabrio gets a sleek black convertible hood that is 65mm lower than the hatch.
The cabrio borrows much from the hatch, sharing the same wheelbase and front and rear tracks, while the doors are 185mm longer to provide a purposeful silhouette for the two-door shape.
Suspension carries over too, with MacPherson struts up front and coil springs supporting a twist-beam layout with Watt’s linkage at the rear.
Chrysler Australia managing director, Gerry Jenkins, said few other cabrios could rival the PT cabrio for its combination of looks, practicality and value.
"Ever since the PT Cruiser hatch was launched there has been consistently strong demand for the one-of-a-kind cruiser and now the cabrio expands its appeal."
Designed as a soft-top from the ground up, the PT cabrio’s B-pillar mounted rollover bar is not only designed for safety but also to deflect air over the rear-seat passengers.
Chrysler claims the cabrio is one of the quietest open-top tourers around with a three-layer, cloth top and "smart glass" side windows that also reduce road noise when the top is up.
A new windscreen frame masks the leading edge of the folding roof to further reduce wind noise.
The roof, which has a single roof-mounted D-ring release, can be lowered or raised in 10 seconds and when folded can be covered with a soft tonneau cover.
A high-pressure hydraulic pump mounted behind the rear seats powers the roof’s folding mechanism.
The car’s exterior shares the new look adopted by the hatch, including smooth front-end and grille, the adoption of the Chrysler winged badge and restyled headlights and foglights.
Inside the functionality carries over to a flip/fold front passenger seat and twin 50/50-split folding rear seats for load-through capability.
The cabrio Touring and Limited are powered by the same 2.4-litre four-cylinder as the hatch.
The 2.4-litre develops 105kW at 5200rpm and 214Nm at 4000rpm, providing a zero to 100km/h time of 10.3 seconds and top speed (manual) of 195km/h.
Standard equipment runs to dual front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, immobiliser, 16-inch alloys, electronic vehicle information centre, cruise control, air-conditioning, electric windows/mirrors, electric driver’s seat, fold-flat front passenger seat and single in-dash six-speaker CD stereo.
The Limited adds 16-inch chrome-finished alloys, heated leather and suede seats, leather steering wheel, chrome door locks and gear knob, and a bright chrome finished exhaust.
Pricing starts at $35,890 for the Touring, a $5900 premium over the entry-level hatch Classic.
This compares well to that other retro machine, Volkswagen’s VW Beetle Cabrio 2.0-litre, which is priced at $36,990.
The PT cabrio is only eclipsed in price by the far smaller Peugeot 206CC, which is $32,990 for the base 1.6-litre.
Other cars in the PT’s sights are the Holden Astra 2.2 cabrio, Peugeot's 307CC and the Renault Megane cabrio, all of which are considerably more expensive.
Chrysler claims the Cruiser cabrio is the most affordable four-seater in the segment.
The company expects to find 250 buyers eager for the cabrio experience through the rest of 2006, bringing to 1200 the total PT sales expected for the year.
It expects 70 per cent to be automatics with 65 per cent Touring models.
Chrysler spokesman, Simon Johnson, said the arrival of the cabrio right in the middle of winter would help generate awareness as customers started to think about summer.
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