Nuts & Bolts

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Complaints: The PT Cruiser, lovable at inception, has run its course. It's time for Chrysler to pull this one from the lineup.

Ride, acceleration and handling: The base model gets marginal marks in all three categories. The Limited model, with the turbocharged, 180-horsepower version of the 2.4-liter engine, gets better marks all around.

Head-turning quotient: The heads that turned in admiration when the PT Cruiser was introduced eight years ago now shake in derision in response to the car today. Fads fade. Fashions change.

Body style/layout: The PT Cruiser is a compact front-engine, front-wheel-drive family wagon with four side doors and a rear hatch.

Engine/Transmission: The base 2.4-liter, inline four-cylinder engine develops 160 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic is optional, but is not recommended by this column for application in the base car. A turbocharged version of the 2.4-liter engine develops 180 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque.

Capacities: There are seats for five people. Maximum cargo capacity with rear seats folded is 63 cubic feet. With rear seats folded, it's 21.6 cubic feet. Fuel capacity is 15 gallons of recommended regular unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: Disappointing for a compact four-cylinder vehicle, it gets 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 miles per gallon on the highway with automatic transmission. The manual version offers slightly better mileage.

Safety: Standard equipment includes side-mounted air bags. Too much else -- electronic stability is an example -- is offered as optional equipment, or is unavailable in a segment where rivals provide more. The PT Cruiser, for example, still runs with front disc brakes and rear drums in a market where rivals routinely provide four-wheel disc brakes with standard antilock protection.

Pricing: Base prices on the 2009 PT Cruiser run $18,000 to $24,510. Prices are sourced from Chrysler, and, an affiliate of The Washington Post.

Purse-strings note: You can bargain on the PT Cruiser, which is surrounded by worthy competitors including the Chevrolet HHR, Honda Element, Hyundai Elantra Touring and Kia Soul.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company