San Francisco: You'd
be hard pressed to notice the difference, but Chrysler's PT Cruiser got
a facelift for 2006. The new headlights look like a biology lesson on
cell division, but the car remains unchanged in spirit.
When Chrysler first
started selling the PT Cruiser in 2000, it stood out like a clown at a
funeral. You couldn't help but notice it. Today there are so many
retro-themed cars for sale and so many other PTs on the road that they
hardly get a second glance. We've grown accustomed to seeing cars like
the Chevy HHR and SSR, Volkswagen Beetle, Ford Thunderbird and Mini
Cooper, so it's like all our funerals have become filled with mourners
dressed as clowns. Craziness has become fashionable, it seems.
That's why I'm
surprised Chrysler wasn't very bold when it redesigned the PT Cruiser
for 2006, especially after seeing sales figures for the way-hot HHR - a
car that's often dubbed the "me too" cruiser - because of its
similarities to the Chrysler.
Instead of adding some
zest with a wild new look or attention-grabbing new features, the latest
PT is only mildly changed and slightly better. It has a new interior -
one that looks different but hardly functions any better than the old
one - along with some baffling styling changes on the front end. The
biggest improvement can't even be seen: more sound insulation that keeps
the cabin quieter on the highway.
The front-end style is
the most difficult to fathom because the changes seem neither necessary
nor particularly attractive. Chrysler designers gave the PT a new grille
that looks good enough, but there was no compelling reason to replace
the old one. It looked just fine. Same thing goes for the front fascia
that surrounds the fog lights, which have inexplicably changed from
oblong to round.
Perhaps the most
noticeable change is in the headlights, where a droopy, scalloped,
two-part lamp replaces the simpler and more elegant cat's eye design. It
looks like Chrysler bought a bunch of the droopy lights at a yard sale
and then rigged up a way to stick 'em on the Cruiser. They don't seem to
fit the character of the car.
Inside, you'll find an
attractive, all-new interior that looks nice enough, but it's hardly the
step up in quality you'd expect from a company that also owns Mercedes.
Aside from a hard plastic dash that feels like it's made from the same
material as Bic pens, everything in the cabin looks like a nice,
comfortable, slightly upscale car should. Which, come to think of it, is
about how the old PT fared, too.
Also like the older PTs,
the new ones remain very affordable with prices starting at $13,405 and
ranging up to $23,030 for the turbo GT model. A low price is something
we like to see carried over from the old models.
Two new improvements
are quite noticeable, though. One is the amount of noise you hear while
driving around, particularly at highway speed. Chrysler added more sound
insulation to keep wind and road noise out of the cabin to make the PT
sound more like a luxury car and less like a gussied-up Dodge Neon.
The other improvement
is a new turbocharged engine that makes 230 horsepower - a huge number
for a relatively small car. In the PT Cruiser GT model I tested, which
came with this high-output engine, I had no trouble spinning the tires
from a dead stop with an automatic transmission. It's easy to let that
amount of power sneak up and surprise you from time to time when you
glance down at the speedometer and see you're breaking the law ... by a
considerable margin. Other than that, it's the same old PT. The only
question is whether that's enough to keep it a winner on the showroom
What was tested?
2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT with a base price of $23,030. Options:
Sirius satellite radio ($195). Price as tested: $23,225
Why buy it?
It's a spunky, practical, good-looking vehicle at a really great price.
Derek Price © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
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content provided by Tony Leopardo ©AutoWire.Net
Column Name: The PT Cruiser is new and improved for 2006
Topic: The 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT
Word Count: 780
Photo Caption: The 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT
Photo Credits: Chrysler Internet Media
Series #: 2006 - 41
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2006 PT Cruiser GT
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2006 PT Cruiser GT