2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser Base model 2.4L 4 cylinder from North America
A versatile daily driver that is underrated... as long as you get one with the manual
- Thermostat housing cracked/leaking coolant (cheap/easy fix).
- Suspension bushings worn, which resulted in rattle/clunk sounds when going over bumps (didn't bother fixing).
- Broken sway bar bolt fixed.
- New radiator cap to fix coolant leak.
- New throttle position sensor to make throttle input more smooth and predictable.
- Doing the timing belt/water pump/idler pulley/tensioner is required every 150,000km... and it's a $900 job on this car. Not a problem per se, but for my next car, I want a timing chain.
- Thermostat housing gasket (replaced myself for a few dollars).
- Power window motor for back passenger door (motor cost $50, replaced it myself).
- New wheel lug nuts as the original ones looked weathered and ugly. Plus a couple had been cross threaded by a previous airgun-happy mechanic.
- A couple of new wheel studs that were damaged by cross threading (cost around $20 for the parts and a special tool. Replaced myself).
- New radiator.
- New front sway bar bushings ($25 installed).
- Replaced clutch and slave cylinder, which was leaking ($1500).
- Occasionally throws a check engine code for the "high speed fan". Never bothered fixed. This meant that in hot weather in stop-and-go traffic, the fan wouldn't come on or not come on at the high setting to keep the engine cool. I got around this by turning on the heat if I saw the temp gauge started to creep up. Sometimes this is caused by a bad fan. It could also be caused by a bad relay, bad wiring or the TIPM (Totally Integrated Power Module).
- The seats feel cheap and are not the most comfortable. Not a problem per se. They were okay for me (I'm not very picky), but they are less comfortable than the seats in my previous car.
This is a very roomy car. It's hard to find a small car that has as much passenger space as the PT Cruiser... particularly when it comes to rear head room. If you're tall and want a small car, the PT is worth at least a test drive.
And when you take out the back seats, you basically have a mini cargo van. I have surprised other people by being able to fit some pretty big furniture into my PT.
The engine is fairly torquey, and has decent power from 2000 to 5000 RPM. Beyond 5000 RPM, it makes more noise than power and you're just wasting fuel.
Due to the cramped engine bay, some service like the timing belt change and clutch job is more expensive than other cars. Maintenance and repair costs are more than a Honda Civic or Ford Escort I owned in the past, but less expensive than a Saab 9-3 I owned. I averaged around $150/month over 28 months/56,000km for maintenance/repair, which even included things like light bulbs, oil changes and windshield wipers.
For other service like oil changes, this car is easier than other cars like the Ford Escort.
These cars are much better with the manual transmission. I averaged about 29 MPG (about 8.2L/100km) over the 2 years I owned it. I usually take it easy and don't speed most of the time. If you drive it harder, 26 MPG is realistic with the manual. And it felt fairly peppy... more than enough power for daily driving. People who say these are slow probably drove one with the base engine with the power/efficiency-robbing 4 speed automatic.
With the automatic (which is the same basic transmission Chrysler used with their V6 models), performance and fuel economy take a bigger hit than the government fuel economy numbers suggest. In the real world, it seems people get in the low to mid 20s... a solid 20-30% worse fuel economy compared to the manual.
A couple of other things that helped performance and fuel economy were replacing the spark plugs with NKG copper plugs and replacing the cheap OEM spark plug wires. Also, if you don't mind extra noise when accelerating hard, you can modify the air box by cutting out the air snorkel that goes down into the fender. You get marginally more power and about 1 MPG more. Replacing the PCV valve, hose and changing the engine air filter, also help power and fuel economy a little as well.
This car feels more solidly built than other small cars or other cars that cost the same. And that's partly because it's heavy... the base model with the manual and no A/C weighed in at a little over 3000 pounds. The easy-to-remove back seats weigh 100 pounds together. They're easy to remove only if you have some muscle.
The suspension is firm. I often had my PT heavily loaded down with camping gear, wood, furniture or other stuff... it handled the weight well... the same way a small truck would. Part of the reason for that is it has a solid rear axle. That is good for carrying loads, but not so good for a smooth ride or handling when unloaded.
If you go around a curve fast and there's a bump, the back wheels can sometimes skip to the side a little. It's easy to control, but I can see how some people wouldn't like how a PT handles. You won't win autocross races with a PT. If that's what you want to do, get a Neon instead.
In Europe, the PT with the 2.4L gas engine is rated to tow 2500 to 3000 pounds. Though in North America it's only rated to 1000 pounds. In my own assessment, if the trailer has brakes, then I think a 2000 pound trailer is towable by a PT provided you don't go beyond 100km/h. The brakes, engine and suspension can definitely handle it.
Overall, I liked my PT... but I wasn't in love with it. I wish some of the service it needed wasn't as expensive. And the fuel economy could have been better. And I would never buy one with an automatic.
Chrysler should not have killed the PT. They should have made it as an upscale version of the Caliber. All the PT needed was better automatic transmission, an engine with a timing chain as well as better fuel economy (which the Dodge Caliber has), and a more upscale interior and better seats like the 2005 and earlier models had before they cheapened it up in the 2006 redesign.
These are really good to buy used. I bought mine for around $3200. But my PT is gone now because a lady recently ran into it with her SUV. The damage was mostly cosmetic. But because of the low value these cars have and because the damage was over 4 body panels (one long gouge down the passenger side), my insurance wrote off my PT... but they gave me more money for it than I paid 2 years ago. This is the first car where I had a rate of depreciation that was less than zero.
Can't complain about that.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 16th December, 2014