Used Chrysler PT Cruiser for Sale (with Photos)

The Car Connection Chrysler PT Cruiser Overview

Martin Padgett Editorial Director February 16, 2014

The Chrysler PT Cruiser was a five-door wagon sold from the 2000 to 2010 model years. Originally conceived for Chrysler’s Plymouth brand, it was introduced as a Chrysler when the other nameplate was shuttered at the start of the century.

The hatch-wagon came in a few body styles over its lifetime. In addition to the wagon, Chrysler also offered a two-door convertible and a two-door panel wagon. The wagon body styles were classified as light trucks by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for fuel-economy rating purposes.

The idea for the retro-themed PT Cruiser has generally been attributed to former Chrysler, then GM, executive Bob Lutz. After leaving Chrysler and the PT Cruiser, he emerged at GM to champion a similar vehicle, the Chevy HHR. And in the kind of coincidences that tend to happen in the domestic car world, designer Brian Nesbitt is credited with penning both vehicles.

PT Cruisers were built both in Mexico and in Austria for global markets. American versions came standard at launch with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 150 horsepower, while other countries were offered a 2.2-liter diesel from the DaimlerChrysler family of engines. A gas-powered, 2.0-liter four also was sold in some PT Cruisers outside of the U.S. A five-speed manual transmission was standard equipment in U.S. editions, with a four-speed automatic option.

The PT Cruiser gained turbocharging for the 2003 model year. A 180-hp edition was sold simply as a Turbo, while a 230-hp version was marketed as the GT. GT Cruisers also got a more taut suspension tune, 17-inch wheels and tires, and a body-color liftgate spoiler.

For the 2005 model year, Chrysler added the PT Cruiser Convertible, which dropped two doors and the roof from the wagon body style, but added a roll hoop for body rigidity and safety reasons. The PT Cruiser Convertible would remain in the lineup through the 2008 model year. A mild restyling came in the 2006 model year. In this era, anti-lock brakes and side airbags were options, as was satellite radio.

Throughout its lifespan, the PT Cruiser was regularly embellished with special editions. Some were themed for classic-car events or drives–“Dream Cruiser” and “Street Cruiser” among them.

After being sold by Daimler AG, Chrysler was under the aegis of Cerberus Capital Management, a private-equity fund. As Cerberus tried to return Chrysler to salable shape, it decided to cut models from the lineup. The PT Cruiser was one of those models: production ended in 2010.


PT, the car

2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser                    FCA
2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser FCA

Beneath the PT’s gangster wagon facade was a genuinely roomy and practical compact car, built on a 103-inch wheelbase and stretching less than 170 inches bumper to bumper. A high seating position and generous headroom from the 63-inch height were attributes shared with small SUVs, then becoming popular. Like those vehicles, the PT was certified as a light truck to qualify for lower fuel economy requirements.

The PT’s fuel economy was indeed on the low side, with 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway ratings. The 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-four provided merely adequate performance for the 3,120-pound hatchback.

Some have described the PT as based on the carmaker’s Neon economy sedan, but Chrysler always said it had its own distinct platform, sharing just a few Neon parts. A rear twist-beam axle with a Watts linkage enabled a spacious cargo area, and all of the seats except the driver’s could be folded or removed, opening up a maximum 65 cubic feet of carrying space, like a small SUV.

The interior echoed the retro theme with color-matched dash panels, an old-timey-looking four-spoke steering wheel, deep-set gauge pods, and a cue ball-style shifter knob for the standard five-speed stick shift. In a nod to Chrysler’s intended buyer, the PT was a screaming value. The base model’s $15,935 price included air conditioning, a six-speaker stereo, cruise control, power windows and more. A four-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control were options. The Limited, with leather, 16-inch chrome wheels, and a sunroof was $19,995.

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Shooting star

2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible
2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible FCA

Chrysler kept PT interest up by introducing a convertible in 2004 as an ’05 model. The following year, the whole PT line received a mild facelift, dialing back the retro vibe with a deep front apron, shorter grille, and scalloped headlights. PT loyalists weren’t pleased, exposing the main pitfall of retro design: How do you update old?

“We call them first-gen and second-gen,” Liles says. “The second-gen cars are not as loved by PT people.”

The 2006 refresh bumped up the GT to 230 hp, while a 180-hp version of the turbo engine, using a different computer calibration, became an option on other models. That year, the PT got some company from Chevy’s HHR retro-wagon, also penned by Nesbitt, who’d left Chrysler for GM. The HHR did quite well for a few years, taking a bite out of PT sales. Chrysler’s own small Jeep Compass and Patriot crossover SUVs dug into the PT’s market, too.

The PT Cruiser would go on to sell nearly a million in the U.S., with other markets tallying another 350,000. PTs for North America were built in Chrysler’s Toluca, Mexico plant. European markets, which also offered a diesel engine, sourced theirs from a plant in Graz, Austria.

For the PT loyalists who continue to enjoy and show their cars, the novelty of the PT’s retro persona has never worn off.

“It’s not a car to us, it’s a lifestyle,” Liles says. “This little car brought us the best friends we’ve ever had, from all over the world.”

As for what the future holds for PT Cruisers, Liles muses, “Who knows, maybe this will be the ’57 Chevy of the 2040s.”