The PT Cruiser has such a unique look that Chrysler stylists should let it remain just what it is a little retro delivery sedan. The 2006 updates seem to be following this advice: most of the interior and exterior changes to the PT Cruiser are purely incidental. In fact, I might not have noticed them if I hadn't read about the new model before driving it. Even then some changes totally escaped my notice, such as the larger glove box and the round fog lamps. One thing I did notice was the relative quiet inside the small car. Turns out that was one of the improvements to this year's model.
Chrysler engineers reduced road and powertrain noise by improving the seals on doors, windows, HVAC vents, and rearfloor pan. They also made the trim panels more sound absorbing. And the design team added more insulation in the dashboard and A-pillars. This cuts noise up to 5 dB for some driving conditions.
Another change is the improved turbocharger on the 2.4-liter 16-valve, four-cylinder DOHC engine. The intercooled turbo adds 80 hp, giving the car 230 hp and 245 lb-ft of torque. That's enough to give the relatively small, 3,076-lb car some serious get-up-and-go. Mileage is not bad at 19 mpg (city) and 26 mpg (highway), according to the EPA.
The car's jack-rabbit acceleration is well matched to its tight, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. Up front, there's an independent suspension with MacPherson struts coil springs and stabilizer bar. And in the back, a twist-beam axle is equipped with trailing arms and coil springs, shock absorbers, and a Watt linkage.
Standing a bit over 6-feet tall, I was initially concerned about headroom and visibility from the driver seat. But I had no problems. The car is roomy for front-seat passengers, even though there isn't that much separation between them. There's also plenty of cargo space behind the back bench seats. If you need more room, the seats fold down for 62 ft3 of space.
New for safety this year is the multistage occupant classification for determining whether and how to activate the front air bags based on occupant weight. The driver also gets a knee blocker. This air bag inflates whenever the primary driver air bag deploys, helping position the driver to make full use of the main air bag.
The car starts at $18,700, making the Cruiser a good value. Add $1,560 for a chrome package, $150 for an electric paint job and about $2,000 for the turbocharger and a four-speed automatic transmission, and the price climbs to $22,745. This still is a good deal, especially when you consider how much fun you can have with this well-mannered pocket rocket.