2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 3, 2009

There's no more convertible, but if you want to be seen, the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser still lends some novelty to everyday driving.

To compile this detailed assessment of the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser, TheCarConnection.com's car experts read a wide variety of road tests and professional opinions. Then, to give you a definitive opinion on this wagon where professional reviews might differ, the experts from TheCarConnection.com have driven the Chrysler PT Cruiser and help by contributing their own observations and by comparing it to other rival vehicles.

Little of substance has changed since the Chrysler PT Cruiser debuted as a 2001 model, although a moderate update in 2006 brought a refreshed interior design. While the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser introduced a few new features, like standard side airbags, 2009 brings about some deletions: Convertible and turbocharged GT models have been wiped from the lineup.

The retro-styled Chrysler PT Cruiser, which offers seating for five, is available in Base, Touring, and Limited trim levels. The PT Cruiser convertible, which TheCarConnection.com's editors found to be a styling disaster, disappears for the 2009 model year.

The 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser offers a 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder engine, which makes 150 horsepower, as standard fare. However, those looking for more oomph from their PT Cruiser can opt for the turbocharged version, which puts out 180 hp. Most PT Cruisers come with the standard five-speed manual transmission, though Touring models get a four-speed automatic, which is optional on the Base. While the styling on the PT Cruiser is retro in a good way, the chassis is simply old. It's a far cry from anything sophisticated or refined, and some editors at TheCarConnection.com describe the PT Cruiser's driving character as "rental car like"—with a smooth, composed ride, but prominent engine noise and handling that’s set up for suburban parkways, not mountain roads.

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Special edition PT Cruisers have been a marketing ploy Chrysler used to maintain interest in the PT with each new model year. Remember, this car debuted as a 2001 model and hasn’t changed much since. Continuing with this tradition, a special Dream Cruiser Series 5 is available in 2009 and gets its own unique two-tone paint and rear spoiler, along with some unique interior and exterior trim. Inside, the Dream Cruiser Series 5 gets heated front seats and some leather appointments.

Continuing with last year's welcome safety improvements, side airbags are standard on all models for 2009, along with tire-pressure monitors. Anti-lock brakes are optional on Base and Touring versions. A 368-watt Boston Acoustics premium sound system with MP3 capability is available, as are Sirius Satellite Radio, Bluetooth, and 17-inch wheels.

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2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser

Styling

The 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser still offers a stylish combination of modern amenities and classic styling.

The 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser is the same old model that you've seen on the road for eight years or more—very little has changed in the intervening years. While that's not necessarily a bad thing style-wise, it brings its issues.

According to ConsumerGuide reviewers, the "retro-styled" Chrysler PT Cruiser "comes as a five-passenger, 4-door wagon in Base, Touring and Limited trims." The convertible body style has been eliminated for 2009, leaving just the wagon body style in the lineup. Despite its age, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that experts still love the PT Cruiser's styling, with Edmunds calling it the "spiffiest retro small wagon the world has ever seen." Automotive.com reviewers report that the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser "blends the retro look of a late-1930s or early 1940s American sedan with new-age styling cues such as dual-beam flush headlights and teardrop-shaped taillight lenses." Cars.com points out that the Chrysler PT Cruiser "blends the elements of a sedan, wagon, SUV and minivan" into one compelling package. The styling can be divisive, however, as Automobile notes in its claim that "you either like the Cruiser's mini-gangster styling or you don't."

With all of the retro themes that characterize the Chrysler PT Cruiser's exterior, it's probably no surprise to learn that the interior is appropriately old-school as well. ConsumerGuide states that the "instrument panel carries on the exterior's retro theme but is contemporary for its ease of use," while Kelley Blue Book praises the "Chrysler PT Cruiser's innovative interior" that includes "a retro-looking cue ball shift knob." MyRide.com finds "the Chrysler PT Cruiser pulls its exterior styling themes into the cabin, although here, too, the retro theme is tempered by a modern-looking center stack that visually splits the vintage-styled dashboard."

6

2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser

Performance

The 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser wagon offers passable acceleration but not much more—perfect for cruising city streets.

It may bear a passing resemblance to modern interpretations of 1930s hot rods, but this Chrysler PT Cruiser is no speed demon.

The 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser is available with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine also offered in turbocharged form. Cars.com says that "the base 2.4-liter...produces 150 hp, and the only turbocharged engine offered...makes 180 hp." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that either engine will move you around town decently well, but don't expect much in the way of power from a standstill. ConsumerGuide contends that the "150-hp engine is fine for around-town cruising but weak on hills or in highway passing," while the turbo is "noticeably stronger in all situations." Edmunds chimes in by noting that the turbocharged 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser "accelerates decently once the turbo is spooled up," but warns that "buyers will want to avoid the base engine, which leaves the car feeling lethargic." Automotive.com sums it up nicely, surmising that the "PT Cruiser is fun to drive, but it's not a sports car."

Teaming up with the available engines is a pair of transmissions, and Automotive.com says that the Chrysler PT Cruiser "offers both a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmission." ConsumerGuide approves of the automatic, which they claim is "responsive, despite a tendency to lurch when downshifting." Automotive.com adds that "the manual gearbox is surprisingly precise, not sports-car grade, but not bad for a unit with a longer-throw gate and foot-long shifter."

With a low-power, low-displacement engine and relatively light overall weight, you might expect the Chrysler PT Cruiser to post decent EPA mileage ratings. You'd be wrong, however, as the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser disappoints in any configuration. The naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine gets an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city and 26 mpg on the highway with the manual transmission, while automatics earn a 19/24 mpg rating, and the turbo is even lower in the city, at 18 mpg.

The chassis under the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser is still a derivative of the old, discontinued Dodge and Plymouth Neon—sophisticated and refined it's not. ConsumerGuide reports "noticeable body lean" in fast corners, "but no tippiness." Cars.com takes a very different approach to the PT Cruiser's handling, noting that it exhibits "terrific handling [that] is confident and nimble. This wagon maneuvers with utter crispness and can take corners with impressive speed." While some reviewers did appreciate the Chrysler PT Cruiser's handling more than others, the hyperbole from Cars.com is definitely on the high end of the spectrum. The ride inside the PT Cruiser is commendable, as ConsumerGuide points out when remarking that "all models absorb bumps reasonably well." Edmunds agrees and says that "apart from a wide turning circle, all PTs are easy to steer.

7

2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser

Comfort & Quality

If you can overlook some details, you’ll probably appreciate how space and utility are the name of the game for the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser.

In most cars, it's a pretty safe assumption that whatever the seating capacity, you can lower it by one or two if you're thinking of transporting full-size adults. However, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the Chrysler PT Cruiser's claim of seating five proves about right.

The interior of the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser is spacious and comfortable. Edmunds says that "taller drivers will find plenty of room to get comfortable, but shorter drivers may not care for the somewhat flat seat design and elevated driving position." Cars.com reports that seating is arranged with "two bucket seats...up front, and a 65/35-split folding rear bench [that] holds three." In terms of seating comfort, ConsumerGuide states that the "chair-height seats" up front "are comfortable," although Car and Driver warns that the rear bench "seats don't suit everyone's backsides."

Cargo space and versatility abound inside the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser, where ConsumerGuide finds that "cargo room is generous and versatile." MyRide.com appreciates that the "center console incorporates a sliding armrest," and "includes a covered tray for concealing small items, a storage bin that holds six CDs, a coin holder and fold-out cupholders for rear-seat coffee consumers." Edmunds also notes that if you "remove the rear seats...the wagon boasts an impressive 64.2 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity."

The Chrysler PT Cruiser's interior isn't exactly Lexus-grade, but reviews show that the materials are acceptable for the price range. Consumer Guide reports that the "interior liberally uses hard plastics, but they don't look cheap," while "assembly quality is unexceptional."

Meanwhile, noise levels while traveling in the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser are not excessive: Automobile.com notes "little wind noise, almost no tire or road noise, and a just-audible whine from the drivetrain." ConsumerGuide similarly reports that "coarse pavement induces some road roar...wind rush starts to intrude at 65 mph."

Another bright spot is ride. Edmunds says that the suspension “consistently soaks up road irregularities, yielding a smooth, composed ride."

5

2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser

Safety

It may look like a classic, but you would still expect the latest safety gear on the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser. Unfortunately, it’s not all there.

The Chrysler PT Cruiser earns decent scores in government crash tests, but the fact that some key safety features are optional is a major drawback in this category.

The 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser is a solid performer in NHTSA crash tests, earning a mix of four- and five-star ratings. In the side impact category, the Chrysler PT Cruiser earns a perfect five-star rating; in terms of both front impact protection and rollover resistance, the Chrysler PT Cruiser garners a respectable four stars.

Reviews are mixed on whether the 2009 PT Cruiser includes all the right safety features. Edmunds reports that most "Chrysler PT Cruisers start out with front disc and rear drum brakes," while "Limiteds have four-wheel discs as well as standard ABS, and this upgrade is optional on all remaining models." Cars.com adds that, "along with the federally required dual front airbags, a driver's knee airbag is standard." One negative, though, as Cars.com points out, is that "stability control is not available on any Chrysler PT Cruiser." What’s more, note the editors of TheCarConnection.com, anti-lock brakes, which some view as a safety feature, are optional.

Kelley Blue Book says that the Chrysler PT Cruiser 2009 "driver and passenger sit high for a commanding view of the road," and ConsumerGuide chimes in by noting that "sight lines are clear on the wagon."

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2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser

Features

The base 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser may be a tad spartan, but mid-range models and above get nice standard equipment and a couple high-tech options.

The 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser offers a few desirable options, provided you're willing to pay for them.

Standard features vary according to trim across the Chrysler PT Cruiser lineup, but Edmunds says that the base PT Cruisers "come with 15-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, power windows and a CD player with an auxiliary audio jack." Stepping up to the Touring trim brings "16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a fold-down front passenger seat, a power driver seat, power mirrors, satellite radio, cruise control and upgraded seat fabric," according to Edmunds. ConsumerGuide reports that the top-end Limited trim of the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser gets a "leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated front seats, [a] power sunroof, [and] universal garage door opener."

Available options for the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser are limited, according to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, but desirable. Kelley Blue Book lists a "368-watt Boston Acoustics audio group with six speakers and subwoofer" and "SIRIUS Satellite Radio" as two of the more noteworthy options. The other big-ticket items, says ConsumerGuide, are a "power sunroof [on the] Touring" trim, and available "uconnect wireless cell phone link [for the] Limited." In addition to those stand-alone options, Automotive.com reports that the "standard features on higher-line [2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser] models are also available as options on the less expensive models."

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September 26, 2015
2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser 4-Door Wagon

Gas mileage stinks

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Before I had a tune up I was only getting 17 mpg.After a tune up 13.7!!!! What is wrong with this ? So much I can't tell you. WHY,WHY WHY????
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6.6
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 5.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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