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PERFORMANCE | 6 out of 10
Interior volume and versatility compare well to a small SUV
150-hp engine is fine for around-town cruising but weak on hills or in highway passing
Newer competitors outdo the PT in terms of performance, handling and features
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.
The 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser wagon offers passable acceleration but not much more—perfect for cruising city streets.