In the nineties of last century, American automobile design began to clearly feel the signs of crisis: the dominant biodesign turned cars into faceless washcloths, and it had to be fought somehow. Designers were desperately searching for new ideas, and for many the style of cars of the 30’s and 40’s became a source of inspiration. Among them was Chrysler’s chief designer Brian Nesbitt – in 1997, he introduced the Pronto concept, which soon became the production PT Cruiser. Initially, in 2000, its production was launched at a plant in Toluca, Mexico, and in 2002, the Eurostar plant in Graz, Austria, joined the assembly.
Technically, the car was built on the same platform as the mass Dodge / Chrysler / Plymouth Neon. It inherited suspension and running gear from this model. The main engine for the American market was the proven 2.4-liter inline four EDZ PowerTech with an output of 143 or 152 hp. – Many models of the concern were equipped with this engine. It was coupled to a four-speed hydromechanical transmission Ultradrive 41TE. In Europe, the bet was made on another engine, 2.2 liter 141 hp ECC, as well as 2.2 liter diesel EDJ (aka Mercedes OM646). In 2003, the engine range was expanded by 223-horsepower turbo EDV/EDT, based on the EDZ (the same motor was equipped with Dodge SRT-4). Interestingly, in America, Getrag five-speed manual transmission was offered only with this powerful engine. Exactly this bundle was equipped with GT versions. In a year there were less sporty variants with the same turbo engine, forced up to 180 hp.
PT Cruiser immediately gained popularity and received good reviews from experts and journalists. Suffice it to say, the PT Cruiser (for all Americans’ love of big forms) was declared the car of the year 2001 at NAIAS, the North American Auto Show in New York. The model has always had its detractors, though: in 2013, Top Gear called the two-door open-top version of the PT Cruiser “the worst car made in the last 20 years.” Nevertheless, the PT Cruiser remained on the assembly line for 10 years and sold 1.35 million copies worldwide.
The car turned out to be quite resilient and is represented on the secondary market in many countries, including Russia. In Russia, it is sold for between 160,000 and 700,000 rubles, and the price does not always depend solely on the year of manufacture. Thus, sellers can ask about 400 thousand rubles for cars made in 2001 and 2008. But is it worth the trouble, because for the same money you can find a Kia Rio or Hyundai Solaris 5 years old? This question has no definite answer, in fact everything will depend on, for what purposes the car is bought. But in any case it is worth to look at what its owners write about PT Cruiser….
Hate #5: Age and condition.
No matter what they say, but the decision to buy a car of segment C at such a solid age will be very risky. Already in 5-7 years one or another unit starts to get “tired”, and the owner has a desire to sell his horse, leaving the problems (and those that have already appeared and those that will inevitably appear in the near future) to the next owner. What to speak about such car at the age of 10-20 years!
All this is aggravated by the fact that many cars were once imported to Russia from the US auctions, and in the US not all owners treat maintenance with due respect. Rolled the allotted, and changed it … Well, the manufacturer operates in full compliance with this approach. Hence, there are many problems, especially connected with work of electrics and service life of plastic parts.
There can be not less problems with the cars imported from Europe: there they worked in rental agencies in great quantity. In the rental car is used very intensively for a couple of years, and then it enters the secondary market with a big discount. It is more profitable that way… Some cars in our market could be stolen, restored after floods; moreover, the mileage could be twisted: there are plenty of specialists in this procedure in the Baltic states and Poland.
Anyway it is not so easy to find used PT Cruiser in good condition these days – available for sale cars are usually already well rolled up, and the ones that were treated as a favorite toy are not in a hurry to be rid of. All this means that special attention should be paid to checkup at purchase. The owners advise not to neglect checking the history of the car according to Carfax system (in case of American origin of the exact copy), to inspect thoroughly the condition of the box, timing belt, fan motor, all oil seals, and to make sure there is no tendency to overheat.
Love #5: Rugged bodywork
Fortunately, the car’s most vulnerable and most expensive part to repair, its body, in the case of the PT Cruiser, is outstandingly reliable. Thick iron provides mechanical strength and full body zinc plating provides excellent resistance to its greatest foe, corrosion. The owners testify: “Recently, a madam scratched a car with a Reno, she almost had the door dented, but I have not even a scratch”, “My Kuzma is from 2001 with decent mileage, but has no problems, not a single rust spot! “, “If the car is not beaten, the body will not be covered with rust in 10 years or 20”, “I myself had a scratch – a minor accident, lapping. Did not paint or primer, 1.5 years – and no hint of rust!!!”
So if you find traces of corrosion on some parts of PT Cruiser, even if the age of the car is close to two dozen years, it will indicate that the car was in a serious accident and rather a deep body repair. It is clear, that you should refrain from purchase in such case, even if the price seems more than sweet.
Hate #4: The complexity of repair.
In any case, it is worth considering that diagnosis, repair and maintenance of the PT Cruiser can be associated with quite a few difficulties. Actually, in due time we described them quite in detail, but repetition, as they say, the mother of learning… The thing is that the external design has predetermined an unusually dense layout of all units placed in the underhood space.
As a result, removal of the engine is required to replace the timing belt. The same operation is required for replacement of quite often suffering engine supports, and for such elementary operation, as replacement of spark plugs, it is necessary to remove intake manifold completely. Moreover, even replacement of bulbs in headlights (and they are quite usual, as in “Zhiguli”), it is better to make, having hung out the automobile on an elevator. In principle, it is possible to do it on the ground, having turned out the wheels (the bulbs are accessible through special hatches in wheel wells), but then one should show wonders of flexibility and acrobatics.
Needless to say, the workers of many service stations make unimaginable faces and begin to charge prices, as for repair of the newest Mercedes models. For example, they may ask 20-25 thousand rubles for replacement of the timing belt and 18-20 thousand rubles for replacement of the cooling fan motor. Plus not all the necessary parts are available – they have to be ordered.
In general, PT Cruiser is not too good in terms of emergency repairs, although the scheduled ones don’t cause much trouble, especially if you listen to the voice of experienced owners who recommend to find “their” service, where the masters will be familiar with the peculiarities of this model. There the prices for repair can well appear in 3-5 times lower: “Subsequently, I have found a normal service with normal service without claims concerning rarity of the car, and… voila! – I do not know any troubles with repair”.
In addition, the built-in self-diagnostic system solves many problems. It is enough to turn ignition key three times from position 0 to the penultimate position to start it. If everything is OK, the on-board computer screen will say DONE, and if not, write down the error codes and look up what they mean on the internet.
Love #4: Cheap parts and service
But if you have found the “right” service, the prices for spare parts and components will not ruin you, even in cases when the mileage of the car exceeded 200 000 km: “Despite its age, 2001 year, it has not required large investments, spare parts are in the accessible price category”, “Repair – rare and cheap. For two years especially without investments”. The original parts cost moderately, but if you want to save some money, you can always find a money-saving replacement: according to the owners, spare parts for PT Cruiser are a little bit more expensive than for VAZ.
The owners do not hesitate in expressions – they say that it’s free, full communism! Again, only the tight layout and tightness under the hood make it difficult to repair, but otherwise “Petya” is quite simple by design, and many operations can be done independently: “I changed the engine supports, upper and lower, it took half an hour, as everything there is very simple. I bought them for 1500 apiece”.
Besides, PT Cruiser does not mind much if it is “dumped”: a lot of people use parts from Chrysler Sebring, Volga Siber and… “Gazelles” for its repair. For example, the radio from Volga Siber without problems gets in place, and its installation completely solves the problem of frequency grid and reading records in MP3 format. Well, for those who want to make the exterior of the car really unique, on eBay you can find a huge number of components for exterior tuning, and the company offers three stages of tuning the Mopar engine and suspension, allowing to turn the car into a real hot-hatch.
Hate #3: Weak suspension and electrical problems
There are almost no complaints on the Internet about the reliability of the PT Cruiser’s engines and boxes: the engine is simple, cast-iron, and proven, and the box is quite mass-produced and tried-and-true on millions of cars. If all routine procedures are done in time, no problems are foreseen, 200 thousand ran and will run as long.
The owners consider weak suspension and often failing electrics to be the main problems of Cruze. The suspension is really designed for good roads and poorly tolerates our “directions”: “A suspension is good for 50-80 thousand runs, and it costs from 12 to 20 thousand rubles to replace the whole thing. (parts + work)”, “Suspension does not run for a long time. Tired of changing silentblocks – they break every 4 months (I put original). Suburban roads are not for it”, “The suspension is not for our roads, it needs more frequent change of every possible “bones”, but the ride is exceptional”.
The point is that, as we have already said, the automobile is built on the same platform, as much lighter Dodge Neon. As a result, the increased loading leads to frequent failure of front arms rear silent blocks, link arm of rear cross-pieces (“helicopter”), and racks of front stabilizer in general turn into expendable material. On a good pit they can simply tear.
Another group of problems is connected with electrics. They often complain about fog switch: “I had it out of order – fog lamps burned down constantly. Decided not to bother – just took out the bulbs. “I had a problem with PTFs – they just turned on by themselves and lit up even without the key in the ignition. I just replaced the paddle switch.
Sometimes there are just mysterious, wandering defects, the reasons for which remain unclear. For example, the head light and dashboard light will go out, and after restarting the engine, the bulbs will light up again as if nothing had happened. Or a horn stops working after a bump and suddenly restores its ability to work after the next bump. Or one speed of a cooling system fan will stop working. It seems not fatal, but very annoying…
Love #3: comfort and interior volume.
Perhaps today, the PT Cruiser is more often bought as a favorite toy, rather than the only vehicle in the family. Nevertheless, this toy turns out to be quite practical and comfortable, first of all – due to the voluminous interior with vertical boarding.
Here are quite typical impressions of the owner of such toy: “I was impressed by the interior – great music, high ergonomics, quality plastic, nothing squeaks, nothing dazzles, everything is comfortable and original. The huge steering wheel is simply unparalleled, the feeling of retro is 5+, after such a steering wheel the Passat steering wheel seemed to me simply toy. By the way, in comparison with the same Passat (2007 year): visibility of the Cruiser is much better, you sit in it, instead of lying down. The hatch of the Cruiser is very convenient. The car is unbelievably warm, it is real Africa, it warms up instantly, and it is simply hot in a light coat already. The interior is huge, I’m willing to swear that the “Cruiser” in this respect, maybe inferior to pure SUVs a la Patrol, but no business-class sedan or mid-priced parkettes can not boast such spaciousness for the passengers and driver. It is a chic of spaciousness and comfort – Americans carefully take care of their asses. Of course, how to ignore a trunk with a miracle shelf: I consider it as separate fat plus. The shelf does wonders of transformation with a luggage rack.
Interior is trimmed by firm, though qualitative plastic, but seats in top complete sets are in genuine leather which looks like new even after 19-20 years of exploitation. The interior is made in a retro-style, from round white dials of analogue devices up to the selector of automatic transmission in the form of a cane with a ball-footed baldachin. The interior is so stylistically finished that any modern gadget like a navigator or a cell phone looks in it a little alien.
At the same time in many reviews the authors state that the interior design is not boring at all, they admire the media system which though has no AUX-in and is not able to read MP3 for the reason of some archaism, has different sound quality worthy of a premium class car, and also an excellent climate system, in winter – Africa, in summer – Antarctica. In many reviews sound praise for extremely comfortable seats in the front row, with armrests and adjustable lumbar support, which you sit in, as in your favorite home seat, and also noted that the rear couch is located slightly higher than the front, which is very pleasant for passengers.
The authors of reviews are impressed by the possibility of transformation, especially by the fact that the rear seats can be easily dismantled and taken out in a folded form, like suitcases. In this case, the available cargo volume is almost two cubic meters: “I transported building materials, a stove and a washing machine at the same time (!). It all fit”, “When moving and when doing repairs, I transported cabinets, refrigerators, a huge old TV and more”, “All summer I carried two (!!!) bikes in the cabin!”. The trunk of the PT Cruiser is roomy as it is: “The trunk can fit a big stroller or a folding sled. I checked it myself, everything fits”, “I always put everything in it. We could go to Ikea, to Lenta, and on the way back we could stop at Leroy, and take three more people with us”.
Many owners consider PT Cruiser as the ideal car for picnics: you open the trunk, take out the back shelf and put it on a special step – the table is ready, and you sit behind it under the awning, which is formed by huge fifth door. It became cold – climbed inside, lowered the front seats – two tables are ready!
Hate #2: Drivability and consumption
There is, however, one problem: it is necessary to drive up to a picnic place, and there can be problems with it. PT Cruiser is the city automobile and ground clearance is not heroic at all. According to the official table it is 166 mm, which seems to be quite enough. Probably, this ground clearance was measured as distance to the ground in the body center, but the skirt of a forward bumper hangs down much lower even visually. As a result, the owners write: “One cannot jump on curbs and ramps. But bumps and hillocks – without consequences. Short overhangs somewhat improve the situation”, “I`ve driven down the dirt track frequently. Hurt the front skirt, but helped pass the short base and short front overhang. Crawls well in fresh snow, as the bottom is almost flat”, “The skirt is very low, many “lying policemen” cling. But I don’t seem to hit the bottom”. On the whole, the authors conclude, there is no any crime, one just should look more attentively where steering is concerned, but they put all together the cross-country ability in the list of disadvantages of the model.
As to fuel efficiency, it is more likely to be attributed to disputable indicators. In some reviews the authors consider that everything is good, others complain about excessive appetite, at least for the car of such class, and name it as one of the reasons, why they decided to buy another car.
By the way, the owners of 223 hp turbocharged version quite easy to put up with high consumption: “I have in the city 15-16 l/100 km, with the air conditioner sometimes 20”, “Quite voracious, 13-15 liters in the city. If to drive too fast, then even more. But it is forgiven, as emotions from driving are much dearer”. However, as regards the most widespread 2,4-liter engine, there was no unity as it is. Some people write that it eats a little, say, 10-11 liters per one hundred in a city and about 5 liters on a freeway, others write that the city consumption makes 13-15, and even 17-19 liters, and it is unacceptably much. One good thing: the 2,4-liter engine drinks absolutely any petrol and does not sneeze.
Love #2: Maneuverability and dynamics.
The owners consider one of the main advantages of PT Cruiser as the automobile behavior on the road. First of all the designers managed to achieve a very correct balance between the ride comfort and controllability: “Yes, the suspension is shaky, but on the highway it goes like in-glass. I drove on the same potholes in Mercedes and Infiniti, so – the Kruzach is more comfortable”.
Almost in all reviews the authors write that Petya is not quite suitable for racing, that it still falls down during fast corners, but it is notable for excellent directional stability: “Of course, it’s not BMW, but it steers pleasantly. Because of its weight and in spite of its height, it keeps the road very well”, “It steers perfectly. I underline: perfect! Before the PTiCruiser, I had a Gallant 2.5, “European”, in leather and in full stuffing”, “Despite of the American pedigree, the character of the car is more European. Suspension is not so soft and power-consuming, as in the majority of American cars. I would say moderately stiff, but softer and more comfortable than in my friend’s Honda Civic. The handling is excellent. At high speeds the directional stability is high”, “I like the steering (if not at excessive speeds). The steering wheel doesn’t feel clunky, it feels a little heavy. You have to be careful in the corners at high speed, of course, the car is short and tall.
The authors of reviews are not less unanimous in assessment of dynamic capabilities. It is clear that GT version with a 223-horsepower turbo engine and acceleration up to a hundred in 7 seconds is beyond competition. The owners of such cars like very much that on overtaking it is possible not to switch down, and on a highway – to play “Carl, the ghost of the highway”, easily leaving in a rear-view mirror a surprised face of a driver of some Mercedes G500 or Range Rover. But also the owners of PT Cruiser with more usual in our country engines of 150 and 143 hp do not have any problems with overtaking: “Pedal to the floor – and already from 120 you are on 170, though this beast is going 190 without coughing”.
Here, however, there will be objections. In many responses the authors state that it is not comfortable to drive faster than 120 because the car starts to be rocked by a flow of air from oncoming trucks and one can feel a side wind. Very many people mention an excellent balance of capacities of the engine and 4-speed adaptive gearbox, which, despite of design antiquity, accelerates the car very smoothly and is not inclined to kicking and twitching.
Hate #1: Turning radius.
But the PT Cruiser was positioned as a city car, wasn’t it? How are things in dense traffic? Well, there are some problems. No, it has enough dynamics, but… We have already written about expensiveness, but the main problem is insufficient maneuverability: “Terrible turning radius. In Volga 3102 it is probably smaller. It is quite difficult to park in the yards”, “A huge turning radius. I can feel it especially when parking and when turning. I feel like a woman on a cart”, “The only disadvantages are the turning angle – I feel like I’m turning on a KAMAZ”, “The turning radius is simply killer for this car. It’s huge!”.
The owners grumble that they feel good in America: there are only highways with freeways and there are neither Krivokolnye lanes, nor such backyards-like wells as in St. Petersburg… This particular feature makes beautiful ladies, quite a few of them among PT Cruiser owners, upset especially: “It is beautiful! Except for one thing – it has a huge turning radius. That is all! There are no other faults with this sweetheart!”.
Love #1: Design
Well, the main trump card of the model was, is and will be for a long time its outstanding appearance. Someone loves the great movie “Once Upon a Time in America” and other gangster sagas, the action of which takes place in the era of jazz, Prohibition and Italian gangsters in hats, with a constant cigar in the teeth, driving around in a Cadillac Sixty-Two and Series 70, Buick Special, DeSoto Airflow and Chrysler Royal. Some just want their car to look nothing like the other cars in the stream, as the current cars have lost their personality and become too similar to each other, especially in the budget segment. Someone is glad that in ten years the design of PT Cruiser will not become outdated, because the car was originally designed in a retro style, and someone really likes the fact that the car openly attracts attention of girls, they approach, asking to take it for a drive. There are a lot of variants…
“Cruze” is one of those cars, which people fall in love with immediately and unconditionally, and there is a great number of such stories: “It was love at first sight. A long time ago, when I saw such cars in Moscow, it did not even occur to me that the price for them could be very adequate, and I certainly did not even dream that I would ever own such a handsome car!”, “I bought the “Kuzya” by chance: I was going to buy another car. This one was standing aside, so nice and beautiful, black and lacquered. For the sake of interest with my wife, we went to see it. Opened the door and was fascinated by the retro design inside. We drove away. Came back the next day and picked it up.”
Of course, not everyone likes the look of PT Cruiser. In the Internet one can meet such estimations: “A mix of postwar Soviet refrigerator ZIS and bag of old woman Shapoklyak”, “Such design can scare the children! Like, if you misbehave and behave badly, you’ll drive a car like this.
There is nothing surprising in this: any uncommon phenomenon, as a rule, causes very different reactions in different people. But it is not important, but the fact that the car leaves almost nobody indifferent, it either is liked to madness, or it is not accepted quite categorically. However, it brings a lot of positive emotions into lives of those who like the car: “Passers-by turn around and point fingers of children at me with “Kuzey”. I am as happy as a herd of elephants. I drive almost every day and every day when I see it I almost jump with happiness”, “I love my “Kuzya” – because it is not like other cars. It has its own, unique zest. Looking at the cars passing by, you will never confuse it with anyone else.”
Yes, probably one should not wait for miracles from this car in terms of dynamics and steerability, but the function of a headturner, “a neck curler”, it performed and still does just fine. So, the owners write that “Cruzik” is more than a car. It is a Personality. It is worthy, imposing, a little bit clumsy, but respected and charismatic. And, taking into account, that already next year many cars of this brand will fall in the category of classical cars, class of “Youngtimers”, the decision to get PT Cruiser not so much for daily trips, but for participation in festivals, can be quite justified.
It is clear, that to bring your purchase up to “parade-festival” condition it is necessary to invest a lot of work and money. But, firstly, it is impossible to estimate positive emotions in rubles, and secondly, in comparison with cost of restoration of the present rarities it will be simply kopecks. At least for the time being.