Chrysler has trimmed the entry-level price for the PT Cruiser turbo diesel (by far the better engine in the range) by introducing a Classic variant of the 2.2-litre CRD model previously available only as the more expensive Touring and Limited.
The Classic isn't by any means a rock-bottom trim and equipment affair, because it includes front and side airbags, air conditioning, front and rear electric window lifts, fold-down centre armrests for the front seats, and a light-sensitive rear-view mirror. As well as that, the Classic shares in the 2003 upgrade which has made ABS standard across the PT Cruiser range, and it has a new style of wheel trim.
It has to make do with 15" steel wheels, though, because the 16" alloy designs are reserved for the Touring and Limited grades.
You still get chromed interior door handles, of course, as well as that 1950s bakelite-look gearlever knob, although you have to be ready for a shock if you specify the new Deep Cranberry exterior paintwork. It's repeated on the instrument surround and on the airbag panel ahead of the front passenger, who has to be prepared to stare down his/her own reflection on the shiny, explosion-in-a-jam-factory surface.
If you don't like retro, of course, the PT Cruiser is hardly the car for you. If you do enjoy this approach, it's fine and dandy. There's a roomy front passenger cabin, and the great thing about the rear accommodation is the amount of headroom provided. Despite the two-box body design, the luggage volume is very reasonable. It's also a good practical feature that the parcel shelf can be put in place at various levels above the boot floor.
Other manufacturers have a 60/40 split rear seat, but Chrysler goes for 65/35, and I hadn't realised till fiddling about with the test car that the PT Cruiser's rear seats offer much better small-of-the-back support than most others.
To retro enthusiasts there's something appealing about the big four-spoke steering wheel (no leather rim for the Classic, though), and the tilt adjustment even on the entry-level model makes it easy to find a comfortable position at the controls.
The engine? Well, this Mercedes/Chrysler unit leaves the still-available two-litre Neon petrol engine for dead. With the 2.2-litre CRD under the bonnet, the PT Cruiser gets fairly close to the petrol engine's 0-62mph time and top speed, but it's away ahead for mid-range pull and hillclimbing power thanks to the 221lb/ft of torque from 1600rpm. And it's in a different league altogether for both economy and emissions.
Otherwise, the PT Cruiser is very much as in our original report, and it's still the case that you either appreciate the whole retro approach (one hand up in support here) or think the time has come to acknowledge that the 21st century has to be given its place. The 2.2 CRD engine certainly does that, of course.
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