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American drop-top cruises into SA

2006-03-28 07:33

PT Cruiser cabrio offers more than enough space for 4 passengers

John Oxley

Fancy your chances in a droptop that carries four adults AND their luggage. Look no further than Chrysler's brand-new PT Cruiser Cabriolet. We drive it.

Of course it's sod's law. The most miserable day the Cape has had on offer since summer started. Grey sky, HUGE winds, 18C and not a degree warmer.

And there we were, my mate Gerry from sunny East London and I, not really wrapped up, with the top down in a PT Cruiser. 2006 style.

Yes, the Cruiser's gone through a few changes since last we saw it.

Forget about two doors and the reclining roof for a moment or two.

Focus instead on the new nose, with a grille that now stops at bumper level, a new under-bumper air intake, new teardrop-shaped headlights, new front bumper, new round foglights, and, at the back, clear glass indicators. And, of course, a new bootlid, instead of a lift-back.

New instruments

And inside, a new instrument panel with white-faced gauges, new centre stack in aluminium-look plastic, stowage space moved from under the passenger seat to between the seats.

All new. All great.

The roof drops in seconds. Unlock manually, then push one button, and down pops the roof.

There's a rollover "targa" bar that looks good - funky yet tough, PT Cruiser trademark. It also helps stop wind buffeting the back of your head.

You have to put a plastic cover over the folded down hood if you want to look cool - but take the time, it's worth it.

Then you whip up the side glass and off you roar.

Oh yes, there's more power, with a 2.4 litre petrol engine that pushes out 105 kW at 5 000 r/min and a lusty 220 Nm of torque at 3 600 r/min. Coupled to either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed auto.

We drove the former, and enjoyed it all the way.

Great ride and drive

Our route was essentially most of the Argus Cycle Tour backwards.

Firstly, the seats were a lot more comfortable than that on my old Schauff bike. And wider. But still leather covered.

Nobody was cheering me on, but then, I wasn't pedalling either. Instead Gerry plonked a CD into the 6-disc front loader (it's MP3 compatible) and like two grand old gents we waved to the absent crowds and enjoyed the view from Chappies.

The lusty engine proved surprisingly torquey, the gearbox was as smooth as my bike's Shimano Ultegra, and the heater and heated seats kept us snug as two big bugs n the proverbial rug.

We COULD have popped a couple of blondes in the back if we'd been younger - enough space by far and a bit - and we COULD have taken all the luggage for a dirty weekend.

But instead we hopped down to Cape Point, enjoyed the scenery, and wended our way back to the beautiful Twelve Apostles in time for Gerry to catch his plane home.

A good day well done in a car well worthy.


The price, at R249 900 for the manual puts it lower than the Beetle Cab, it's natural enemy, or the MINI Cooper S Convertible, not quite a rival. And much cheaper than either of the tin-top twins from Peugeot and Renault.

The auto is even better priced, at R259 900, best-priced auto in the four-seat topless market.

Other features include improved leather seat trim sport contour trim outlines for improved lateral support, and flush shutoff air vents and a Chrysler signature analogue clock, stolen from the 300C.

Also new for 2006, the audio system controls, hazard-warning switch and rear window controls are mounted higher in the centre console.

A redesigned, dampened door opening provides increased capacity for the glove box while a passenger grab handle has also been added to the left of the instrument panel to make it easier for passengers to get in and out of the vehicle.

The centre console has a sliding armrest and two-tier covered storage space. This console includes a battery-fed power outlet for cell-phone charging and two fold out cup holders for the rear seat passengers.

Adjustable seats

Convenience features for the PT Cruiser Cabrio include seats that may be configured in nine different ways and a six-way power adjustable driver?s seat with manual lumbar adjuster.

A further refinement is the Electronic Vehicle Information Centre (EVIC), which allows owners to customise and easily adjust their personal information settings.

The new EVIC includes a compass and exterior temperature display, audio information, fuel economy, distance to empty and elapsed time.

Ther are improvements to the sealing around the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, as well as added insulation in the dashboard reduce power train noise.

With 2.39 m³ of space, the Chrysler PT Cruiser Cabrio offers more interior cargo volume than many of its competitors.

Standard features include the choice of pebble beige (only in conjunction with Linen Gold metallic paint) or black power cabrio soft top with aerodynamic cover, sport bar with integrated dome lights, power windows and locks, power exterior mirrors, sporty leather-trimmed bucket seats in a choice of pastel pebble beige or pastel slate grey, depending on the choice of exterior paint finish, air conditioning, and AM/FM audio system with six-disc MP3 compatible CD player with six premium speakers.

New alloy wheels

There are 16-inch chromed alloy wheels, front seats with easy-entry system, 50/50 split fold-and-tumble rear seats, front and rear carpeted floor mats, colour-keyed gear shift bezel, three 12-volt power outlets, fog lights, a pass-through cargo area, body-colour fascias and body side mouldings, and power bootlid release with buttons in the lockable glove box and on the remote key fob.

Safety and security features include

  • Multi-stage driver and front-passenger air bags which adjust to occupants' weight
  • Driver-side inflatable knee blocker
  • Enhanced Accident Response System
  • Brake/park interlock
  • Lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH) child seat anchor system
  • Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with low-speed traction control
  • Front seat belts attached to sport bar for improved positioning
  • Front supplemental side seat-mounted air bags
  • Remote keyless entry, redesigned ignition key with integral fob and immobiliser
  • Security alarm
  • Sentry Key engine immobiliser

    On the road

    The PT Cruiser Cabriolet with 2.4-litre power goes much better than the previous 2-litre hardtop, with more power and a lot more torque.

    OK, the engine is a bit rough when you rev it hard, and there's a touch of body shake on rough roads, but on the whole we found it an easy drive without any real vices.

    It's no match for the MINI when it comes to out and out handling, but it's got the most space of anything currently on offer in its price range.

    It's also got great specs, and that upright seating position feels just right.

    I'd have one in my garage any day.


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