2000 Chrysler PT Cruiser new car reviews

A few years ago, there was a vehicle called the Mitsubishi Expo LRV (and its mate, the Dodge Colt Vista). These were cars that were not really big enough to be minivans, not really small enough to be cars, but not really shaped like station wagons. At the time, we thought they were just stupid orphans with no real purpose. They were space pods, designed to transport people and not much else, even though their proportions were those of more utilitarian haulers, albeit on a smaller scale.

As many expected, they were sales failures. People just didn't want a van that couldn't carry a full sheet of plywood, or a car that was boxy and upright.

What they wanted, apparently, was a '34 Ford coupe.

Enter the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Too small to be a van or wagon, too boxy and upright to be a car, but just too cool to not be noticed. Chrysler has reintroduced the car-as-statement idea, and people are noticing. Not that the PT is completely useless. Apparently DaimlerChrysler remembered the Expo LRV debacle and took some notes. As a result, the PT has a Rube Goldbergian interior that can be configured to swallow a lot of cargo.

The PT can be configured for five, four, three, two or one passengers. The front passenger seat folds completely horizontal, providing enough unobstructed linear space to swallow an eight-foot step ladder. The multi-position rear package shelf seems gimmicky at first, but transforms an otherwise tiny wayback into a lot of usable space by taking advantage of all three dimensions-not just floor space.

Then there's the looks. Love it or hate it, the PT is a ballsy move by DaimlerChrysler. Hopefully the quality control gremlins that started plaguing Neons a year or so into their life don't crop up in this little hot rod.

Actually, the rod ain't so hot. With a 2.4-liter engine, 0-60 times are above eight seconds for the manual transmission version and above 10 seconds for our autoboxed test car. The other major downfall of the PT is mediocre fuel economy (barely above 20 mpg in our testing) and a tiny fuel tank. On the plus side, this premium head-turner carries a reasonable price tag. Our PT Cruiser Limited Edition, nicely equipped with chrome wheels and a CD player, carried an MSRP of $19,295.

If you were this close to buying an Expo LRV, the PT should be a no-brainer. (Provided you're among the retro crazies that dig its gnarly looks.) If not, DaimlerChrysler may be presenting you with a bit of an enigma. Is this the first step toward responsibility for young family types who think getting a minivan would just nerd them out too much? Or is it simply a handy commuter tool wrapped in stylish duds? Only time will tell.

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