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Chrysler PT Cruiser 2.2 CRD

Broadcast date : 9th May 2004

The CRD nomenclature stands for the diesel model in the range, this modern-day Chrysler that looks like a throwback to 1930s hotrodderdom.

Back in the late 1990s Chrysler began creating funky showcars and gauging public response. This is nothing unusual in the show circuit, as David Bullard recently pointed out when he referred to showcars being simply there to draw people away from the Lamborghini stands at auto shows.

The difference is that Chrysler, in the past decade, has actually gone ahead and built their showcars.

Think back to the Dodge Viper, the Plymouth Prowler and this car, the PT Cruiser, and you will find that all started out as improbable showcars to create interest in the Chrysler umbrella brand.

The PT Cruiser has been around in South Africa for the past three years and it has been seen as a bit of an anachronism

It is very American in our largely Eurocentric car culture, and yet has none of the straightforwardness that makes Japanese cars, and more latterly Korean offerings, seem like a sensible purchase decision.

And yet beneath that flamboyant nineteen thirties streetrod exterior lurks a very practical car indeed.

It is a five-seater with loads of space, a total of thirty-two seating variables, and importantly in the female market, a raised driver's seating position.

Research has shown, amongst buyers of raised-cab four by fours and multi Purpose Vehicles like the Renault Scenic, that a raised driving position is very important to female buyers.

Women drivers feel less vulnerable sitting high up with a command view of the traffic, and not prey to indiscriminate street hawkers which seem to pepper each and every intersection these days.

The PT Cruiser, with its down-home styling, shares this levitated vantage point with modern MPVs. And in fact, the PT Cruiser is more MPV than car, once you get past the comic-book styling.

Sales of the PT Cruiser have been steadily building and Daimler-Chrysler South Africa reports a strong market amongst single black professional females.

This is evident in Sandton, where you hardly have a day go by without a chic black professional in a power suit scything through the traffic in a PT Cruiser. Chrome wheels, flames and all.

Nevertheless the market for the car is a lot broader than that, and DCSA expects sales to increase from 600 units last year to 800 this year.

It won't be surprising if the PT Cruiser does a lot better than that, thanks to the new diesel version being introduced a few months ago.

This diesel engine perfectly suits the PT Cruiser, as it adds solidity to the feel of the car.

The engine is in fact a Mercedes unit, the same 2,2 litre common rail turbodiesel that powers the Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan.

Such are the fruits of Chrysler's alliance with Daimler Benz, although it still remains to be seen, in a corporate sense, what Chrysler are bringing to the party.

Apart from a bit of light-hearted style of course. And build quality is not bad.

In fact the PT Cruiser has a level of build, if not interior sophistication that is the equal of many German cars. Switch gear is solid, if a bit dated looking but there are standard luxury items like a good quality CD-radio, air conditioning and central locking.

Slightly irritating is the incessant warning chimes that implore you to fasten your seat belt or warn you that you are in reverse gear. On a positive note, there are four airbags, ABS braking and traction control.

The image of the PT Cruiser was slightly spoilt when it was launched by a rather humdrum two-litre petrol engine and a very old fashioned four-speed automatic gearbox.

In five-speed diesel format this is all sorted to good effect. The car has dynamic charisma to go with it street-wise looks.

The power of the 2,2-litre diesel provides satisfying acceleration for this class of vehicle, Typical of a diesel, there is no power at the bottom end of the rev range, then a strong surge in the mid-range from 2 000 revs upwards through to four thousand, and then a rather abrupt drop-off in power. Nevertheless it is fun.

No street racer, the PT Cruiser diesel cruises to one hundred in just over twelve seconds and has a top speed of around one hundred and eighty kilometres an hour.
To our mind, that is about spot -on for this kind of family vehicle.

Fuel consumption is diesel friendly, and owners can expect an overall consumption figure of seven to seven point five litres per hundred kilometres.

Priced at two hundred and twenty nine thousand, nine hundred, -okay, call it two hundred and thirty thousand Rand - the PT Cruiser CRD is well worth a look.

Oh, and you can order it without those flames, if discretion is still part of your bag.

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