2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Turbo (437)

This week I finally got to test-drive the 4-cylinder Turbo version of the PT Cruiser. I had felt back in 2000 that this car / truck / SUV would not only be a trip back in time, the price would surely go up once the demand pushed production. Prices didn’t go up as much as I thought, however, and Chrysler really pushed up production to meet the demand.

I believe the folks who drive the demand up for the PT Cruiser are in their 50’s and 60’s. Those are the Rod lovers for car of the period and I think they too have pushed for this Turbo version. Those are the same people who invented the “Drag Strip” and have supported professional racing for the past 50 years. And it is comforting to know that their old high school sweethearts are also seen driving them.

Ok, so although it rides nice and now has the power we wanted, is it still too small inside and barely adequate for transporting lads and ladies and luggage. Well, the “Cruiser” is a unique addition to the highway like other older renovated Rods, but with the advantage of being new, reliable, and thus more practical as a daily driver. It provides everything other cars provide and I expect it will continue to be a popular reminder of transportation of the early part of the 20th Century.

Handling & Performance:

The Cruiser has a terrible turning radius and that was the only gripe I heard from a friend who rented one on a recent road trip. Me, I like the increased power from the turbo that boosts the 150 horsepower to 215, but that was never a deal breaker without it. As to the ride, it is surprisingly smooth and quite comfortable and the long turning radius is only a minor inconvenience.


It is a shiny, clean, modern version of the past. A second Dream Cruiser edition will also be added to the PT Cruiser lineup later in the 2003 model year. It sets on a Neon platform and follows in the footsteps of some older panel trucks. In fact, there is now a conversion kit available that converts it to a true Panel truck. It means removing the rear door handles, installing rear side window coverings and even provided cladding on the inside to make it a true Panel Truck.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.


Nothing out of the ordinary.


Prices are a climbing. In 2000 the price was about $15,000. Why, you say? Well, I’d say “…because” but I can just hear my daughter at various adolescent ages chiding me that “Because” is not an answer. Ok, she broke me of that and now kids drive adults up the wall with that favorite response of the day – “Whateverrrrr”.  Why do they say that? I suspect, just “Because”.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you’ve got to capture a bit of the past and have the dough it’s a fun car to have and drive. It attracts attention in lesser and lesser degrees than when introduced in 1998, but still a fun car to drive.

The Competition:

VW Beetle $16-26,000, Mini Cooper $16-19,000, Toyota RAV4 $17-18,000, Chrysler PT Cruiser $17-22,000, Honda CR-V $19-22,000, Subaru Forester $21-24,000, Suzuki Grand Vitara $19-23,000.

Good News:

Turbocharged engine, smooth ride, different – a departure from the hum drum cars that are flat boring, 4-wheel disc – replace rear drum brakes.

Bad News:

Cargo area is small and general feeling of cramped quarters.

Standard Equipment:

2.4 liter 215 horsepower Turbocharged 4 cylinder engine, 4-speed auto trans, front and side air bags, child seat anchor and rear door protection, power 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, power steering, traction control, stabilizer bars, air conditioning, tilt steering column, power windows, fold down rear removable seats, AM/FM six speaker radio with cassette and CD, power driver seat and fold flat passenger seat, theft deterrent and security alarm system, door locks, keyless entry, tint glass, fog lamps, 17” aluminum chrome wheels, power moon roof,  and power mirrors.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 25 Highway MPG.


MSRP $25,675.


Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com

Copyright © 2003 – An Automotive Love Affair

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2014 – An Automotive Love Affair.

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