This car review of the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic isn’t so much a review as it is an obituary. Days before our test PT Cruiser arrived, Chrysler announced that the retro-styled economy wagon’s production was ending, the last rolling off the assembly line before we were to return our road test vehicle to Chrysler. That shows what happens when they name you Classic: As has happened with other models slapped with that moniker, it means your days are numbered.
Seriously, as this is written there are 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser models, including the PT Cruiser Classic, still in the pipeline and on dealer lots, so the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic is still worth a look, even if it is one final time as a new car review.
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Chrysler refers to the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic as the fifteenth variation of the model, which include–take a breath–five Dream Cruiser Series models, PT Turbo, Flames, Woodie, Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible, the “refreshed” 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser, W.P. Chrysler Signature Series, PT Street Cruiser Route 66, Pacific Coast Highway and Sunset Boulevard editions. Add to that probably hundreds of trim kits from aftermarket suppliers and the PT Cruiser ranks somewhere alongside the Mini Cooper as the world’s most customized vehicle.
Calling the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic a “special edition” is something of a misnomer, however, as it’s the only version of the PT Cruiser available this year. Which is fair enough. The PT Cruiser was scheduled to go out of production last summer, but a last minute reprieve from then new Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne allowed the PT Cruiser to see another day.
Well, another year.
But the PT Cruiser lived on with a limited–Classic–array of features, unlike the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser which was available in base, Touring and Limited trim with a starting price of $18,000. A 180-horse turbocharged four was available on the Touring and standard on the top trim line.
For 2010, it’s the PT Cruiser Classic, available only with the 150-horse four, but the PT Cruiser Classic sells–sold?–for $18,275, which includes a four-speed automatic transmission as standard. The base model came standard with a five-speed manual transmission unless the automatic was specified as an option, making the extra $275 a bargain. But wait, there’s more. For 2010, the Classic also adds cruise control and 16-inch aluminum wheels as standard equipment. The 2010 Classic also comes with fog lights and power mirrors standard. (Safety features already standard equipment on the PT Cruiser include anti-lock brakes and front and front seat side airbags along with a knee-blocker airbag for the driver).
What makes the 2010 PT Cruiser Classic stand out, of course, is the PT Cruiser’s retro, 1940-look styling, without which it would have been just a tall-wagon and not achieved the near cult status it did. The curved grille, issued in several different formats, combine with the front and rear fenders that look like that earlier era’s bolt-on fenders and high shoulder line that together give the PT Cruiser its “gangster” look.
The look is carried inside as well, with Chrysler’s white-face instruments with 1940s-look font and markings and a vintage-like steering wheel with an extra-compact airbag in the small hub of a four-spoke steering wheel and a ball-topped shift lever. The latter is mounted low and rearward, and when a manual was still available it had a distinctive old-fashioned feel, mounted further back than usual. But alas, now it’s just a shiny ball atop a slender stick, though still lower and more rearward than usual.
What the retro styling hides, though, is the PT Cruiser’s practicality. The cargo cover can be lowered from its normal position to provide bi-level cargo storage. The rear seatbacks can be folded forward 60/40 for more cargo space, or the seats can be tipped forward for even more cargo capacity. For cargo volume gluttons, the rear seats can be removed altogether. Our test PT Cruiser had the optional Convenience Group which includes a folding front passenger seatback that makes it possible to carry 8-foot long items dashboard to tailgate. The rest of the $395 Convenience package includes upgraded stain-repel cloth (front heated, 6-way power driver’s) seats and heavy-duty battery. It’s a bargain.
Scroll down to see more pictures of the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic.
The Chrysler PT Cruiser’s 150-horse motor won’t overwhelm even the faintest with its acceleration, which we’d deem as adequate with a lot of foot-to-the-floor and a lot of revs. It never feels strained, however, even when working hard. Fortunately, the PT Cruiser is relatively light for its size, at only about 3,100 lbs, but adding passengers and stuff pushes the power to weight ratio in a noticeably wrong direction.
Handling can be disconcerting. Pushed in the corners, the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser goes weak in the knees. The mediocre handling doesn’t pay back in a smooth ride, either. It’s an aging platform, having been around for almost ten years, and new models have moved beyond the PT Cruiser’s technology. Even competing vehicles that share the PT Cruiser’s basic strut/torsion beam suspension configuration, such as the me-too retro but newer design Chevrolet HHR, have a smoother ride.
The 2010 Chevrolet PT Cruiser Classic has high seating, which helps in looking over traffic (they call it a “command” driving position). The seating at the rear is even higher than the front (dito “stadium seating”), which means exceptional back seat leg room. Stadium seating is an appropriate name for the rear seat’s comfort, too. Or perhaps bleacher seat, considering how hard the rear seat bottoms are.
The rear seat, however, isn’t as hard as the plastic around the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic’s cabin. The interior materials are remnants of an earlier Chrysler era and make the insides look and feel cheap.
Still, despite the age of the retro wagon’s platform, the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic is a good deal for those who like the styling, polarizing as distinctive designs often are. Our test 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic had a bottom line of $20,220, which is a good deal on a serviceable vehicle for those who can appreciate the PT Cruiser Classic’s pluses and live with the Classic’s shortcomings–and course still like the PT Cruiser’s retro look. But those who wish to buy a Chrysler PT Cruiser off the new car lot, rather than the used lot, should act quickly. There aren’t that many left and they aren’t making any more. Will the last one out close the cemetery gate?
Illustrations: 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic; door handle on 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic with thumb push button.
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2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic, selected specifications, as tested
Front engine/front-wheel drive, unitbody 5-seat wagon
2.4L/150 hp DOHC 16-valve in-line four
Material, block / head
cast iron / aluminum
sequential multi-port fuel injection
Horsepower @ rpm
150 @ 5,100
Torque, lb-ft @ rpm
165 @ 4000
Suspension, f / r
strut w/ asymetrical lower control arms / trailer arm, twist beam
rack-and-pinion hydraulic power steering
Turning circle, ft.
Front and rear disc brakes w/ ABS and low-speed traction control
Rotor diameter, in., f / r
11.0 / 10.62
Wheels, size, type
16 x 6.0-in., aluminum
Tires, size, type
205/55R16 all-season touring
Dimensions & capacities
Ground clearance, in.
Curb weight, lbs
Cargo volume, cu. ft., min / max
Fuel tank, gal.
Trailer towing max, lb.
0-60 mph, sec.
Top speed, mph
Fuel econ., EPA city / hwy, mpg
19 / 24
Fuel econ., observed, mpg
2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic, selected features and prices, as tested
Safety features: front/front side/driver knee air bags, ABS, traction control
Exterior features: daytime running lights, halogen quad headlights, fog lamps, power mirrors, rear spoiler
Interior features: air conditioning, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, power front windows w/ driver express down, AM/FM/CD/satellite radio w/ four speakers, analog clock, sliding sun visor w/ illuminated mirrors, front courtesy/map lamp, 12v rear power outlet, multi-position shelf panel
Convenience Group: premium cloth low-back bucket seats, 510-amp battery, front passenger forward-fold flat seat, Stain Repel fabric,
Power Express Open Moonroof
Engine block heater