Future automotive trends are challenging to accurately forecast. So when a long-awaited, hyped-up vehicle like the Chrysler PT Cruiser finally materializes, we always ask ourselves: Will it fly? There's often a big difference between what turns heads at an auto show and what will actually sell. In this case, can retro fever successfully meet millennium mania in an affordable yet edgy vehicle targeted at Gen-X and younger nostalgia-crazed buyers?
PT Cruiser designers insist their creation isn't "retro," instead saying it borrows from "recognizeable themes." Some people see '30s American influence, others think '40s Woodies or even London taxicabs. Whatever your point of reference, the PT Cruiser certainly is distinctive. Huge flared fenders, steep forward rake, large rear hatch, and a Prowleresque prow ensure the PT won't be confused for any other car on the road.
But is it a car, an SUV, or something entirely new? According to the EPA, the PT Cruiser is a light truck, even though it's Neon-based. Its distinct street-rod style permeates the interior with splashes of body color dressing the three-pod instrument panel and passenger-side dash fascia. The center dash is typical Chrysler fare, with rotary climate controls and familiar audio head unit. A digital compass above the rearview mirror is a welcome touch. Five-speed manual transmission cars feature a classic cue-ball shifter, though four-speed automatics have a more contemporary gear selector.
Large minivan-like front buckets offer a commanding view of the road, while still appearing stylish. Firmer and flatter than they look, the seats are designed to remain comfortable on long-distance treks. Abundant headroom is barely compromised by the one-touch, power moonroof. In fact, there's more noggin space available up front than in a Dodge Durango.
The four-spoke steering wheel embodies a hint of heritage flair with its generous size, although we appreciate the modern convenience of height adjustment. General tactile feel is quite good, with rich textures and premium-feel materials in the interior. There's optional storage space in a lockable drawer beneath the front passenger seat, as in many minivans.