Unusual - The Caravan Club

Unusual - The Caravan Club
towcar test: chrysler pt cruiser 2.2 crd limited
a more raked-back attitude to the
A-pillars than you’d find in a genuine
old’un, resulting in a greater horizontal
area atop the dash, like modern cars. But
when you get to the flat-faced, upright
fascia, with the instruments presented
individually in their body-colour
cowling, the retro thing kicks in. On the
passenger’s side, a similarly painted
panel mimics a high-mounted
traditional glove-locker lid, complete
with that lovely stretched-out stylised
1950s script, proclaiming ‘PT Cruiser’ in
chrome. The panel actually conceals the
passenger airbag, the real glovebox being
a more modern drop-down item below.
The slight disappointment for me
was the fascia’s rather modern black
centre portion, containing the sound
system, heating/ventilation controls and
their displays. In fairness, it’s not an easy
task to give digital displays a ’50s look;
but if the car was mine I’d be carefully
masking them up in preparation to paint
the surround in body colour…
Other nice touches are the steering
wheel, which cleverly suggests a
traditional ‘spokey’ design while
providing a large enough boss to
incorporate the airbag. The gearshift,
too, is a simple chrome stick sprouting
from the floor, terminating in an equally
simple ball. Unfortunately, the latter is
painted plastic, its equatorial moulding
line all too apparent. For real effect,
discard the original for a ‘pool ball’ knob
– preferably an ivory-coloured cue ball or
an eight-ball.
Seating and driving position blends
modern with authentic ‘old-car’ feel:
you sit fairly high off the floor (good for
legroom) and survey that pointed curvy
bonnet through what seems like a quite
narrow screen. But it’s comfortable,
with enough seat/steering adjustment
for most drivers.
With thanks to
Chichester Caravans,
Redhill (tel 01737 768266)
for the loan of Towcar Test
ver the years, America has done
just about everything possible
with (and to) the automobile.
One of the most notable is the not-sogentle art of customising – where
anything goes in terms of transplanting
modern engines, drivetrains and running
gear into old cars, often accompanied by
radical interior and exterior restyling.
With the PT Cruiser, Chrysler
basically mass-produced the custom car.
Now I appreciate that’s a contradiction –
‘custom’ in this context is all about
individualism, being different, making
your own style statement. Yet Chrysler
pulled it off with the PT Cruiser: a
The Caravan Club Magazine September 2004
psuedo-40s/50s retro style, that never
existed in such a form, yet sends
sufficient messages to evoke many
peoples’ perceptions of the period.
Painted in a lurid cartoon-strip colour, a
Cruiser would look quite at home in a
Dick Tracy movie.
Unlike Beetle and MINI, it didn’t
seek to revive a particular car. It is,
rather, a caricature of a generic style
inspired by, among others, Chrysler’s
Pronto Cruizer and Prowler hot-rod
concept. So, who would have thought to
turn it into a practical family car? Having
done that, who’d have guessed that
people would buy it?
As a usefully sized estate car, the retro
Chrysler makes a good case for itself.
Tall, van-like proportions offer good
loading possibilities, though passengers
might perceive the cabin to be a little
narrow. This is all part of the ‘old car’
atmosphere, of course, and in reality the
rear seat’s width can adequately
accommodate three occupants. The
seats fold (65:35 split), tumble or
remove, giving a flat floor.
But it’s the fascia that captured the
stylists’ attention, offering a considered
mix of modern and retro. PT Cruiser’s
compound-contoured windscreen gives
Having initially approached the PT
Cruiser with some scepticism, I couldn’t
have been more pleasantly surprised.
Fire up the engine – no separate key and
starter button, I’m afraid, just the usual
column lock switch. While any selfrespecting hot-rodder might crave the
burble of an open-exhaust V8, the
Cruiser’s 2.2 turbodiesel has enough
grumble to not make it feel out of place.
The five-on-the-floor shifter slots
easily, though with just enough detent
resistance to make it feel like it’s
feeding straight into the ’box. It’s allsynchro, by the way, unlike the
obligatory three-speeder way back then,
when you’d have got either a long stick
disappearing beneath the dash or a
column change. You may have even had
the choice of a new-fangled three-speed
TECHNICAL: Chrysler PT Cruiser 2.2
CRD Limited
List price
Fuel consumption
Gross vehicle wgt
Gross train weight
Noseweight limit
Towing equipment
Spare wheel
Club insurance
PT Cruiser
£17,220 (otr)
2148cc, 4-cy l in-line ,
common-rail turbodiesel.
119bhp (88.7kW) @ 4200rpm
221lb ft (299.6Nm) @
5-speed manual, FWD
Diesel/12.5gal (57ltr)
37.2mpg solo/
27.8mpg towing 1000kg
446 miles solo/
347 miles towing
1613kg (85%=1371kg)
£469 plus fitting (£120)
Space saver
Average group 12
Rural £260, urban £444, £150
excess; protected bonus
£12.995(2.0 Classic) to
£17,220 (2.2 CRD Limited)
Cabin comfort
Driving dynamics
● ● ● ●◗ ●
Pulling performance ● ● ● ●◗ ●
Chrysler Torque-Flite auto.
Steering carries some weight but its
gearing is in keeping with the car’s size
and weight – it’s not designed to be flung
around corners like a hot hatch. Yet,
despite quite noticeable cornering body
roll, the Cruiser flows through bends
comfortably. This is helped by well
judged and absorbent suspension
settings which give enough compliance
to soak up mid-bend bumps, while
maintaining acceptable body control.
General ride quality is surprisingly good
with only the more serious road
undulations causing the Chrysler to
pitch unduly.
The 2.2 diesel suits the Cruiser’s
character and, while it’s not the fastest
kid on the block, it won’t embarrass you
in the urban cut and thrust. It’s lowdown torque gives the kind of flexibility
you’d expect from an old large-capacity
V8. Just right for… well, cruising.
Perhaps a small, curvy Airstream may
have been appropriate, but our Cruiser
had to make do with a squarer, boxier –
and lighter – British caravan. The
Chrysler is limited to 1000kg for towing,
restricting its appeal for members. But
anyone who is willing/able to tow within
that limit is unlikely to be disappointed.
Towing preparations were
straightforward, taking care to ensure
the towing mirrors were a snug fit on the
door mirrors. A space-saver spare won’t
TOP: Multi-position shelf
converts to a table, but
raising its top position to
the window sill would have
given more luggage space;
leave the towball on when
solo and it illegallly
obscures the number plate;
retro-modern fascia is
nicely styled; curvy and
boxy – Airstream or
‘teardrop’ trailers best suit
the Chrysler’s style
win towing friends, but that
inconvenience is hardly unique.
The easy-going clutch and torquey
engine allowed drama-free hillstarts,
though the handbrake’s position and
action required a deliberate yank, to
avoid slip (freudian or physical). Level
starts to 60mph were accomplished in a
reasonable 18.4sec (averaged), though
in-gear times (30-50mph/3rd = 8.5sec;
40-60mph/3rd = 11sec) better reflect
real-life performance. At normal speeds
the engine’s flexibility minimised
gearchanging, many motorway gradients
causing little loss of speed.
One of the nicest surprises when
towing was the Cruiser’s retention of its
compliant ride, the caravan’s pitching
action being well absorbed by the car’s
rear suspension. Slight twitchiness was
experienced in close proximity to trucks
etc, but the towcar always felt in
control. Handling on twistier roads was
equally competent.
Shortlist selection
The PT Cruiser may not be the most
versatile, nor the cheapest, in this size
class. But if you like a car with style,
character and individuality (with some
towing ability), check out the Chrysler.
Now which track is Little Deuce
Nissan Almera Tino 2.2 dCi
SVE £17,000; Kia Sedona 2.9
CRDI LE £17,008; VW Touran
1.9 TDI 100 SE £17,100; Ford
Focus C-Max TDCi Zetec,
☞ Insurance: 0800 028 4809
☞Info: www.chryslerjeep.co.uk
The Caravan Club Magazine September 2004
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