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2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser

by Martha Hindes

Chrysler PT Cruiser

When you look at PT Cruiser, it's hard to imagine how its retro shape can accommodate five or a large load of cargo. Believe us. It can. We've driven the PT cruiser a couple of times since it first emerged in recast '40s guise and enjoyed every minute of its ability to scoot around corners, merge into traffic and pace HEMIs and semis as they gobble up miles of freeway. It might look retro, but it's totally 2006.

Getting in and out is no problem. It's taller than many competitors for more interior space. Plus the front and rear doors simply borrow a chunk from the front and rear fenders for easy access when open, and merge into invisibility when closed. Same for the rear hatchback that yawns for easy loading. It's a lot of practicality in a totally fun package.

As with many small car competitors, PT Cruiser has shifted some priorities since springing from design concept nearly a decade ago. Added for '06 is more performance heft and power, plus an all new interior and several exterior upgrades, including Chrysler's "wing-badged" grille motif, softer scalloped headlamp design and round foglamps among fascia changes. Chrysler has shushed it with extra road, wind and powertrain noise muting. Marine Blue Pearl Coat and Magnesium Pearl Coat join the color palate. Base, Touring and Limited get an aerodynamic enhancing roof panel spoiler strip.

There's a newly gutsier High-Output Turbo 2.4-liter four rated at 230-horsepower. By contrast, the intercooled turbo gets 180-HP, and naturally aspirated engine puts out 150-HP, and earns EPA ratings of 21/27 manual and 19/25 automatic.

Base is about $13,500. Add as much as $10,000 for upmarket versions. Goodies include Sirius satellite radio connectivity, nav system, leather and other lux items. The oh-so-cute, two-door convertible version has a wrap over roll bar that lends a sense of security. Call it sedan, hatchback, convertible, whatever. That won't change its character one bit. If any vehicle is capable of defining chutzpah, this could be it.