We’ve shown you the PT Cruiser Cabriolet before, but we’ve now driven it in the UK with the certainty it will be arriving on these shores. During March next year, 100 left-hand-drive drop-top PTs will be released here in an attempt to corral enough interest to justify a right-hand-drive version.
And judging by the eyes-on-stalks effect achieved by our topless PT, Chrysler should have no problem shifting next year’s crop. From the 16-inch chrome wheels to the steel roll-over bar, the PT Cabriolet screams for attention. And it’s not resentful attention, either – the only finger likely to be gestured at the PT is a thumb. People seem to like this car.
Only a Big Brother contestant drops their top quicker – twist a handle on the header rail, push a button, wait 10 seconds and it’s all off. The vinyl tonneau cover is another story, though – we eventually ran out of patience trying to cover the roof mechanism and threw it in the boot.
With the top down and the windows up, wind buffeting is barely a problem up front, but those banished to the rear – just two, in the Cabriolet – will discover that the raised seats thrust their heads into the eye of a storm of turbulence.
But the PT’s practicality hasn’t entirely been sacrificed to the new roof arrangement. Rear-seat passengers still have plenty of head- and legroom, and the rear seats fold to free up more boot space.Despite the bodyshell’s extra strengthening (most of it behind the doors and rear seats) there is some scuttle shake over sharp bumps, but if it’s cruising or ambling around town the PT serves up a decent ride.
A drop-top version isn’t the only novelty for the 2005 PT Cruiser line-up – an all-new Euro4 emissions-compliant 2.4-litre petrol engine replaces the 2.0-litre unit from the Neon. It provides 143bhp and 158lb ft of torque – up 4bhp and 19lb ft – which might not sound like a massive gain, but the improved shove is definitely noticeable, especially with the manual gearbox.
At £17,495 for the five-speed manual and £18,295 for the four-speed auto, we’d consider the cheaper, more athletic and equally retro-chic Mini Convertible, especially if you’ll rarely carry adults in the rear seats. But if you fancy a piece of old-school Americana with crowd-drawing looks and everyday usability, then the PT Cabrio is the only way to cruise.