Avg. Price Paid:$5,676 - $8,250
Original MSRP: $15,970 - $23,515
MPG: 21 City / 26 Hwy
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2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser was new.

Reviewers mostly forgive the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser for not being a performance vehicle. Edmunds says that the Limited Edition's "lack of boost doesn't mean it isn't fun to drive. It is ... Just don't expect to go fast."

The PT Cruiser, according to most reviewers, is intended primarily for city driving, not for speeding down the freeway, so they don't regard the lack of an engine more powerful than four cylinders as a major issue. The base engine takes its share of knocks, but Cars.com writes: "Though the base-engine PT Cruiser is far from overpowering, its performance is more satisfying than some critics suggest. Throttle response is rapid, even if the action that follows is a little lackadaisical." The manual gearshift is generally preferred to the automatic and the Cruiser's handling gets better reviews than its drivetrain. "Overall ride quality is tight without being abusive," says Edmunds, "and steering feel is among the best we've experienced in this class of vehicle."

Acceleration and Power

Reviewers are polite at best about the 150-horsepower four-cylinder engine in the PT Cruiser's LX and Touring models. "The standard engine works well in the PT," says Kelley Blue Book, "giving it good acceleration and respectable fuel economy." But most recommend it for city use only. Consumer Guide finds it "fine for around-town cruising, but weak on hills or in highway passing." Other reviewers are harsher. "Most of our negative feedback on the PT Cruiser had to do with the engine," says Automobile Magazine. "The 150-horsepower, sixteen-valve four-cylinder, while not exactly underpowered, is raspy and coarse, especially when compared with the more refined four-cylinder engines from Chrysler's Japanese and German competitors." Motor Trend notes that "most editors agreed that engine power was just barely adequate, and some even complained the car was underpowered." Edmunds says simply, "Buyers will want to avoid the base engine, which leaves the car feeling lethargic." The Environmental Protection Agency rates the base engine at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway with the standard manual transmission.

The 180-horsepower four-cylinder engine in the Limited Edition receives somewhat better reviews. "For those who want the PT's performance to live up to its racy good looks, a move up to the low-pressure, 180-horsepower turbo engine is recommended," says Kelley Blue Book.

The PT Cruiser comes with both manual and automatic transmissions, the former standard in the LX, the latter standard in the Limited and Touring editions. Reviewers mostly prefer the manual. "Unless you absolutely must have your gears shifted for you," says Edmunds, "skip the extra cost slushbox and stick with the stick for better performance, fuel economy, and responsiveness." The Los Angeles Times notes the "zippy performance with the standard five-speed transmission." The automatic receives fair reviews: "Its shifts are imperceptible, and its power is sure if subtle," according to the Boston Globe.

Handling and Braking

The 2008 PT Cruiser's handling is well-liked by reviewers. Cars.com says: "The PT Cruiser's terrific handling is confident and nimble. This wagon maneuvers with utter crispness and can take corners with impressive speed." The reviewer for Edmunds writes that "the PT Cruiser's driving traits are quite admirable, even sporty. Overall ride quality is tight without being abusive and steering feel is among the best we've experienced in this class of vehicle." Road and Track feels that the PT Cruiser is "perfect for driving and parking in the big city." The Cruiser's ride is called "comfortable" by more than one reviewer. Motor Trend says that "the [twist-beam] suspension delivered a fine balance of road feel and isolation." And Edmunds says that "the suspension consistently soaks up road irregularities, yielding a smooth, composed ride."

The PT Cruiser's rack-and-pinion steering is generally well reviewed. MSN writes, "The power steering in my test car was rather heavy, but also was quick and precise." Edmunds notes, "Apart from a wide turning circle, all PTs are easy to steer." The Cruiser's disc brakes also get good notices. "The brake pedal has a nice feel and the PT Cruiser stops quickly," says the Chicago Sun-Times. Anti-lock brakes are optional (standard on the Limited).

Performance Trims


The base model has a 150-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, disc brakes and a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional.

Touring Edition

The Limited Edition has a 150-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, disc brakes and a four-speed automatic transmission. Anti-lock disc brakes are optional.

Limited Edition

The Limited Edition has a 180-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, disc brakes and a four-speed automatic transmission. Anti-lock disc brakes are optional.

Review Last Updated: 2/18/09

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