Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
You'll Like The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser If...
If you love driving something that pays homage to a great era in American cars, the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser is your vehicle. You don’t have to sacrifice for your kicks either, as the PT has loads of space, a clever adjustable rear shelf and a choice of normally-aspirated or turbocharged engines.
You May Not Like The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser If...
If you’re looking for a full-size recreation of a 1940s American sedan, the PT Cruiser will be too small and probably not cushy enough for you. And if you look at it as an alternative small SUV like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, the PT Cruiser does not offer the same ground clearance or optional all-wheel drive.
Chrysler makes front-seat side-impact airbags standard on all models, as well as a compass and temperature display. New models are now the LX, Touring and Limited; the GT model has been discontinued.
The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser’s innovative interior includes a satin-finish dash trim, a retro-looking cue ball shift knob and tall, upright seating. The rear storage area features a moveable shelf that can serve as a table for tailgate parties or a privacy cover to hide valuables. Rear-seat passengers will find plenty of head and legroom and a good view of the road ahead, thanks to the raised rear seats.
Clearly one of the most recognizable shapes on the road, the PT’s retro panel van styling is truly classic. Though built on the now-defunct Dodge Neon platform, the PT sits up higher than most cars, more like a small SUV. Its tall doors make accessing the interior a breeze and the big rear hatch makes it easy to load long or bulky items. An ample supply of aftermarket body kits and performance-enhancing add-ons allows for some wild customization at bargain-basement prices.
Driving the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser is much like driving any compact car, only you sit a bit higher and get many more smiles and thumbs-up signs flashed your way. The steering is precise and without vagueness, the brakes are firm and the handling good. We drove the middle-level Touring model featuring the optional 180-horsepower four-cylinder turbo mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The seamless turbo works in concert with a balanced suspension to deliver a driving experience fitting the car’s Cruiser designation. On turbo models, there is very little torque steer, a pleasant surprise for such a powerful front-drive car. There seems to be a good deal of low-end torque as we didn’t feel the need to downshift when climbing steep grades or attempting leisurely passing maneuvers.
The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser LX’s Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $15,500, while the Touring comes in just under $20,000 and the Limited is about $23,000. Despite the wide price range, it’s safe to say you can buy a nicely equipped LX for under $20,000, and a nicely equipped turbocharged model for less than $25,000. To make your best deal, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price, which lists the typical transaction price paid for a PT Cruiser in your area. Despite its strong appeal, the PT Cruiser is projected to retain less-than-average resale values, well below the standards set by the Toyota Matrix, Scion xB and Mazda Mazda5.
As standard equipment, the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser LX has a 150-horsepower 2.4-liter engine, five-speed manual transmission, rear defrost, manual side mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD and MP3 input jack, tilt wheel, power windows, keyless entry, front-seat side-impact air bags, full wheel covers and a rear wiper/washer. The Touring trim adds air conditioning, power driver’s seat, cruise control, power mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels and a fold-flat passenger’s seat. The Limited model adds a turbocharged engine, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) with low-speed traction control, fog lamps, chrome package, leather seats, power moon roof, SIRIUS Satellite Radio and 17-inch polished aluminum wheels.
Options include the 2.4-liter turbocharged engine (Touring) 368-watt Boston Acoustics audio group with six speakers and subwoofer, anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, heated front seats, YES Essentials seat covers, power moon roof and a four-speed automatic transmission.
Adjustable Rear ShelfThe PT Cruiser’s adjustable rear shelf can be set to various heights.PT Cruiser ExteriorThe PT’s marvelous exterior lends itself to multiple personality changes.
Under the Hood
The standard engine works well in the PT, giving it good acceleration and respectable fuel economy. 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, though doing so means you cannot have the five-speed manual transmission.2.4-liter in-line 4150 horsepower @ 5100 rpm165 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/26 (manual), 19/24 (automatic)2.4-liter in-line 4 Turbocharged180 horsepower @ 5200 rpm210 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800-4000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24
The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser continues as one of the most stylish and fun-to-own compact wagons on the market. While some may argue its retro look has grown tiresome, sales remain strong, as does the demand for aftermarket parts and accessories. Beyond its flamboyant "look at me" exterior, the PT Cruiser provides a roomy and highly flexible interior as adept at hauling kids and cargo as it is serving tailgate, or, rather, liftgate-party duty. Unlike most cars in this segment, Chrysler offers PT buyers a choice of fuel-efficient engines, one of which is turbocharged. Best of all, the PT Cruiser’s price tag starts around $15,000, making it a vehicle just about anyone can afford.