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The same inside and out as a regular PT Cruiser, the Turbo's differences are all under the hood.

2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo Road Test
Although DaimlerChrysler's PT Cruiser isn't new, the new Turbo version is what got the model an entry into the 2003 AJAC TestFest competition. With its 2.4-L turbocharged engine producing 215 hp, it's easily the fastest car in this group, popping from a standing start to 100 km/h in just 7.9 seconds. If you're going to accelerate fast, you also need to stop quickly -- and it does just that, with the second shortest braking distance in the category.

The Turbo has a few tweaks to differentiate it from regular models, including body color matched front and rear bumpers, a larger opening in the lower front grille and a metallic instrument panel treatment.

I liked the shifter -- a long stick with a nice chrome knob at the top. It was connected to a four-speed automatic with Chrysler's AutoStick feature.

Although adding a turbocharger to the PT's engine results in the worst fuel economy for both city and highway in this category, they're still very economical ratings, at 12.4/8.6 L per 100 km.

With its flexible seat configurations -- the second row seats can be flipped, folded or removed, and the passenger seat conveniently folds flat to extend the storage space -- the PT Cruiser is the space king in the Family Vehicle category. There's 538 L of room behind the rear seats, and more than triple that with the second row removed.

Handling is excellent, with stable cornering and a smooth ride. The driver's seating is high, for a good view of the road ahead. Both front and rear seats offer good headroom and legroom.

The base price on the Turbo is $27,700, but our tester was loaded with options, including a power sunroof, that made it the most expensive model in this category. Even so, it offers lots of driving excitement combined with practical, family-hauling capacity. A bonus is DaimlerChrysler's new seven year, 115,000 km engine and powertrain warranty, the longest-running such warranty of any manufacturer.

* Price as tested: $33,335

© Copyright Bill Roebuck, 2002.

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