2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic review: Writing its obit

2010 PT Cruiser Classic

2010 PT Cruiser Classic

This car review of the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic isn’t so much a review as it is an obituary. Days before our test PT Cruiser arrived, Chrysler announced that the retro-styled economy wagon’s production was ending, the last rolling off the assembly line before we were to return our road test vehicle to Chrysler. That shows what happens when they name you Classic: As has happened with other models slapped with that moniker, it means your days are numbered.

Seriously, as this is written there are 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser models, including the PT Cruiser Classic, still in the pipeline and on dealer lots, so the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic is still worth a look, even if it is one final time as a new car review.

2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic interior

The shift lever of the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic is positioned almost between the front seats. (click to enlarge)

Chrysler refers to the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic as the fifteenth variation of the model, which include–take a breath–five Dream Cruiser Series models, PT Turbo, Flames, Woodie, Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible, the “refreshed” 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser, W.P. Chrysler Signature Series, PT Street Cruiser Route 66, Pacific Coast Highway and Sunset Boulevard editions. Add to that probably hundreds of trim kits from aftermarket suppliers and the PT Cruiser ranks somewhere alongside the Mini Cooper as the world’s most customized vehicle.

2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic

Compared to many earlier special editions, the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic has a simple grille. (click to enlarge)

Calling the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic a “special edition” is something of a misnomer, however, as it’s the only version of the PT Cruiser available this year. Which is fair enough.  The PT Cruiser was scheduled to go out of production last summer, but a last minute reprieve from then new Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne allowed the PT Cruiser to see another day.

Well, another year.

But the PT Cruiser lived on with a limited–Classic–array of features, unlike the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser which was available in base, Touring and Limited trim with a starting price of $18,000. A 180-horse turbocharged four was available on the Touring and standard on the top trim line.

For 2010, it’s the PT Cruiser Classic, available only with the 150-horse four, but the PT Cruiser Classic sells–sold?–for $18,275, which includes a four-speed automatic transmission as standard. The base model came standard with a five-speed manual transmission unless the automatic was specified as an option, making the extra $275 a bargain. But wait, there’s more. For 2010, the Classic also adds cruise control and 16-inch aluminum wheels as standard equipment. The 2010 Classic also comes with fog lights and power mirrors standard. (Safety features already standard equipment on the PT Cruiser include anti-lock brakes and front and front seat side airbags along with a knee-blocker airbag for the driver).

2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic cargo

The cargo capacity of the 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic can be increased by folding both rear and front seatbacks , or by removing rear seats entirely. (click to enlarge)

What makes the 2010 PT Cruiser Classic stand out, of course, is the PT Cruiser’s retro, 1940-look styling, without which it would have been just a tall-wagon and not achieved the near cult status it did. The curved grille, issued in several different formats, combine with the front and rear fenders that look like that earlier era’s bolt-on fenders and high shoulder line that together give the PT Cruiser its “gangster” look.

The look is carried inside as well, with Chrysler’s white-face instruments with 1940s-look font and markings and a vintage-like steering wheel with an extra-compact airbag in the small hub of a four-spoke steering wheel and a ball-topped shift lever. The latter is mounted low and rearward, and when a manual was still available it had a distinctive old-fashioned feel, mounted further back than usual. But alas, now it’s just a shiny ball atop a slender stick, though still lower and more rearward than usual.

2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic

The 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic’s retro lines give it a “gangster” appearance. (click to enlarge)

What the retro styling hides, though, is the PT Cruiser’s practicality. The cargo cover can be lowered from its normal position to provide bi-level cargo storage. The rear seatbacks can be folded forward 60/40 for more cargo space, or the seats can be tipped forward for even more cargo capacity. For cargo volume gluttons, the rear seats can be removed altogether. Our test PT Cruiser had the optional Convenience Group which includes a folding front passenger seatback that makes it possible to carry 8-foot long items, dashboard to tailgate. The rest of the $395 Convenience package includes upgraded stain-repel cloth (front heated, 6-way power driver’s) seats and heavy-duty battery. It’s a bargain.