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2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser

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2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser Review

A cheap, stylish wagon that can fit the entire family.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser is an awkward or stylish vehicle depending on who’s looking at it. The edition of a turbocharged engine addresses some of the complaints that previous models were a bit slow to accelerate and felt underpowered. It also boasts a new grille design that improves airflow and cooling in the engine. New performance base upgrades, such as better tires, larger diameter exhaust tip, and other features make this the best model yet. All the improvements haven’t covered up some of the more obvious deficiencies. Acceleration still needs a bit of improvement. Seating for the driver can be awkward for shorter drivers. All in all, this cheap, fun-looking wagon is much improved and should win over the public.

The Range

Body Styles: hatchback wagon
Engines: 2.4-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: four-speed automatic, five-speed manual
Models: PT Cruiser, Touring Edition, Limited Edition, GT

What's New

The 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser has a new PT Turbo engine that produces 215 horsepower, a huge and much needed upgrade to the previously underpowered engine. It also receives a redesigned grille, larger exhaust tip, performance tires, and other features improve performance.


The 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser has a very distinct look. Some might call it hearse-like, others will find it attractive. Either way, it gains a new grille for better cooling. It resembles now a street modified hot rod, a retro throwback. The fenders bulge out, the headlights are mounted on the fenders, and the lean-forward stance makes it stand out from the competition.


The 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser will comfortably fit five passengers. This is a vehicle with a lot of extra space. The driver and front passenger sit in comfortable bucket seats. In the back is a 65/35-split rear seat that holes three passengers. The only cramped spot is the rear-center seat that may cause some discomfort to taller drivers. Rear seatbacks will lay flat when folded forward. Buyers can remove the rear seat to increase the cargo space from 19 cubic feet to a monster 64.2 cubic feet. The front passenger seat will also lean forward, providing an extra eight feet for longer materials being pushed through the back of the vehicle.

Performance & Handling

One major complaint about the 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser in the past was its lack of power. It solved that problem for the most part this year by offering a turbo engine. The base models receive a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 150 horsepower. Still underpowered. The PT Turbo engine, a 2.4-liter, turbocharged engine, produces 215 horsepower. Engines can be mated with a four-speed automatic transmission with an AutoStick manual control, or a five-speed manual transmission. The base engine continues to have sluggish acceleration that will turn off most drivers. The turbocharged 2.4-liter will have most drivers suitably happy, able to go zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. The throttle response on take-off is good, but performance once the vehicle is moving is a bit disappointing. The handling is terrific due to the high performance tires and the pavement hugging suspension. Cornering is surprisingly crisp with minimal under steer. The suspension system is smooth without being too stiff. It will handle most holes in the pavement with a yawn. With all the improvements made in 2003, it should be a favorite among wagon-lovers.


The 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser comes equipped with standard child seat anchors, ventilate front disc brakes, rear door child safety locks, rear-center three-point seat belt, electronic brake force distribution, and front-height adjustable headrests. Side-impact airbags are optional on all models. The NHTSA gave four out of five stars for front and side impact for the front, and three out of five stars for rear side impacts. The IIHS gave a rating of ""good"" for rear impact and head protection but did not test other impacts.

EPA Fuel Economy

Chrysler PT Cruiser Base: 19/26 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Handling
  • Great ride quality
  • Huge cabin
  • Funky style
  • Cheap

You Won't Like

  • Base model has sluggish acceleration
  • Bad seating position for short driver

Sum Up

A cheap, stylish wagon that can fit the entire family.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Ford Escape
  • Honda CR-V
  • Honda Element

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