In the Driver's Seat
Few cars fire out of the starting gate like the original PT Cruiser did with its spectacular 2001 debut. Since then, Chrysler has sold over 500,000 of them to sharp-dressed drivers who were instantly smitten with its unmistakably retro, outlaw ZZ Top contours. Now, a two-door, front-wheel-drive PT Cruiser is dropping its top while still scaring up the ghosts of '30s hot rods and London taxis. For entrepreneurs looking to announce their presence with authority, this open-air auto is an economical winner, because love it or hate it, the PT Cruiser Convertible's got legs, and she knows how to use them.
Sticker price: $19,995 standard; $23,490 Touring model; and $28,155 GT version.
Vital stats: 150 hp 2.4 liter on the standard, going to 180 hp on the Touring with turbo and 220 on the GT; 103-inch wheelbase; automatic gets 20 to 25 mpg; more than 40 inches of legroom front and back seats.
Nice touches: With the push of a button, it's a scant 10 seconds to have the wind in your hair, but it won't get too blustery thanks to the three-layer convertible design; sport bar has two dome lights; 84.3 cubic feet in the interior offers lots of utilitarian room to maneuver -- indeed, seats can be configured nine different ways to please teenagers and frisky parents alike.
Drawbacks: Plastic interior is a bit downscale (but, hey, so is the price); no tough-guy car should be available in "Cool Vanilla" or "Light Almond Pearl Metallic"; four-passenger capacity (the original holds five); the gnawing possibility that you'll see it in the driveway and scream, "What have I done?"
What you think it says about you: "I'm a cool, fun-loving CEO, and I can let you know for under $30,000."
What it really says about you: "I wish my spouse would let me buy a real muscle car."
Just a thought: We got oohs and aahs cruising through sun-drenched Miami in a plum-colored model with bumper car sheen. Springing for a fleet is a low-cost way to lend instant hipster cred to your business.
Second opinion: "The PT Cruiser Convertible says you want to garner attention for your company vehicle without having to paint logos all over it like a city bus," says Automotive Design & Production editor in chief Gary S. Vasilash. "It also says you're comfortable in your middle-aged existence to drive a ragtop that looks like something out of Dick Tracy."