We're all irrationally fond of some cars, and one of ours is the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser. Technically, it's a small minivan, but the retro-styled gangster look has always disguised that fact completely. And, it's a remarkably practical car.

Now comes the news that Chrysler reversed its previous death order, and will keep the PT Cruiser in production through 2011. Hurray!

So what makes us so fond of the PT Cruiser?

PROS

  • Remarkably large and capacious interior for its size
  • Versatility in hauling people, stuff, or any combination of the two
  • High, upright seating position with superb visibility
  • Relatively small size and maneuverability
  • Cool retro dashboard styling doesn't impede usability

CONS

  • Dreadful, primitive four-speed automatic transmission
  • Road and wind noise not up to modern standards (it was launched in 1999!)
  • Gas mileage (18 mpg city / 26 mpg highway) only so-so
  • Anti-lock brakes are optional

The PT's only real competition is the 2009 Chevrolet HHR. It too is a retro-styled small minivan, but we've never warmed up to the HHR despite its better overall rating (7.2 versus 6.6) on TheCarConnection.com.

To us, the HHR has lousy visibility, worse instruments, and a darker, more cramped-feeling interior.  Granted, its mileage is better (21 mpg city / 32 mpg highway), and we actually think the styling holds up a little better than the 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser.

But when faced with the choice, we'll take a PT Cruiser over an HHR at the rental desk any day. Especially in the city, the driving position and outward visibility--plus the pleasure of looking at the PT's cool dashboard--win out in our book.

COMPARE: 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser vs 2009 Chevrolet HHR

The photo below, by the way, is the 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser owned by auto journalist Rick Feibusch of Venice, California, complete with Thirties-style custom wheels.

2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser customized by Rick Feibusch, Venice, California

2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser customized by Rick Feibusch, Venice, California

[Detroit News]