The Chrysler PT Cruiser has since its launch in the late 90s made quite an impact on the MPV segment with its strong US-inspired styling, but will it be able to survive beyond the receding retro wave equipped with more features and power?

The Chrysler PT Cruiser has since its launch in the late 90s made quite an impact on the MPV segment with its strong US-inspired styling, but will it be able to survive beyond the receding retro wave equipped with more features and power?

"We completely upgraded the Chrysler PT Cruiser for 2006," said Jeff Bell, Chrysler vice president. "We increased the horsepower, refined the exterior and updated every interior detail."

The local communications manager for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge at DaimlerChrysler SA, Guy Kilfoil said that the facelift will range will perpetuate the current engine line-up, but the decision will still have to be made about the cabriolet version.

With its facelift, the PT Cruiser receives a revised front end complete with new grille (and chrome inserts) and redesigned headlamps and fog lamps, combining to soften the dominant frontal appearance of the mini-MPV. The rear is altered as well and will include a body-coloured spoiler on the tailgate for racer appeal...

For 2006, the Cruiser also receives new interior fittings with revised seat trim and fabric options. A fresh instrument panel with larger gauges and rotating air vents has been added to the list of gimmicks. The radio is now mounted higher in the centre dropdown section and a passenger grab handle has been added to make getting into and out of the car that much easier.

Regarding the comfort features, a new centre console has a sliding armrest and a covered storage space with lots of space for small items ranging from CDs to coins. Rear seat occupants now have two foldout cupholders and the range-topping models' front cupholders receive bright accents.

Convenience items include a six-way adjustable driver seat with manual lumbar adjustment. New radio options include a sound system with six speakers and a subwoofer and all Cruiser models get sound systems with MP3 capability.

A new Electronic Vehicle Information Centre allows drivers to personalise their settings to include compass and temperature displays, audio settings and the average fuel economy.

Chrysler claims that not only is the Cruiser better equipped and more powerful (its high output turbo engine will be boosted to produce 172 kW and 332 N.m) than its predecessor, it is also quieter.

"In addition to the exterior and interior changes and the boost of power, the 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser offers an overall quieter driving experience because of the many reductions we've made in road, wind and powertrain noise," said Larry Lyons, vice president of the Front-Wheel-Drive Product Team.

For less road noise, the vehicle has a new acoustic package with improved sealing around the doors, windows and floor pan and more sound absorption in the trim panels. Wind noise has been reduced by using redesigned inner belt seals in the door and by adding foam in the A-pillar.

The facelifted range will be available in South Africa from November 2005, but Kilfoil could not comment on the prices of the facelifted range.

However, he added that the cabriolet could be making its appearance on local roads if the demand was great enough.

"The cabriolet has not been confirmed yet, but it is likely a decision will be made by the end of July," Kilfoil said. "If it does come here, it will arrive by the end of the first quarter of 2006."