he Chrysler PT Cruiser has become a familiar sight. The Cruiser combines the retro looks of a late-1930's American sedan with modern styling and features. It made a big splash when it was introduced as a 2001 model. That was back in March 2000, and Chrysler has been selling more than 135,000 of them a year. In spite of this, the PT Cruiser still attracts attention. People are intrigued by the Cruiser's difficult-to-define character. Chrysler says the PT Cruiser is too cool to categorize. It's the only car we can think of that offers flames as an option. Making the Cruiser more attractive is its combination of practicality and affordability. It boasts the interior volume of a sport-utility vehicle. Fold the seats down and you can carry an eight-foot ladder. Pull the rear seats out and it'll haul a load of building materials or a big TV box. Yet it's shorter in length than many compact cars, making it easy to park. It's also easy on gas. Adding to the fun is the driving experience. The Cruiser is based on the Dodge Neon, a compact car noted for sprightly performance. New turbo models add fire under the hood. The GT (aka PT Turbo) features a 220-horsepower engine that gives the Cruiser a real boost. That kind of speed costs money, of course. A more affordable 180-horsepower turbo available for 2004 Limited Edition and Touring Edition brings the cost of speed down. We like speed. We also like affordability. On the downside, the PT Cruiser has all the refinement of a compact car.