New & Used Chrysler 200: In Depth
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Chrysler's 200 competes with a slew of cars in the family-sedan class—one of the most crowded in the entire automotive universe. Competitors include best-selling vehicles such as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima, as well as the Ford Fusion, Subaru Legacy, Hyundai Sonata, Chevy Malibu, and Mazda 6.
The Chrysler brand has struggled to carve out marketshare in this class, but with the new 200 the company finally has a car able to compete on styling, features and price while also offering decent handling and a comfortable ride.
The Chrysler 200 nameplate first arrived for the 2011 model year. In reality, the car it was applied to was really a warmed-over version of the Chrysler Sebring sedan, the last models of which so tarnished that badge with their low quality and poor reliability that Chrysler decided a new name was needed to help buyers forget the past. This Sebring-turned-200 was sold for four years, using underpinnings that were themselves that old when the model launched, making the outgoing 200 the oldest among its competitive set when it was finally replaced.
That first Chrysler 200 offered a choice of two engines: a base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, paired with either a four- or six-speed automatic, or a Pentastar V-6 displacing 3.6 liters and available only with the six-speed auto. The 2.4-liter engine produced a feeble 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque but managed a respectable gas mileage of 20 mpg in the city and up to 31 mpg on the highway, while the V-6 delivered a healthy 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque with a fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The six-speed automatic did a great job of getting the most out of either engine, but the four-speeder used for the smaller engine was downright archaic against the competition.
The 2011–2014 Chrysler 200 was most at home on straight highways, where its hydraulic power steering offered nice weighting and some actual road feel. It wasn't so enjoyable on rough surfaces or curvy roads; if you sent too much power through those front wheels on a turn, its tendency to torque-steer--to pull to one side or the other--left the 200 flustered. Chrysler for 2012 offered a sportier 200S package, and then for 2013 that special appearance was offered as a package for any of the three trims in sedan form. The Limited model also added Boston Acoustics speakers and 17-inch alloy wheels as standard items for 2013.
This mid-size Chrysler had a good record with respect to safety--but it wasn't quite top-tier, as the federal government gave it four stars overall, with four-star scores for frontal impact and three stars for side impact. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave it top 'good' scores in all areas, earning Top Safety Pick status. And in the new IIHS small overlap frontal test, it performed well enough ('acceptable') to qualify for the new IIHS Top Safety Pick+ accolade.
Chrysler's 200 convertible was unique among droptops, as it offered a choice of a soft top (in vinyl or cloth) or a folding hardtop. The 200 suffered from cowl and body flex, making the ride pleasant enough but hurting handling considerably. It also felt heavy, due to the complex top mechanisms that had been added. Rear-seat space was impinged on by the packaging of the roof, as it is in most convertibles, but there was still more room than in most competitors.
The new Chrysler 200
Today's Chrysler 200 faces tough competition from ever-more-competent mid-size sedans offered by the rest of the major players. In many ways, the new 200 is really the car that Chrysler should have had years ago in such a critical segment. While the new Chrysler 200 isn't perfect, it will suit style-conscious buyers who value comfort and features--and it offers optional all-wheel drive, found elsewhere only on the Ford Fusion (as an option) and Subaru Legacy (as standard equipment).
The new 200 has a very refined grille and front-end appearance, an elongated roofline, and a nicely tapered tail. The interior's design is along the same lines as the attractive cabins in the Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Durango: on plush models it's swathed in top-grade materials, and sports an innovative center-console design that includes a pass-through storage area beneath, as well as sliding cupholders and versatile cubbies.
There are two engines available in the latest 200, a four-cylinder and a six-cylinder, with front-drive being the standard configuration and all-wheel drive available with the V-6. The 2.4-liter four makes 184 hp and is refined but not terribly perky. The optional 295-hp V-6's 262-lb-ft torque rating is enough to easily break traction on front-wheel-drive versions. The 200's platform is an extended version of that underpinning the Dodge Dart; handling is similarly underwhelming but at least predictable. The 200 lies somewhere between the comfortable players like Altima and the sportier Ford Fusion—it's pleasant enough but not an exciting car to wheel.
Where the 200 falls short of the mid-size standard is in rear-seat space. The front seats are roomy enough, with a low driving position, but in back the low roofline makes entry and exit a little difficult for anyone but small kids.
Safety equipment now includes forward collision warnings and rearview cameras on most models. Other features include standard Bluetooth and USB ports, power features, and cruise control; major items on the options list are a sport suspension, ventilated front seats, and real wood interior accents. The 200 receives top safety ratings, including five stars overall from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ nod from the IIHS.
The current 200 uses an architecture that was derived from a Fiat platform. It has been Americanized and also underpins the Jeep Cherokee, with a close relationship to Dodge's not-so-compact Dart. While the prior 200 was offered as both a four-door sedan and a two-door convertible, with the choice of a retractable hard top or a folding cloth roof, the new 2015 Chrysler 200 is sold just as a sedan. At this stage in its evolution, low-volume convertible models aren't a luxury in which Chrysler can afford to indulge.