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2015 Chrysler 200: First Drive

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Family sedans are mission statements, everything a car company can do well in one package. Just to make it on the family radar, these four-doors have to look good, seat at least four adults, and sport a good track record for safety and reliability.

The Chrysler 200 is new this year, and it replaces a car family fairly unloved by real-world car shoppers, one tolerated by fleet buyers. The last 200 was was smaller, less refined, less ambitious than just about anything in the segment. As a result, the new 200 doesn't have to excel at much to blot out those humdrum memories.

On a few levels, it does just that. It's a slightly roomier, more glam counterpart to the slow-selling Dodge Dart, with which it shares its core.

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As a mid-size sedan with the people-carrying, driver-delighting capacity of a Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mazda 6 or Nissan Altima, it's at a disadvantage. It's pretty and quiet, but the Chrysler 200's back seat is less hospitable than in the Altima or Accord, and its handling is more middle-of-the-road than the Fusion or the 6, despite some bright points of power and control.

2015 Chrysler 200

2015 Chrysler 200

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With the grain, against the grain

From just about any angle, the 200 is a pleasant-looking car, without much obvious linkage to the Dart. The sheetmetal relaxes over the cabin, draped versus the tautly pulled look of the Dodge. It's rounded and smooth, with a slim grille that resembles the last few Saabs, minus the floating winged badge front and center. The prettiest details mimic the roofline of the Audi A7 and Ford Fusion, and the downturned shoulder line drops to the rear with the same effect, less pronounced, as in a Hyundai Elantra.

Handsomely tapered and with an elongated roofline, the 200 also has some long overhangs that read like what it is: a larger car built on a compact wheelbase. All versions except the Chrysler 200 S have bright trim around the windows, with the S wearing gloss black instead, and all have LED taillamps, with LED running lights and fog lamps available.

The stunning cabin is convincing in its quality, and the split between dash and console highlighted by some unusual trims in more expensive models. Chrysler is drawing and building some beautiful interiors, and the 200 takes its place on their greatest-hits list. The gauges and center display float together in a sleekly curved cut-out from the soft-touch dash, and trimmed in attractive colors and grains, including an open-pore wood on the 200 C that's simple and beautiful.

The lower controls--including a rotary shift knob and big dials for volume and air speed--are laid on a separate plane atop a console with open storage beneath, a la Volvo, and the console has a slide-back portion under the cupholders that reveals charging and power ports. The details speak to lots of attention and time: there's an embossed Detroit skyline in the under-console on its protective rubber mat, there are volume and seek controls on the back of the steering wheel, even a natty interior trim with black surfaces, blue piping, and a blue cast on the dash trim.


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