2012 Mid-Size Family Vehicles: Three Under $20,000

December 19, 2011

In our previous story 2012 Family Vehicles: 20 Under $20,000, only three mid-size models met the $20,000 requirement, including destination charge. Others barely missed the target, coming in at a hundred to several hundred over the price point, including such popular mid-size sedans as the 2012 Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat, Subaru Legacy and Ford Fusion.

Of the three that did make the cut, two are mid-size sedans and one is a mid-size crossover. All three are from the Chrysler Group, two from Dodge and one from Chrysler.

The first point we note is that all three share the same base model starting price of $18,995. The 2012 Chrysler 200 and 2012 Dodge Avenger carry a $750 destination charge, while the 2012 Dodge Journey’s is $800. That results in an identical net price of $19,745 for the Chrysler and Dodge sedans and $19,795 for the Dodge crossover.

What does each of these three mid-size family vehicles have to offer consumers? First of all, they’re all powered by the same 173-horsepower 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder engine matched with a four-speed automatic transmission. And they’re all front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicles with a maximum towing capacity of 1,000 pounds. Common standard equipment includes: power windows/locks/mirrors, air conditioning, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, cloth seats, variable intermittent windshield wiper, rear window defroster, and remote keyless entry.

All three are Top Safety Picks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Standard safety features include six airbags (seven in Journey), electronic stability control, traction control, brake assist, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS).  

What’s different, besides the fact that two are five-passenger mid-size sedans and one is a mid-size crossover? Here we take a closer look.

2012 Chrysler 200

2012 Chrysler 200

2012 Chrysler 200 LX FWD

Introduced in 2011 as the replacement for the aging Sebring, the Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan is, according to our sister publication TheCarConnection, “comfortable, stylish, and a decent value, although…still far from best in class.” There’s no arguing that the styling is much improved, inside and out.

In addition to what’s already been listed, standard features on the 2012 Chrysler 200 LX FWD include power steering, 17-inch wheels, LED Taillamps, manual driver height and lumbar adjuster, 60/40 split-folding rear seats with fold-out armrest and integrated cup holders, four-speaker CD/MP3 radio, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio with one-year subscription.

EPA-rated fuel economy with the 173-horsepower 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder engine is 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway.

Headroom in the front/rear is 40.1/38.4 inches and front/rear legroom is 42.4/36.2 inches. Trunk cargo volume is 13.6 cubic feet.

2012 Dodge Avenger

2012 Dodge Avenger

2012 Dodge Avenger SE FWD

Dodge bills the 2012 Avenger SE as the most affordable mid-size sedan in the U.S., a distinction it shares with its sibling the Chrysler 200 LX. In terms of differences, it’s purely a matter of styling and individual taste.

In a review, TheCarConnection calls the Avenger a “mini-Charger,” with a distinct styling stance, clean cabin layout (although not as much improved as the Chrysler 200), and decent road manners and feedback.  

Headroom is just a shade off that of the Chrysler 200, due to the Avenger’s roofline. In the Dodge Avenger, front/rear headroom is 40.0/38.3 inches. Front/rear legroom is the same as the Chrysler 200 at 42.4/36.2 inches. Trunk cargo volume is 13.5 cubic feet, compared with the 13.6 cubic feet in the Chrysler 200.

2012 Dodge Journey

2012 Dodge Journey

2012 Dodge Journey AVP

The least-expensive mid-size crossover on the market, the 2012 Dodge Journey AVP (American Value Package, a new model for 2012), is powered by a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder engine paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. EPA-rated fuel economy is 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway in the front-wheel drive Journey.

Five-passenger seating is standard, with seven-passenger seating starting at $19,990. The Journey’s power mirrors are also heated and fold-away, and the crossover features keyless entry and push-button start, which Dodge says is not commonly found in the mid-size crossover segment.

With respect to the all-important interior dimensions for headroom and legroom, the Journey acquits itself nicely with front/rear headroom of 40.8/39.9 inches and front/rear legroom of 40.8/33.6 inches (in five-passenger configuration). Cargo volume behind the first row seat is 67.6 cubic feet. Behind the second-row seats, it’s 39.61 cubic feet.

Additional safety features on the Journey include driver knee airbag, electronic roll mitigation with brake assist and trailer sway control.

For a more complete review, see why TheCarConnection says: “Practical without being too prim, the 2012 Dodge Journey cuts an interesting figure and spans the gulf between practical crossovers and family-grade SUVs.”

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