- Smooth, sophisticated look
- Stunning interior design, details
- All-wheel drive offered on most of the lineup
- Nine-speed automatic transmission
- Well equipped in most trim levels
- Rear seat is tightest in the segment
- Handling is above average--but only slightly
- Gas mileage can't compete with hybrids, plug-ins
- Can it escape the last 200's reputation?
The 2015 Chrysler 200 can fetch a premium for its style and its horsepower--but rear-seat room and handling are better bargains elsewhere.
The 2015 Chrysler 200 is an all-new mid-size sedan that keeps the model name, but almost nothing else, from its predecessor. It's a huge advance over the previous model, which was a redo of one of the brand's least impressive vehicles, born as the Sebring. The new 200 for 2015 is stylish inside and out, comes with modern powertrains--more about those in a moment--and is a genuinely appealing competitor in the tough market for mid-size sedans. And that's something that was rarely if ever said about the vehicle it replaced.
The 200 has a few flaws, and it falls short of the high standard set by such outstanding sedans as the Ford Fusion and the Honda Accord. Nor does it offer the serene fuel efficiency of the Nissan Altima. But it puts Chrysler back in the ballgame, and it's selling at double the rate of the outgoing model.
Starting at the front, the Chrysler 200 sedan shows up with an unexpectedly fresh face. The shape is smooth, rounded, and capped with a refined grille and front end. It almost picks up where Saab left off, and it's a new and elegant appearance for Chrysler that looks more expensive than it is. The roofline is long, and tapers down to the tail and its short, flush decklid. The 200 isn't following the playbook for either the current Chrysler 300 or its departed 200 predecessor, but it all works surprisingly well.
Inside, the 200 is transformed on the level of the Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Durango. The dash is swathed in top-grade materials, fits, and finishes, and sports an innovative center-console design that allows pass-through storage area beneath, as well as sliding cupholders and versatile cubbies. The rotary shift control is its calling card.
It's only about an inch longer and an inch lower than the outgoing model of the same name, but the Chrysler 200's proportions are quite different. It's acceptably roomy in the front seats, though the driving position is low. The rear seat is difficult to access if you're large, and impossible to find comfort in if you're more than six feet tall--the low roofline really exacts its penalty. All models get a 60/40-split back seat with a trunk pass-through, and a flip-down seat armrest that includes storage and cup holders.
For performance, the 200 depends on the same drivetrains found in the Dart and in the Jeep Cherokee. It's very powerful in V-6 trim, pretty well-damped in most situations, but not the sharpest carving tool in the family-sedan set. The 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter four is admirably smooth--so long as you opt for acoustic glass--but the 295-hp V-6 is the very strong counterpunch to turbo-four offerings elsewhere. Manual-shift modes and paddles stir the best of the V-6 to the top of the mix, but there's torque steer unless you also opt into all-wheel drive. The one drawback is that several of our drivers experienced inconsistencies from the nine-speed automatic transmission when paired with the four: at some times it shifted abruptly, while at other times its shifts seemed drawn-out and uncertain. Drivers shouldn't notice the behavior of a transmission, but this one's lack of consistency was disturbing at times.
Predictable, unremarkable handling puts the 200 in that middle band between Altima and Fusion. Built on an extended Dart platform, the 200 shares its strut front/four-link rear end and electric power steering. It's not as exciting as the taut Fusion, nor as supple as the Altima, but the 200 has pleasant, progressive responses that we think would feel more polished with a set of mildly aspirational tires.
The base 2015 Chrysler 200 LX will start at just $21,700—or $22,695 with destination—which makes it one of the most affordable mid-size sedans; and it includes air conditioning, rear heat ducts, a full-length console with sliding armrest, overhead storage, keyless entry, LED ambient interior lighting, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, an auxiliary input back, USB connectivity, and Bluetooth connectivity. Limited models step up to alloy wheels and an audio upgrade, and they can be optioned up with packages that include dual-zone climate control, remote start, heated mirrors, a heated steering wheel, a rear backup camera, and satellite radio, among other features. Chrysler 200S models get a sportier look, plus fog lamps, heated mirrors, bigger 18-inch wheels, a sport suspension, and other upgrades, while top 200C models heap on additional features that include a garage-door opener and upgraded materials and trims—and they can be optioned with packages including HID headlamps, LED fog lamps and running lamps, ventilated front seats, real wood interior accents, and a SafetyTec package.
That package includes both an available LaneSense lane departure warning system as well as Rear Cross Path Detection and a Full-Speed Collision Warning-Plus system (with autonomous braking under some situations), plus adaptive cruise control and rain-sensing wipers. The 200C will also offer Chrysler’s first automated parking system—for both parallel and perpendicular situations.
2015 Chrysler 200
Sophisticated sheetmetal and a fantastic cockpit give the Chrysler 200 its own sense of style.
Attractively styled inside and out, the Chrysler 200 doesn't shout out its family connections to the Dodge Dart. It's a relaxed look, with sheetmetal flowing effortlessly over the 200's cockpit, a draped effect that's a great counterpoint to the tautly pulled lines of the Dart.
The passing resemblance to many other new and recent vehicles shouldn't distract from its good looks. Yes, the 200's profile has a long lineage, from its Saab-like front end to a roofline that's been passed down from the Audi A7 to the Ford Fusion to the Hyundai Genesis, no worse for the wear. The twist here is the downturned shoulder line that drops to the rear end with the same visual effect as the similar line in the current Hyundai Elantra.
The long roofline obscures the reality on the ground: the Chrysler 200's wheels sit well inboard from its nose and tail. It's a larger car built on a compact-car wheelbase, so there's plenty of overhang front and back.
No matter which version you choose, all Chrysler 200 sedans have LED taillamps; LED fog lamps and running lights are available. Most Chrysler 200 sedans have bright trim around the windows, though the 200 S wears gloss black instead.
The distinctive cabin is the Chrysler 200's real showpiece. It's 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 (though neither the car nor the company hail from the city itself), 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.
2015 Chrysler 200
The 200 handles well enough, and V-6 power is strong and smooth--but the Fusion and 6 are more crisp, the Altima more supple.
If you're shopping for a mid-size four-door, there's absolutely no reason to settle for a softly sprung sedan--unless that's what you want, of course. In this spectrum, you can drive a car as quiet and anonymous as a Camry, or as tautly polished as a Ford Fusion, or even an Accord or Passat.
The 2015 Chrysler 200 slots in somewhere in the middle. It's very powerful in V-6 trim, pretty well-damped in most situations, but not the sharpest carving tool in the family-sedan set.
The base Chrysler 200 sports a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a nine-speed automatic, which send their power to the front wheels, just as the same drivetrain team does in the Dodge Dart and in some versions of the Jeep Cherokee. The four's rated at 184 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. It's pleasant to pull the four through its powerband, even though the automatic doesn't allow any shifting of the semi-manual variety.
It's always optimizing shifts for road conditions and above all, for fuel economy, and as a result it's not difficult to drive smoothly. But its one drawback is that several of our drivers experienced inconsistencies from the nine-speed automatic: at times it shifted abruptly, while at other times its shifts seemed drawn-out and uncertain. Transmission behavior should be so consistent that drivers don't notice it, but this one's lack of consistency was disturbing at times. You'll want to order the optional acoustic glass with this drivetrain, we think, to damp out any typical four-cylinder noise.
With the optional 3.6-liter V-6, the Chrysler 200 barrels ahead of some sedans that come only with four-cylinder engines. Rated at 295 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, this Chrysler 200 has some of the strongest acceleration in the segment. It also has some noticeable torque steer, at least in front-drive versions. It's potentially cured by the 200's optional all-wheel-drive system, which can send up to 60 percent of the torque to the rear wheels, but we weren't able to test that model.
If only for its standard shift paddles, we'd order the V-6. The paddles give direct control over shift timing, and tap into all the driving enjoyment the 200 can muster. It does take a few clicks of the paddles to get through some of the nine-speed's less needed top gears--with so many ratios, the 200 is overstocked on highway cruising gears. The rotary shift dial also enables a sport mode that gives the 200 another talking point in the driving-dynamics discussion, upping steering weight and moving the shift points higher.
Predictable, unremarkable handling puts the 200 in that middle band between Altima and Fusion. The Ford's quick steering and borderline stiff ride feel sporty all the time; the Altima does the best job of anonymizing road surfaces and road noises. The 200 does its best to tamp down the worst of the road without really encouraging a side trip to one of Rand McNally's lesser-known routes. Chrysler's basic setup of front struts and rear links meets its match with the heady acceleration of the V-6. It wants to surge, while the 200's tires want to scrub off speed and some of the car's finer responses. The 200 is smooth and steering is reasonably responsive, but its attention drifts as the cornering forces build.
2015 Chrysler 200
Comfort & Quality
The 200's back seat is a real letdown, with slim headroom and tight entry and exit.
This year's Chrysler 200 gains some interior space and some exterior bulk. It's bigger than the previous 200, and it's also a little bit larger than the Dodge Dart that shares some of its running gear. However, it's substantially smaller in some dimensions than some of the best-selling family sedans, particularly in the back seat.
It's a sedan that slips barely into the mid-size class, but can't quite put its compact-car roots in its rearview mirror.
By the numbers, the Chrysler 200 is closer to the Dart than you might suspect from its styling. Riding on a 108.0-inch wheelbase, the Chrysler 200 nets out at 101.4 cubic feet of passenger room. Inside a Dart, there's only 4.2 fewer cubic feet of room, and 1.6 inches less in wheelbase length. The 200 is just a few cubes shy of a Fusion or Sonata, but they're arranged less to its advantage.
The front-seat space permits good knee room, and from the driver seat, comfort is good for six-foot drivers. The 200's optional sport seats have ample range of adjustment and good bolsters for long-distance support, though we wouldn't mind some under-seat storage like Chrysler offers in the Dodge Journey. The Chrysler 200 sits lower than the Dart does, so taller drivers will see as much of the 200's headliner as they will of the road ahead.
The back seat is a place for small adults and teenagers sized for a generation or two ago. It's more of a chore to fold in half, and climb through the short door openings, than it is in any of the taller-roofed mid-sizers. Folding and unfolding into the back seat, it seems worse than in some "four-door coupes". The 200 has 37.4 inches of rear-seat head room at its highest point: it's a competitive number, but it's clear that the peak comes well forward of where it does on cars like the Fusion or Altima.
Given those metrics, it's a good thing all 200 sedans have a 60/40-split back seat with a trunk pass-through. The trunk is generous at 16 cubic feet, and elsewhere, the storage solutions are solid. An iPad will fit in the center console, and that slide-back tray in the console lets power cables drape in a few ways.
And as we've suggested, the 200 might have one of the best interiors in this segment. The doors don't close with a nice damped noise, but the materials look and feel fine. The 200's premium treatments are a warmer, classier place than the Lincoln MKZ, skipping right by the even more coolly styled Ford Fusion interior. We'd be even more positive about the 200's cabin if it didn't have Malibu-sized accommodations in back.
2015 Chrysler 200
The 2015 Chrysler 200 is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and five-star champ, with great occupant protection and an effective automatic braking system.
Since the Chrysler 200 is related somewhat to the Dodge Dart, we already expected a strong performance in tests by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In fact, the 200 has done even better; and objectively, the top-of-the-line, active-safety-equipped 200C is the safest mainstream mid-size sedan on the market.
In addition to the usual airbags and stability control, the Chrysler 200 now has a driver knee airbags, and new options for automatic parking assist and blind-spot monitors.
The top safety option package includes a lane-departure warning system with forward-collision warnings and autonomous braking, as well as adaptive cruise control.
In federal testing, the new 200 received not only five stars in its frontal and side ratings, but in all associated subcategories of testing—like for front passengers in the frontal test, and for rear-seat, female-sized passengers. The 2015 model has also earned top 'good' ratings from the IIHS in all categories of testing, including the tough small overlap frontal category. It's also earned an excellent 'Superior' result in testing of its automatic-braking accident avoidance system (the Full-speed Forward Collision Plus system, offered with the Safety Tech Package. That, together, earned it the Top Safety Pick+ accolade from the IIHS.
2015 Chrysler 200
Base cars don't get Bluetooth or a rearview camera, but luxe editions have Chrysler's excellent UConnect infotainment system.
With a base price of $22,695, the Chrysler 200 LX is competitively priced and equipped, when compared to other mid-size sedans. Standard features on this base model include air conditioning, overhead storage, keyless entry, a full-length console with sliding armrest, LED ambient interior lighting, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and an AM/FM audio system with a USB port and an auxiliary jack. For what's intended as a fleet model, the equipment level is fairly complete--but you'll have to order Bluetooth separately, and the LX doesn't offer a rearview camera or rear-seat air ducts or satellite radio at all.
Keep in mind, the Chrysler 200 is also one of the first mass-market vehicles to omit a CD player of any kind, standard or as an option.
Step up to the $24,250 Chrysler 200 Limited, and you'll get a better audio system and alloy wheels. Option packages on this model include remote start, dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel and heated mirrors, a rearview camera, satellite radio, a power sunroof, and 18-inch wheels.
The $25,490 Chrysler 200 S models get a sportier look, plus fog lamps, heated mirrors, 18-inch wheels, a sport suspension, and other upgrades. Options include the V-6, all-wheel drive, a panoramic sunroof, 19-inch wheels, and navigation.
Top $26,990 200 C models heap on additional features that include a garage-door opener and upgraded materials and trims—and they can be optioned with packages including HID headlamps, LED fog lamps and running lamps, ventilated front seats, the open-pore wood interior, and a SafetyTec package. Options are very similar to those on the 200 S.
Chrysler's excellent Uconnect infotainment systems come in different flavors across the lineup. At the top of the Uconnect ladder is a version with an 8.4-inch touchscreen; Bluetooth; satellite and HD radio; navigation; and app connectivity for everything from music streaming to voice-to-text messaging.
2015 Chrysler 200
Fuel economy's much improved, but V-6 versions bring down the 200's overall numbers.
Chrysler says fuel economy in the 200 sedan has gone up by as much as 7 percent over the previous car's ratings. The boost in fuel economy is delivered through all kinds of channels of efficiency, from the 200's nine-speed automatic to its slippery 0.27 coefficient of drag.
The numbers still are lower than many mid-size sedans with larger interiors. The four-cylinder 200 earns an EPA rating of 23 miles per gallon city, 36 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined. The Nissan Altima, the current class leader in non-hybrid models, earns an EPA highway rating of 38 mpg with its four-cylinder engine and CVT.
The 200's optional six-cylinder is paired with the nine-speed automatic. That version is scored at 19/32 mpg, or 23 mpg combined--closer to the marks set by the V-6 Altima and Fusion turbo fours. With all-wheel drive, though, the numbers fall to 18/29 mpg, or 22 mpg combined--about what you'd get from a diesel Grand Cherokee.