THE 2012 CHRYSLER 200 REVIEW
Full Review by Andy: Improved but Imperfect
A good attempt is not good enough. Failed efforts do not win wars, solve math equations, get the girl, or make high-quality cars. After overhauling the Sebring in 2011 and slapping on new name, Chrysler endeavored to craft a car worthy of more than sales to Enterprise fleets. Despite its notable improvements over its forebear, the 200 sedan still falls short when compared to class leaders. Is it a good car? Yes, but it isn’t quite good enough.
What Does It Look Like?
Drawn with one eye on the Crossfire, the 200 has a unique appearance, characterized by a riffled chrome grille and striated hood, which distinguish it from all competitors. However, many onlookers prefer the seductive Hyundai Sonata or the menacing Kia Optima.
(See 80+ images of the 2012 Chrysler 200).
Tidbit: Chrysler introduces the 200’s design with the statement, “America, the beautiful maker of cars.” That’s nice, Chrysler, but bragging about how beautiful America is says little about the looks of your cars.
Trappings & Trimmings
The interior of the deceased Sebring looked like something Bear Grylls pieced together while blindfolded. It lacked the looks, the ambiance, and the quality of rivals. However, the 200 offers an attractive, if not trendsetting interior that is competitive with most rivals in the segment. The cabin doesn’t scream, “I’m a rental!” anymore, but still trails the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Fusion.
(Click here for a review of the 200 Convertible).
Packin’ a Powertrain
Customers can choose from one of two engines: a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder or Chrysler’s Pentastar V6, which generates 283 horsepower. Or, customers can choose one of the 200’s many capable competitors. For instance, the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima have more powerful and more efficient base engines. Chrysler’s Pentastar beats Ford’s two V6 engines, but the turbocharged four-cylinders in the Hyundai and Kia sedans offer comparable power and acceleration, albeit with turbo lag, and superior fuel economy.
Compared to the old Sebring, the 200 is lowered 12mm in the rear and 6mm in the front. The steering system was overhauled, the spring rates increased, and the chassis otherwise retuned for a more refined motoring experience. In most ways, Chrysler succeeded. The 200 strikes an optimal balance between stiffness and comfort. However, “optimal” is inherently relative. Some professional drivers crave more oomph, while others who just exited the spa for a mani-pedi wish for more softness. But to each their own, so prospective customers should test drive the 200 for themselves. Equipped with the V6, the Chrysler 200 earns high marks for swiftness, but drivers note that its appeal is dimmed by noticeable torque steer.
In standard guise, the 200 has safety features typical of the class such as six airbags, four-wheel disc brakes, and a whiplash protection system. The Touring trim adds automatic headlamps, while the Limited model upgrades to front foglamps. The 200 scored a homerun with the IIHS, but the NHTSA is less enamored with the 200’s safety performance, particularly in side-impact crash testing.
Comfort & Cargo
The 200 is best described as small but comfortable. Soothing seating and superb all-around visibility distinguish the 200 sedan from bargain-basement peers, but mediocre trunk space and run-of-the-mill rear space detract from the 200’s upscale accommodations and premium ambiance. The Chrysler 200 isn’t about to break any records, but it has finally caught up with the pack.
Word on the street is that Chrysler, aka, Fiat’s minion, renamed the Sebring to piggyback on the acclaimed success of the full-size 300 sedan. But whereas the 300 is outfitted with enough amenities to make a hedonist say, “Too much, too much!” the 200 sedan is less liberally equipped.
It is available in four trims: LX ($18,995), Touring ($21,370), Limited ($24,490), and S ($26,785). Rolling on 17-inch steel wheels, the LX comes with keyless entry, heated mirrors, a four-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack, and a height-adjustable driver’s seat. The Touring trim adds gobs of worthwhile upgrades, while the Limited borders on the luxurious with heated power-adjustable leather-trimmed front seats, the Uconnect Media Center, Bluetooth, and more. Along with a variety of cosmetic upgrades and other amenities, the S model has a Boston Acoustics sound system.
Compared to the ghost of its past or even modern rivals like the Mitsubishi Galant, Mazda6, and Chevrolet Malibu, the Chrysler 200 comes out ahead. It’s good, but not as good as leaders like the Sonata, Fusion, and Camry. Verdict: almost good enough.
Engine: 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder, 3.6-liter V6
Horsepower & Torque:
Four-cylinder: 173 hp @6,000 rpm, 166 lb-ft of torque @4,400 rpm
V6: 283 hp @6,400 rpm, 260 lb-ft of torque @4,400 rpm
Transmission: four-speed automatic, six-speed shiftable automatic
Fuel Economy: 19/29/22 – 20/31/24 mpg
Base MSRP: $18,995
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