The 2012 Chrysler 200 competes in the same class as the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion. Wait a minute… This also means that it competes against the best selling midsize sedan in the United States – the Toyota Camry. Not to mention the other heavy hitters: Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Volkswagen Passat, Hyundai Sonata, and the list goes on and on. Nearly all of the competitors have been redesigned for 2012 or 2013 years. How does the Chrysler 200 compare? Lets look at the details and find out.
When Chrysler 200 was born for the 2011 model year, the company was in dire straights. It was just returning from a near collapse after being bailed out by the US Government and purchased by the Fiat Group. Chrysler had to breathe new life into the failing Sebring sedan and it did not have much time or many options. The 200 rose from the ashes with a new and more refined look, though it still had a Sebring silhouette. I actually like the new styling. It has a family resemblance to the cool looking Chrysler 300 , but without being cookie cutter. And the whole car looks well proportioned and is a complete package. I like it better than the car that preceded it.
On the other hand, the interior is a little bland, but simple and functional. The leather interior of my Limited edition test car felt good to the touch and was comfortable. There is one big caveat. The front seats offer almost no lateral support and this does not help when road turns curvy. More on this later. One interesting detail are the all LED interior dome lights. They offer a unique blueish glow, but they provide more of a focused light source (similar to a flash light) instead of flooding the interior with light. Thankfully, the LEDs can be directed to where light is needed most.
My test car had an optional $695 Media Center that provided all the technological goodies: DVD/MP3, Bluetooth streaming, Voice Command, and Navigation among other things. The screen of this system is not as big as on the other new Chryslers, but it does the trick. The overall dash materials are not of great quality and I was a little bothered by the instrument cluster. I am a little over 6’2” and from where I was looking at the gauges, the gauge surrounds were obscuring a part of the fuel gauge on the left and the tachometer on the right. Also, this car still requires you to start it with a key, there is no push-button.
Overall, the interior and the trunk are very roomy and usable. The kids and I fit comfortably. However, I did struggle a bit with anchoring the little one’s seat. I would give this car a less than average LATCH system ease of use. Also, the fact that the trunk does not have a open handle bothered me. You can open it via the key-fob button or the button on the dash, but a good old handle can be very handy.
This Chrysler 200 has an ace up its sleeve. Of course, it’s the excellent 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 that you can find in almost every other Chrysler Group vehicle. In this application it produces 283 hp and 260 ft-lbs and is backed up by a 6-speed automatic transmission. This is a properly quick mid-size sedan, and the exhaust sounds pretty good. The horsepower number is bigger than any of the competition. Unfortunately, there is also a small price to pay with 283 horses going to the front. Yep, this car has torque steer at full throttle. (Note: Chrysler no longer offers the V6 option for the 2013 model year, so get a 2012 if you want all the power.)
There is another ace up the sleeve. You would think that with all this thrust this car would get mediocre gas mileage. Not so! EPA rates it at 19/29 MPG. I got an average of 26.2 MPG after a week of mixed driving. Not too shabby for a 6-speed transmission.
Things turn a bit less rosy when you consider the steering and suspension. The 200 loves to go in a straight line. It can do this quickly and it can cruise at 75 mph all day long turning about 2,000 rpm and getting very good gas mileage. However, it just does not like to turn. The steering does not provide good feedback and the suspension allows a lot of lean in the corner (even with the optional 18 inch rims). Simply put, this car is tuned for comfortable cruising and it does this very well. The suspension soaks up the bumps very nicely.
So, how does the 2012 Chrysler 200 Limited compare to the competition?
|Starting Retail Price||City/Hwy MPG||HP / Lb-Ft||Passenger Volume (cu-ft)|
|2012 Chrysler 200 Limited||$25,865||19/29||283/260||100.5|
|2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ||$30,165||21/30||253/260||100.2|
|2013 Ford Fusion Titanium||$30,200||22/33||240/270||102.8|
This table shows just the two Detroit based rivals, but the picture is similar with other competitors. This is a very tough segment, if not the toughest. The only advantage the Chrysler has is its price, it undercuts the competition by more than $4,000. Competition all spent years of planning and billions of dollars redesigning their latest entries. All of them offer multiple engine choices, including Hybrid versions. All of them stepped up the game in material quality and design. All of them stepped up the game in ride, handling, and the fun to drive department. Chrysler 200 faces an uphill battle, but I know Chrysler is capable of making a great product. I cannot wait to see what they do next.
On the TFLcar scale of:
- Buy it!
- Lease it!
- Rent it!
- … or Forget it!
I give it a Rent It! My test car stickers at $27,785. It has some good elements: the powerful V6, comfy ride, and the good MPGs. It’s also has some bad: average interior design and poor handling. This segment has several other better sedans at the same price point. The 200 desperately needs a full redesign and I know they can do it. If you just need a comfortable long distance interstate cruiser, then I would say Lease It and see what the redesign brings in a couple of years.
Please enjoy this fun 3-car TFLcar Mashup with the Chrysler 200.
Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, and software engineer. On the weekends – you may find him at a car show, an auction, watching a race, or tinkering with a car in the garage. When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.