It is most curious that the Chrysler 200 and its cousin, the Dodge Avenger, are setting sales records while ornery reviewers dismiss them with comments like “outdated,” “uncompetitive” and “behind the curve.” Our reaction to the 200 and Avenger has been somewhat more positive, and people who actually take these midsize 4-door sedans on test drives and wind up buying them seem to agree. Both models set records for May sales.
Outdated or no, our cherry-red 2013 Chrysler 200 Limited test car was distinguished by its lack of annoying traits. Driving position? Check. Easy access and egress? Check. Riding comfort? Check. Handling? Check. Fuel economy? Better than check. On the highway, we beat the EPA rating of 29 mpg.
We said of the 2012 Dodge Avenger we test-drove a year ago: “Overall, the Avenger is easy to like and easy to live with, and at a very competitive price.” The same goes for the Chrysler 200, though its sticker price was about $2,000 higher than the Dodge’s.
The base Chrysler 200 can be had for under $20,000, but it comes with the widely panned 173-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine. A better choice is the 283-horsepower V-6 included in the Dodge and Chrysler test cars. It’s smooth, quiet, powerful and just as fuel-efficient as the Four. The base 200, called the LX, comes with a 4-speed automatic transmission; higher trim levels get a 6-speed.
The 200 is also available as a 2-door convertible, ranging in price from $27,325 to $32,820. It can be equipped with a soft-top or hardtop.
The sedan is more conservatively styled than the Nissan Altima and the midsize 4-door models from Hyundai and Kia, but it’s nicely proportioned and efficiently laid out. Front-seat headroom and legroom are more than adequate, but the back seat is cramped for large adults. The trunk swallows just 13.6 cubic feet of luggage, but it’s conveniently shaped and finished in high-quality materials.
Our 200 had a base price of $24,685; two option packages and the destination charge boosted the sticker price to $27,470. The options included the “S” interior and exterior appearance package, and an electronic upgrade that added a higher level of audio and telematic technology, plus navigation.
The Limited trim level included the V-6 engine, power heated driver’s seat and heated passenger seat, Sirius satellite radio with a one-year subscription, automatic climate control, remote starter and auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
The controls and displays are straightforward, and so relentlessly conventional that most drivers won’t need to spend more than a few minutes with the owner’s manual. If you like mysterious icons and arrays of buttons reminiscent of an airliner’s cockpit, the 200 isn’t for you.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety designated the 200 a Top Safety Pick. Consumer Reports magazine surveys showed a dip in reliability from the 2011 to 2012 model years.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 283 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,576 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 18×7-inch aluminum polished/painted
Tires: P225/50R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 13.6 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 16.9 gallons
Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular/flex fuel