Pros: Value-priced; respectable interior quality; ample technology offerings; strong optional V6; available convertible with hard- or soft-top
Cons: Sedan's back seat and trunk are smaller than average; crude base 4-speed automatic transmission; 4-cylinder fuel economy merely okay
New for 2013: Last year's sportier-looking 200 S sedan is no longer offered as separate model, but its unique features are available as option packages on the 200 sedan Limited and Touring models. Convertible models receive suspension revisions.
The 2013 Chrysler 200 is a midsized model, offered in sedan and convertible form, that started life many years ago as the Chrysler Sebring. An extraordinary mid-cycle update in 2011 made the car look, feel and drive so much better it earned itself a new name, and so the 200 was born.
Specifically, the 2011 update gave the 200 a retuned suspension, sleeker styling, a hearty 3.6-liter V6 and a new interior with vastly improved materials. For 2013, the car is unchanged, save for the discontinuation of the sedan's top-of-the-line 200 S model. However, its visual and interior enhancements are still available on 200 Touring and Limited models in option packages. The convertible is still offered in Touring, Limited and S models, with slight suspension revisions to make them more engaging to drive.
However nicely refreshed the 200 may have appeared back in 2011, most of its primary competitors have been completely redesigned. The 200 is now considerably smaller than the average midsize sedan. Also, the base 4-speed automatic transmission -- one of the only 4-speeds left among midsize cars anywhere -- is terribly outdated.
That said, what really matters is how this Chrysler stacks up against the competition. Given the 200's aggressive pricing, satisfying optional V6 and newly appealing cabin, we'd say it stacks up pretty well -- so long as interior space isn't your primary requirement.
Comfort & Utility
The 2013 Chrysler 200 sedan comes in one of three trim levels: LX ($18,995), Touring ($21,665) and Limited (24,685). The basic LX sedan includes 17-in steel wheels with plastic covers, a height-adjustable driver seat with manual lumbar support, power accessories, illuminated keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control and a 4-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input jack (but no USB input). The Touring adds niceties like 17-in alloy wheels, a power driver's seat, a 6-speaker stereo and automatic climate control. The Limited boasts fog lamps, leather upholstery, USB and Bluetooth connectivity (optional on lower trims) and a 6.5-in touchscreen infotainment display with 28 gigabytes of digital music storage (optional on Touring) and Boston Acoustics speakers. A navigation system can be added to the 6.5-in infotainment suite.
The S package for the 200 sedan Touring model adds 18-in polished and painted alloy wheels with all-season tires, as well as darkened grille, headlamp and fog lamp treatments, all for $495. The Limited model also offers the same S package contents and in addition upgrades the interior with suede-like seat inserts and a perforated leather-covered steering wheel, all for the same $495 package price.
As for the 200 convertible, there are three trim levels: Touring ($27,100), Limited ($32,095) and S ($32,595). The Touring and Limited roughly correspond to the sedan's equipment distribution, with the Limited model getting the touchscreen interface as standard equipment. The 200 S convertible is essentially a Limited model with the sedan's S package interior and exterior upgrades as standard. A soft-top is standard on all convertibles, though a retractable hard-top can be substituted on Limited and S models for $1,995.
The 200's standard cloth-trimmed seats are nondescript, but the Limited and S models' upgraded front seats are a different story, and deliver pleasantly firm support. Happily, every 200 comes with the same premium dashboard materials, including a supple primary covering that wouldn't be out of place in a luxury car. We also like the look of the gauges, and the analog clock is a distinctive Chrysler touch.
For rear passengers it's a somewhat different story, as the 200 sedan's relatively compact dimensions give the backseat an economy-grade vibe. At least the rear bench is rather high, which helps alleviate the legroom shortage. The convertible's backseat, on the other hand, is quite spacious compared to most drop-top cars such as the Ford Mustang convertible or the Chevrolet Camaro convertible. It's quite possible for four adults to enjoy a top-down cruise without feeling cramped.
The 200 sedan's trunk, like its backseat, is small by class standards, as it measures just 13.6 cu ft against a norm of 15 cubes or more. Conversely, the convertible's top-up 13.3 cu ft space is impressive, though that dwindles considerably with the top down due to its massive top stack, which is the same whether one chooses the soft- or hard-top.
We'd like to see the base LX sedan come standard with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, but you can still add those features if you want for $395. The 200 Touring model offers an older 6.5-in touchscreen incorporating the same features for $695, along with 28 GB of music storage on its built-in hard drive. The 200's smaller screen lacks the crisp graphics and intuitive interfaces of newer systems, but we have to admit that it's packed with functionality. Furthermore, if you want this kind of feature set in any other midsize sedan, it may cost you a lot more than what Chrysler is charging. The Limited sedan also offers the same touchscreen system interface, along with GPS navigation, for $1,295. Upgrading to navigation on the convertible-only S model costs $695.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The base 200 LX sedan offers a 4-speed automatic transmission and a 2.4-liter inline-4 rated at 173 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque. The 4-speed shifts crudely, but it surprisingly doesn't hurt fuel economy, which checks in at an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rated 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway versus a basically identical 20 mpg city/31 mpg hwy with the snappier 6-speed automatic. You'll have to upgrade to at least the Touring to get the 6-speed, so it'll cost you. But we think it's worth it for the improvements in shift quality and acceleration. Speaking of acceleration, the inline 4-cylinder accelerates the 200 up to highway speeds well enough, but it doesn't sound too happy about it.
Optional on Touring and standard on the Limited is a 3.6-liter V6 that's good for 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is the only transmission with this engine. What a night and day difference from the inline-4! The V6 makes the 200 downright quick and, best of all, it barely affects fuel economy, which registers 19 mpg city/ 29 mpg hwy. A V6-powered 200 sedan is a genuine performance bargain.
Notably, the convertible doesn't have to deal with the 4-speed automatic; its base trim level, the Touring, comes standard with the 6-speed transmission. The Limited convertible gets the V6 as standard. With the convertible, 4-cylinder fuel economy drops to 18 mpg city/29 mpg hwy, but V6 fuel economy remarkably stays the same, so it's actually a notch better than the inline-4 at 19 mpg city/29 mpg hwy.
The 2013 Chrysler 200 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, active front head restraints and six airbags in the sedan (front, front side, full-length side curtain), compared to four (front, front side) in the convertible.
In government crash testing, the 200 sedan received an overall rating of four stars out of five, including four stars for frontal impacts and just three stars for side impacts. The convertible was not tested. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 200 sedan and convertible its top rating of Good in every category, except that the convertible wasn't tested for roof strength.
The 200 is pleasant to drive, which is more than we can say about the long-gone Sebring on which it is based. Chrysler reworked the suspension tuning, and the result is a surprisingly playful drive. Don't worry: The familiar soft ride is still there in non-S forms, the interior is Buick-quiet and, as with most Chrysler products all the way up to the Town and Country minivan, handling composure is a strong suit.
Easily the most memorable aspect of the driving experience, though, is the hearty thrust from the optional V6, which transforms the 200 into a pretty swift car. There's a disconcerting squatting effect when you really mash the throttle, accompanied by some lightness in the steering, but you get used to it.
Other Cars to Consider
Kia Optima - The daringly styled Optima has superior fuel economy and a bigger backseat, yet it's still aggressively priced, even with the optional turbocharged inline-4.
Toyota Camry - The 2013 Camry has great fuel economy, plenty of space all around and few notable flaws. The Camry SE is even fun to drive this time around, easily giving the 200 a run for its money.
Ford Mustang - If you're looking for a reasonably priced convertible with a back seat, the Mustang is one of the few others you'll find. Relative to the 200, it's tighter in back, but there's a lot more power under the hood.
For the sedan, we'd go with the Touring or the top dog Limited, preferably with the bargain-priced S package. And if you get the Touring, don't be afraid to add the V6, since you get a lot more power with barely any loss in fuel efficiency. Same goes for the convertible; even though the price point is higher, that makes upgrading to the S model from Limited even more of a bargain.