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March 26, 2013

2013 Chrysler 200 Limited Convertible

by Mark Savage

Despite low cost, Chrysler 200 droptop leaves us cold

200 exterior

Ah, to have a convertible during summer or fall. Sadly, I tested the 200 in snowy winter. Too bad!

First impressions can be skewed by many factors, and it probably did not help that the Chrysler 200 Limited Convertible arrived on a near zero degree day in a week where snow was forecast, and fell, over several days.No, I didn’t drop the top!

The test car was a bright metallic red with tan canvas roof. A hardtop convertible also is available and the 200 comes in three trim levels, the base Touring model, starting at $27,100, the tested Limited at $32,095 and the S model with blacked out grille at $32,595.

Mopar lovers may recall the former Sebring sedan, which also was available as a convertible. And this, like the Sebring, offers a rare under $30 grand convertible that will seat four adults. It’s only real competitors are Ford’s Mustang and Chevrolet’s Camaro. Both look much sportier and in mid-trim levels with V6 power, the Mustang is actually a tad less expensive. I’d opt for the Mustang on looks alone, but for folks who want a pleasant, less racy, comfortable convertible, the 200 is fine.

Chrysler’s 200 rides on the same platform as the Sebring and maintains much of its components. But Fiat, which owns Chrysler, and Chrysler have restyled the exterior with a new grille and LED taillights, and generally smoothed its overall appearance. While the car’s fit and finish seem much better than the Sebring, the gap between the doors and dash still seems too wide and the doors did not always latch properly when closed from outside the car.

With the top down it's easy to see the 200's interior, including the touchscreen mid dash.

With the top down it’s easy to see the 200’s interior, including the smallish touchscreen and tiny radio volume knob.

There are pluses though. Here’s what you get with the Limited.Start with a horsey 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with variable valve timing. This runs smoothly and belts out 283 horses while coupled with a solid 6-speed automatic transmission. But there is major lag unless you tromp the gas pedal. Then it jumps to attention. Highway cruising seems easy, along with hitting the bottom of an entry-ramp at 60+ mph.

Handling is slightly improved from the old Sebring, but still feels too light and relatively vague, something that becomes more noticeable on the freeway.

Yet there has been some tinkering and stiffening of the front suspension in particular, so the car rides well and is comfortable. A multi-link rear suspension does a good job of displacing the bigger potholes and bumps.

Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car well and traction and stability control are standard. The front-drive car handled our snowy streets well too, no slipping and sliding.

As mentioned before, I did NOT get a chance to put the power canvas top down as temperatures were brutal for the first couple days, plus snow started stacking up on the top after that. There is a button to press and lower the top, which likely works just fine. This would be a good car for a more southern location, or California.

The Chrysler's leather interior is attractive and the seats relatively flat, but comfortable.

The Chrysler’s leather interior is attractive and the seats relatively flat, but comfortable.

I like the 200’s interior. It’s attractive and in the Limited features leather seats with two-level seat warmers up front. THAT came in handle during our cold snap. The base Touring model has cloth seats with leather trim.The front seats are fairly flat with only mild contouring, but the driver’s seat has a power fore and aft knob, while the seat back is manually adjusted with a lever on the side.

Dash gauges are attractive with three round gauges and a digital trip computer under the fuel and temp dials and an odometer under the tachometer. There also is an analog clock mid-dash. That looks old fashioned to me, but some drivers may prefer it to digital.

What bothered me more was the 6.5-inch touchscreen digital clock/navigation display. It seemed small for the car and hard to read. Add to that a tiny volume control knob and buttons around the screen make it somewhat difficult to use while driving. There is voice recognition on the Uconnect audio system though. So that might eliminate some of that difficulty once you get used to the voice commands.

Interior noise is mild considering this is a soft-top convertible. I was impressed that the road noise did not bother me much, even with snow and slush under wheel. The test car did add a $475 Boston Acoustics sound system. It sounded fine and maybe dimmed the road noise a bit. And while quiet inside, there was some roof shake and chassis vibration, not uncommon for soft-top convertibles. It was not excessive or much bother, just something you notice on rough roads.

Climate controls are the standard three round knobs, which made them easy to figure out and use. Heat came quickly, another plus.

The 200 has key start, but an inside trunk release and tilt/telescope steering wheel with audio and cruise controls on its hub. Trip computer and phone buttons also are on the hub.

Again, while I didn’t drop the top I don’t see how much luggage would fit in the trunk if it were down. Without it lowered there is just moderate room.

The hardtop convertible version of the 200 is more attractive and would offer a quieter interior.

The hardtop convertible version of Chrysler’s low-cost 200 is more attractive and would offer a quieter interior.

Gas mileage was good. I got 26 mpg in about 50% driving at 45 mph or more. The EPA rates the 200 at 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Regular unleaded is fine here too.Pricing makes the 200 attractive, especially in the Touring model. But note that there’s a $995 delivery charge and the test car ended up at $34,260 after adding a few options. Again, Mustang and Camaro are in the same price range, but offer more interesting styling.

FAST Stats: 2013 Chrysler 200 Limited Convertible

Hits: Fairly inexpensive convertible, nice looking interior, 2-level seat heat, flat seats, good power, comfortable ride and good mpg.

Misses: Some shake in roof and chassis on bumpy roads, vague steering, doors don’t always latch, small NAV/radio screen and a not very useful trunk.

Made in: Sterling Heights, Mich.

Engine: 3.6-liter V6, VVT, 283 hp

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 4,058 lbs.

Wheelbase: 108.9 in.

Cargo: 13.3 cu.ft.

MPG: 19/29

Base Price: $32,095

Dealer’s Price: $30,667

Major Options:

6 Boston Acoustic speakers, $475

Uconnect w/Nav, MP3, Sirius/XM Travel link, $695

Delivery: $995

Test vehicle: $34,260

Sources: Chrysler, www.autos.yahoo.com

Photos: Courtesy of Chrysler

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