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November 3, 2013

2013 Chrysler 200

by Mark Savage

Chrysler 200 Touring feels like a rental car, but scores with good MPG

I wasn’t expecting much when the silver Chrysler 200 Touring arrived. It’s not a styling leader and isn’t far removed from its Sebring predecessor. It looks like a rental car and feels like one too.Chrysler

This one tried to spiff up a bit with a $495 package that ups the tires from 17-inchers to 18 and adds the S appearance package that blacks out the grille and light bezels and puts an S initial on the trunk. For the price, it helps gussy it up a bit.

But I don’t want to demean the 200, its build quality seems light years ahead of the Sebring, and actually seemed better than the Convertible version I drove last winter. Fiat, which owns Chrysler, has, ironically, improved build, fit and finish at Chrysler.

Yet I have to say, on a 600+ mile trip to Indianapolis and back via back roads in central and northern Indiana, the 200 was comfortable and paid big gas mileage dividends.

Its standard 2.4-liter I4 with variable valve timing delivers a moderate 173 horsepower. But its gas mileage was stellar. I got between 25.5 and 28.5 mpg and topped out at 32 mpg in a straight highway drive. The EPA rates this car at 20 mpg city and 31 highway and the trip computer estimated I could travel 502 miles before a fill-up. That makes for a stellar long-distance driver.

The downside is that the engine and 6-speed automatic transmission don’t sound very refined. In fact, they sound like they are working pretty darned hard when you tromp the accelerator to get onto an interstate. There’s a lot of engine noise, a groaning sort of thrum. Acceleration seems lackluster too as the transmission makes obvious shifts through the gears.

The 200 is not heavy though, checking in at 3,402 lbs., and it’s available with a 3.5-liter Pentastar V6 that can pound out 285 horses. That might be the more entertaining choice, but then you’ll suffer a bit at the gas pump, although the EPA still rates that version of the 200 at 19 mpg city and 29 highway.

chrysler2What helps create a comfortable ride is the 108.9-inch wheelbase and a strut suspension up front and independent rear suspension that are well tuned to tackle creased Midwestern roads. Uh, Indiana’s asphalt county roads and state highways are much smoother than those in Wisconsin.

The 200 handles more like a rental car, with some play in the wheel and less than precise steering and cornering. But it’s fine on a road trip and easy to keep between the highway lines. In town you may wish the car had more spunk and sportier handling.

But there is traction and stability control, along with ABS for the brakes, so stopping and grip were fine.

Inside the car is relatively austere looking with a predominance of black, the dash, the doors, the cloth seats. There’s a thick leather steering wheel with a matte silver hub and a bit of silver trim by the shifter and on the door releases. There’s black gloss trim by the radio screen and chrome look trim around the air vents and center stack. Overall, there’s no pizzazz.

The seats are moderately contoured cloth, but comfortable on a longer trip and the driver’s seat had power controls. Couple that with a manual tilt/telescope steering wheel and it was simple to find a good driving position. The wheel also has trip computer and cruise control buttons on the hub.

Dash gauges are fairly 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, which some folks will find attractive, in a retro way. Likewise, the 200 has a key start.chrysler3

I’m still not wild about the 6.5-inch touchscreen radio mid-dash. It seems a tad small for the car and the tiny volume control knob and buttons around the screen make it somewhat difficult to use while driving. That said, the radio system sounds good and includes satellite radio and an MP3 hookup.

There IS voice recognition on the Uconnect audio system though, part of a $695 option package. So that might eliminate some of the tuing difficulty once you get used to the voice commands. Climate controls are the standard three round knobs, which made them easy to figure out and use.

I like that the car has automatic lights, visors that slide, bright overhead lighting and an inside trunk release. Head and legroom overall is good and four adults fit comfortably. But I did notice that as a shorter driver I tended to whack my knee on the steering column as I entered the car. Yet for families, the trunk space is good though and the rear seat splits and folds down to increase cargo room.

Cost is moderate, as you’d expect, with the entry-level LX starting at $19,695 for the 2013 model. That jumps to $21,195 for 2014, not far off this 2013 Touring model (the mid-level trim), which listed at $21,995. Add in the $995 delivery fee and options and the test car hit $24,180.

The more upscale 200 Limited starts at $25,255, but includes the V6 engine and other trim spiffs.

For low-cost midsize transportation the 200 works, and it’ll go easy on the gas.

FAST Stats: 2013 Chrysler 200 Touring

Hits: Excellent gas mileage, good ride and roomy interior and trunk. Comfortable cloth seats, sliding visors, and a good sounding stereo with satellite and MP3 player.

Misses: Looks and feels like a rental car, low on power and a noisy drivetrain and lackluster shifts and power. Tight knee space getting in, easy to whack knee on steering column for short drivers.

Made in: Sterling Heights, Mich.

Engine: 2.4-liter, VVT I4, 173 hp

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 3,402 lbs.

Wheelbase: 108.9 in.

Cargo: 14 cu.ft.

MPG: 20/31

Base Price: $21,995

Dealer’s Price: $21,675

Major Options:

Preferred Package 29U (S exterior package, 18-inch alum. painted wheels, black finish fog lamp bezels/S grille/S wing badging/headlamp bezels, projector fog lamps, S badging), $495

Uconnect stereo upgrade w/6.5-in. touchscreen, $695

Delivery: $995

Test vehicle: $24,180

Sources: Chrysler, www.autos.yahoo.com

Photos: Courtesy of Chrysler

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