KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 12/6/2011
In what must be one of the most ambitious model overhauls in Chrysler's long and rocky history, the company updated or completely remade its entire model line in the last year, including its Dodge and Jeep divisions. Such massive change in a short time is impressive, and none was more in need than the dowdy Chrysler Sebring sedan. Given a new look, a new interior and a new name, the 2012 Chrysler 200 is a far more competent competitor in the midsize sedan class, and no longer feels like a car one would only rent but not buy. Still, its greatest virtue might be its combination of a premium ambiance and respectable performance in a crowd of mainstream cars like the Accord, Camry and Sonata.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a mid-size sedan with a stylish and well-appointed interior, a powerful V6 engine and a decidedly European driving attitude, the 2012 Chrysler 200 deserves a nice, long test drive.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Those looking for a roomy rear seat may find more to like in the Nissan Altima or even larger Hyundai Sonata. The 200's base price may look appealing, but start to add options and the price tag quickly pushes past the $25,000 mark.
What's New for 2012
While the 2012 Chrysler 200's Sebring roots are still evident in its profile, it's a new experience from the driver's seat. The front-wheel drive sedan's strong 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 nearly matches the efficiency of the entry 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, handling is crisp, and the cabin offers a premium feel. After such a drastic transformation for 2011, little is changed for 2012.
Beyond all the visible improvements over the Sebring, the 2012 Chrysler 200 shines most brightly in the way it drives. Equipped with Chrysler's latest 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, the 200 can rocket to highway speeds or pass slow traffic with confidence. Smooth, quiet and surprisingly fuel-efficient, the V6 is a far better choice than the buzzy 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. Chrysler spent considerable cash revamping the 200's suspension, and it was money invested well. The 200 drives beautifully, corners with enthusiasm, and absorbs bumps without effort. Surprisingly, despite having its 283 horsepower directed through the front wheels, the 200 exhibited little sign of torque steer, even when launched hard from a dead stop. On long stretches of highway, the 200's steering required little input to keep the car on course, and uneven or grooved pavement did not upset its manners. The styling and finish of the 200 are no mere window dressings on the old Sebring. This is a far better car.
Where the old Sebring drove like a softly sprung rental car, the 200's revamped suspension and steering place it at the top of its category. It's an unexpected but welcome pleasure.
Garmin Navigation Radio
Chrysler's newest audio units feature mapping by industry leader Garmin. Not only is the system intuitively easy to operate, the large 6.5-inch screen makes it easy for older eyes to navigate the on-screen commands.
Goodbye, sow's ear; hello, silk purse. The Sebring's hard plastic finishes and dowdy colors are replaced by deep blacks, rich browns and warm tans. Sweeping, richly textured, soft-touch surfaces display fewer seams but more chrome and metallic trim, elevating the 200's cabin to business class if not first. Layered trim replaces unsightly gaps, and instrumentation combines modern function with classic style. Both cloth and leather seats are well-tailored, but rear legroom is tight if the front seats are adjusted for six-footers. A driver's lumbar adjuster and split-folding rear seatbacks are standard on every model. Noise insulation is admirable; great for Bluetooth users.
Forget the awkward Sebring and its grooved hood. The 200, as its name implies, looks more like a junior Chrysler 300, with LED-accented headlights flanking the new corporate grille. Around back, a thin chrome crossbar bridges slim wraparound taillights. Chrome details are generous but tasteful, and 17- and 18-inch wheels add to its premium presence. The 200 sits lower than the Sebring, for a more aggressive stance, and Chrysler even took pains to conceal the more unsightly underpinnings visible on the Sebring. The overall effect is a car that went to finishing school rather than being rushed to market.
Notable Standard Equipment
The entry-level Chrysler 200 LX features a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, a 4-speed automatic transmission, power windows, mirrors and locks, keyless entry and remote trunk release, heated side mirrors, 17-inch wheel covers, manual air conditioning with filtration, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, driver's-seat manual lumbar support and height adjustment, and an AM/FM stereo with MP3 compatible CD player and an auxiliary audio input jack. Instruments feature LED lighting, an outside temperature display and an analog clock. Standard safety features include 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic traction and stability control, front-seat side-impact airbags, and front and rear side-curtain airbags.
Notable Optional Equipment
Above the 200 LX, the three remaining trims are the Touring, Limited and S, all of which include a 6-speed automatic transmission, aluminum-alloy wheels, automatic on/off headlights, 8-way power driver's seat, SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The luxury-oriented Limited adds leather, heated front seats, 18-inch wheels, touch-screen audio system with a hard drive (though navigation is optional on all but the LX), foglights, remote start and Chrysler's UConnect hands-free phone setup. The 200 S upgrades the Limited features with the V6 standard, along with Boston Acoustics audio and sportier trim inside and out, including suede seating inserts.
Under the Hood
Chrysler's 2.4-liter 4-cylinder is not the most refined engine in its class, but with 173 horsepower on tap, it's not the weakest either. When paired with the 6-speed transmission, this engine can move the 200 briskly and promises fuel economy near the top of its class. If you can pony up the extra $1,750, the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is the engine to have. Smooth, potent and nearly as efficient, it turns the 200 from a sleeper to a keeper.
2.4-liter in-line 4
173 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
166 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/30 (4-speed automatic), 20/31 (6-speed automatic)
283 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
260 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/29
The 2012 Chrysler 200 LX carries a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just under $19,000, less than in 2011. The 200 Touring bumps the price to just over $21,370, while a fully loaded V6 Limited or 200 S can easily exceed $28,000. Compare the base Volkswagen Jetta at just over $17,500 or the roomier Honda Accord LX at about $22,000 (both with automatic transmission) and the 200 now seems in line. To make your best deal on a new 200, be sure to check the Kelley Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. As for resale, we think the new 200 will do a little better than its Sebring predecessor, meaning its 5-year resale values will likely remain on the lower end of the category, lower than the Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra, and much lower than the Volkswagen Jetta, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.