Review: 2016 Chrysler 200

“The minute I got into this car,” Danger Girl said, “my knees started hurting.” She didn’t have to explain why; thanks to sexual dimorphism, my 5’9″ wife and my 6’2″ self are both possessed of thirty-two-inch inseams, so we sit in a car the same way. And my knees were bent and splayed like I was trying to do an X-up on a BMX bike. The ridiculously short thigh bolsters in the Chrysler 200 might as well not exist. You’re fundamentally sitting on the floor, the way you would in a compact car. No surprise there, because the Chrysler 200 is a lengthened version of the compact Dodge Dart.

At an MSRP of $22,115, the LX (base) variant of the 200 competes heads-up against the Sonata I reviewed yesterday. But it’s not really that simple. To begin with, incentives on the Chrysler are omnipresent and remarkably strong; it’s entirely possible to get these cars for eighteen grand or even less. At that price point, the 200 isn’t competing with the Sonata; it’s competing with the Accent.

As we’ll see in a moment, the now-canceled barely-a-midsizer Chrysler has plenty of compelling virtues. It’s just that most of them aren’t present in this particular version of the car.

In rental-car spec, the 200 that I drove back from Camp Woodward to Ohio is slightly better-equipped than the Sonata that I drove from Ohio to Camp Woodward. You get automatic headlights, a backup camera, and a color center screen. You also get a completely different sense of space utilization. Both the Sonata and the Accord at which it is aimed provide a sense of spaciousness in the cabin, aided and abetted by a low, narrow center console. The 200, on the other hand, has a massive, high-mounted console that makes driver feel just a touch cramped. There’s a payoff, however; as with the latest generation of Volvos and most minivans, the temperature controls and other low-mounted controls are in a flying buttress of sorts that arcs from the dash to the cupholders with an empty storage area below.

Those cupholders, which are larger and better-situated than those in the Sonata, can slide to reveal a few liters’ worth of storage underneath them. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that the touch points in the 200 are generally superior to those of the Sonata, particularly the leather-wrapped steering wheel which compares very favorably to the squishy-plastic poverty special in the Hyundai. Both manufacturers punish your purchase of a base model with the imposition of a dumbed-down climate control system, but at least the Sonata follows Baruth’s Law: Never use buttons where you can use a knob. The 200 requires that you press blue and red buttons to adjust a vague slider that pops up on the infotainment display. It’s just plain stupid.

On a fast, twisty road, it’s possible to get a vague sense of the Alfa Romeo roots underpinning the Chrysler; it’s relatively eager to turn in and the controls have a bias for action, as they say in corporate-speak. It’s no smaller than the Sonata according to the measurements, but it sure feels tidier and less ponderous on the move. The engine, as well, is more alert and alive, handicapped somewhat by a transmission that often chooses to rev the engine to 4,000 or above on steep grades, at which point it sounds like something’s falling apart under the hood.

There’s no paddle-shifting in this base model, so you have to select “L” and hope for the best if you need something besides the default program. Part of the drive to Camp Woodward is a relatively treacherous climb and descent on a two-lane road that wraps around what I’d call a mountain but which my born-in-the-shadow-of-the-Sandias wife calls a “hill”. The Sonata makes it easy; just slide the transmission lever to the left and engage manual control. The Chrysler can’t do anything similar. The transmission is almost bad enough to ruin the car completely.

Rear seat room in the 200 is more than adequate. My son actually preferred the rakish roofline, small rear windows, and charcoal trim of his seating area to the plain-grey Korean-taxi back bench of the Sonata, and he was a little confused as to why we were griping about having to swap out the Hyundai for the Chrysler. Truthfully, if you were to take the badges off almost everybody would prefer the sleek look of 200 to the anonymous bulk of the Sonata.

I want to like the Chrysler. It’s a handsome Italian-influenced sedan that definitely marches to the beat of an entirely different drummer. In four-cylinder LX trim, however, it’s a disappointment. The good news is that you can get it as an all-wheel-drive, Pentastar-powered, leather-lined psuedo-entry-luxury sedan for about the same out-the-door price as a 2.4-liter Sonata Limited. Equipped that way, it’s a hell of a car and a hell of a deal.

Maybe the best way to look at the two cars I rented last weekend would be this: The Sonata’s best self is as a dirt-cheap big box for a family that values trunk space over valet cachet. The 200 only really shines when you tick all the option boxes. The problem both of these cars face, of course, is the Accord. In LX or Sport trim, the Honda is tremendous value and hugely competent; with the six-cylinder and all the trimmings, it’s within striking distance of entry-luxury sedans.

I can’t think of a scenario where I’d pick either of these cars over an Accord or Camry. The general public seems to agree; added together, the 2015-model-year sales of these cars only about matched Accord or Camry volume. As before, I will continue to recommend the Ford Fusion to people who feel oppressed by the Camcord Axis Of Evil. It’s stylish, it’s chock-full of fun features, and it seems to hold its value reasonably well.

As a slightly-used car, on the other hand, the 200 makes a strong case for itself. I’m seeing V6-powered 2015-model-year “S” models with under 15,000 miles for $15,000. That’s a tremendous amount of car for the money, and I don’t see how you could go wrong buying one. As a showroom-fresh four-cylinder LX, though, the Chrysler 200 is a swing and a miss.

37 Replies to “Review: 2016 Chrysler 200”

  1. Scotten

    Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this (and I’m not the usual TTAC-er who buys a car and drives it for 15 years and 200k miles) but even with massive discounts: I have to assume that resale value will suck. Even at a discounted $15k, if you decide you don’t want the 200 in a year or two then I think you will be shocked at how little the car will be worth.

  2. Tyler

    Appreciate the writeup, Jack. The internet is not paying attention to these vehicles, but broke-ass Toledoans are.

    While you’re commenting on the mid size market: almost everybody I know who has driven a late-model big sedan recently complains about the trunk openings and shapes.

    1.Did you find either of these cars to have accessible, useful trunks?
    2. Is the complaint real, in general, or do we just need more excuses to justify buying CUVs?
    3. do you think we’ll ever see five-door body style return to the mid-size North American sedan market with any significance? (Our putative betters are in lift back Teslas, right?)

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      1) Both trunks swallowed a 16″ kids BMX bike, two large gear bags, four helmets, and a toolbox. The Sonata’s trunk is longer, wider, and with a larger aperture, but both of them are totally usable.

      2) The latter.

      3) Kia Stinger is a liftback. To me that signifies that the next Optima could be, as well.

      • Bryce Himelrick

        I think that the faux liftback look is the new trend. The new malibu, civic, kia stinger GT all have it.

      • Andy

        What about your Accord coupe? Would the BMX and other stuff fit in there as well? I enjoy reading your rental reviews, but am not sure why you didn’t just take your own car (or Danger Girl’s Tahoe).

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          It’s a question of cost.

          The two-day rental cost me $48.

          800 miles on the Accord costs me $160 in maintenance alone.

          • Rock36

            Is that $160 based on an analysis of oil changes, tires, and brakes on a per mile basis? Anything else? Assumed depreciation?

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            Rough maintenance costs. No depreciation included.

            But I have to think that every time you put 800 miles on a car, even a Honda, you are doing something nontrivial to the value.

  3. Arbuckle

    If you need a new car and you only can afford up to $20K, buy a Corolla.

    If you want a stylish mid-sizer, buy a Fusion.

    If you want a a fast mid-sizer, buy an Accord or Camry V6.

    If you want a Chrysler, buy a 300.

  4. Dean

    The “guys with long legs” market is tragically under-served. I’m 6’2″, 34″ inseam. My Cruze is one of the few cars that’s comfortable enough, where I can adjust the seat and still have a decent reach to the wheel. The rental Charger I had a couple of months ago was even better.

    • Mark

      I’m 6’3 with a 36 inseam. It’s tough. Telescoping wheels are just about mandatory for me. My Focus has one, and just barely enough leg room. Two more inches would be nice. (Phrasing)

  5. Marcin Laszuk

    Thanks for posting the reviews here, Jack. I just hope that rental reviews will continue to be published, both here and on TTAC. They’re so much more informative than the usual press-fleet, top-trim, insane MSRP fare. Just like Frank said in the Sonata review: if you want to know how serious a manufacturer’s is, just look at its bargain bin.

    On a personal note, I find it strange how everybody says that the 200 is the rental queen, yet when I was in the US this summer (Orlando, FL) and went to the rental lots there were ROWS upon ROWS of Sonatas and Optimas, some Camries and Passats, and – fortunately – a Fusion or two hiding in the back. I saw no Accords, maybe 5 Malibus, and between 0 and 2 200s per visit. Was I just plain out of luck, or does the composition of rental fleets differ so much between areas?

    I’d also like to ask you guys something. For as long as I remember, I have always heard that among the domestics the Chrysler-Dodge-Plymouth group was always a more or less distant third in terms of reputation and image. Has it always been the case, or am I wrong?

    • Mark

      I don’t know that one can draw any real conclusions about rental fleet composition. It just varies so much from city to city and between rental companies. As a general pattern, I’d say most rental lots around the USA would be heavy on Kia, Hyundai, Nissan, and Chrysler/Dodge. By contrast, Hondas are almost unheard of (the one place I can remember seeing rental Hondas was Fargo, ND). Mazdas are semi-rare as are VWs. Toyota, GM and Ford somewhere in between.

    • Mark

      Is Chrysler #3 in prestige/image in America? Yeah, probably. Jeep would be an exception, as would the minivan line. The rear drive cars (300, Charger, Challenger) have their fans too. Their Ram trucks are probably also in third, except maybe for the Cummins diesel-powered ones, but Ram fans may well be the most rabid of the truck crowd…there just aren’t all that many of them.

      Interestingly, Chrysler has long been (or just seemed) stronger, relatively speaking, in Canada and maybe even Mexico. So I’m not sure that #3 label fits there.

  6. Bigtruckseriesreview

    As much as I wanted to love this car, it’s simply too small.

    I can look past the stupid gear shifter…but I can’t look past the small size of the car or the Dart.

    Both cars are a class-size too small.

    I look into any Hyundai being made now and wonder to myself:

    Why aren’t other companies learning from this?

    I’d never take a 200 over a Sonata – and I prefer everything else about the 200.

    AWD and a strong V6 in a car that size with a technology system this good (Uconnect, self parking, etc) for less than $35,000 are virtually unheard of unless you go to Subaru.

    The 200 is a better car in many ways than pricier MKZ and ATS.

    • tmkreutzertmkreutzer

      My sentiments exactly. When I rented a 200S the first thought that occurred to me is that it was everything my 300M should have been. A lot had changed in the decade or so since my car was built and I was quite impressed. Although I could have done without the rotary shifter, the 200 seemed SO nice.

      But as I drove it, I realized that it just wasn’t large enough. It was fine for carting my own ass around as a commuter and maybe OK for short trips with the wife and a couple of kids, too – as long as car seats wouldn’t be required – but it was nowhere large enough to be a good all-around family car.

      • Mark

        I had a “full size” reserved at Enterprise last year. They put me in a 200. 5 miles later I swapped it for a Camry. There just wasn’t enough room for me, the wife,the kid,the dog, and a bunch of crap for a long weekend and 800 miles.

  7. Graham

    You mention that the steering wheel leather on the 200 is favorable to the Hyundai plastic, which I believe. But, I’ve also noticed that generally, steering wheel leather seems to feel more processed than it did in the recent past. And worse yet, the leather on most luxury cars seems to favor durability over feel. I sat in the 7-series, S-class, Continental, and XT6 at the NAIAS and all of the seats felt spongy and rubbery – and I don’t think the abuse from the show explain all of it. Have you sat in anything remotely attainable with a decent set of leather seats lately? I grew up around Town Cars and Vanden Plas Jags and haven’t smelled anything lately with that shock to the senses of leather.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      The higher-end Continentals have really nice leather.

      As a former XJ6 VDP owner, I can tell you we will never get back there again. That Connolly Autolux would crack after 24 months in the sun. Today’s leather is heavily plasticized for durability.

    • jz78817

      all automotive leather is pretty heavily processed. Impregnated with dyes, sealants, and stabilizers so it won’t look like crap within two years. it’s also why you really needn’t worry about buying leather soaps and conditioners since those are meant for traditionally tanned hide.


    Both the 200 and the Dart are a class size too small. I think we can all agree on that.

    Had the Dart been the 200 and the 200 been larger, all would be forgiven.

    The next problem is the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger.

    As RWD sedans that offered ridiculous power and amenities – rear seat legroom was overlookable.

    But now that the Lacrosse, Impala, Genesis and several other cars have grown so large, you have to look at the Charger and 300 and ask: “well why aren’t you larger?”

    As you know I prefer my Jeep SRT to my Charger Hellcat. The Jeep SRT is DECEPTIVELY HUGE.

    I’m a giant guy, but I see smaller women and men driving them and think to myself: “they could damn near live in that thing”.

    American buyers aren’t small people. If you make a small car, you may please some “profeshunal car revuwah” but you aren’t gonna make sales.

    If the car only has a manual – you’re DOOMED. (You hear me Dodge Viper SRT WASTE OF MONEY AND TIME???)

    If the car lacks AWD – You’re not gonna sell all-year-round or very well in the northeast. Hyundai learned their lesson and their big cars are AWD now. SELLING.

    I’m not sure why this is so complicated…

  9. Mike

    You mention recommending the Fusion if someone wants to break out of the Accord/Camry duopoly. What about the Mazda 6 – for the 80% of people who buy an I4.

    You mentioned that you calculate $160 in maintenance for an 800 mile trip. I am confused – an oil change (even if done every 5000 miles) is much less and tires last 30K or so. An Accord still keeps half its value over 5 years so 800 miles has little impact on residual value (as long as it isn`t something like 15-20K a year).

    • MGS

      $160 for 800 miles is 20 cents per mile. That’s a reasonable figure. Also, I’m glad Jack rents cars; we get great articles like this as a result.

  10. ZG

    The last paragraph in this piece is why I really appreciate your work (and Bark’s). As a buyer, I don’t just care what a car is like right now. What it’ll be like (both in terms of condition and value) in a few years is also very important, and it seems like very few outlets spend much time talking about that. Thanks!

  11. DirtRoads

    Too small for me, and this coming from a 6’6″ guy who used to love his Fiat 124 Spiders. Then again, I could always put the top down, as they always had kickass heaters, and sliders, Jack, in the damn console no less 🙂

  12. Glenn Kramer

    Last month, I rented a 200 and drove 1,300 miles across Texas and back to Houston on business. The car was competent, totally anonymous and comfortable. It averaged exactly 37 MPG for the trip. So, it was a fine transportation module. As far as it goes, it’s a little less sophisticated than the Fusion Hybrid Titanium that I rented the week before in Baltimore, it felt like the 200 wants to be the Fusion when it grows up!


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