2012 Chrysler 200
Starting MSRP $18,995–$32,450
The 2012 Chrysler 200 and I got off to a rough start. It stole 45 minutes of quiet time — courtesy of my napping daughter — while I tried installing her child-safety seat in the midsize sedan. After a few choice words and frustration that ended in tears, I still couldn't get the car seat installed. My husband also tried to install it, with no success. He declared that if we'd purchased this car he'd return it.
Although the 2012 Chrysler 200 has a spiffy new look, an accessible sticker price and a few nifty tech features, its cramped cabin space and blah driving experience make it tough for me to declare it a great family car.
The upgraded V-6 engine in my top-of-the-line 200S test car gave it plenty of power. Acceleration wasn't a concern in this midsize sedan, but its floaty suspension made me feel as though too many drivers had been behind the wheel before me. It seemed strange to have such a powerful engine that felt disconnected from the road with its loose steering.
The Chrysler 200 has a starting price of $18,995 (including an $850 destination charge), but my test car, a 200S with the optional Preferred Package, cost $28,405.
The Chrysler 200 is a handsome sedan. The exterior styling could be interpreted as somewhat conservative, but I find its looks to be classic and sophisticated. Oddly, I usually love the details and youthfulness that a sport trim adds to a car's appearance, but in the 200's case, I prefer the standard model's looks. The dark accents on my 200S model dated its appearance.
Ease of entry and exit is practically a non-issue in the 200; getting my daughter into her finally installed child-safety seat was uneventful. Little ones could need help opening the somewhat-heavy doors. However, a slight annoyance followed me throughout my weeklong test drive: The key fob is the only way to open the trunk when outside the car. I wanted to reach under the trunk lip to open it but was continually reminded I had to push the key's button. I suppose it would be something I could get used to if I owned the 200, but I just hated the extra step of pushing the key fob's button after already unlocking the car, especially when my hands were full.
The five-seater's trunk seemed skimpy. My single stroller fit in it, but it barely cleared the trunk's roofline. Families would need to choose either a double-stroller or groceries when gallivanting around town. There's a standard 60/40-split folding backseat to expand the cargo area when needed. The cargo area may be a little shallow for families who like to pack it in, but a week's worth of groceries or a couple of rolling suitcases will fit just fine.
As for things under the hood, power enthusiasts will be excited; the optional 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine is peppy, and it's easy to please with regular unleaded gasoline. It gets an EPA-estimated 19/29 mpg city/highway. I averaged just under the 200S' combined city/highway estimate of 22 mpg during my week of primarily city driving. Perhaps I enjoyed the V-6 engine more than I thought I did.
The 200 also has a standard 173-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that gets an EPA-estimated 21/30 mpg and uses regular unleaded gas.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): More than fair, less than great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
With its low sticker price, I was expecting cheap finishes in the 200, but things looked more upscale in the interior than I expected.
My test car came with some tech upgrades such as Bluetooth streaming audio and an easy-to-use Uconnect navigation system with voice activation. I jelled with the 200's system; it always managed to understand my commands, and I was able to use it without the typical misunderstandings I've experienced with other systems. Kudos on that, Chrysler.
For a midsize sedan, the 200's interior was a little tighter than expected. It wasn't uncomfortable, but it wouldn't be ideal for five passengers. Adding rear-facing child-safety seats compromises the front passenger's legroom significantly.
There are cupholders for everyone (unless you've got a fifth passenger blocking access to the backseat's armrest with cupholders) and a convenient cubby below the center stack with a UBS input for a smartphone or MP3 player. The bin under the front row's armrest has significant storage as well.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): More than fair, less than ample
The 2012 Chrysler 200 has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It received the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2012 200 an overall crash-test rating of four stars of five. It received four stars out of five in frontal and rollover crash tests and three stars in side-impact crash tests.
The 200 comes with standard front-wheel drive, antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, active front head restraints and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows.
As previously mentioned, installing my daughter's child-safety seat was a major problem in the 200. There are two sets of Latch anchors in the back row, but the seat cushions were so stiff and extended so low that it made it the anchors almost impossible to access. After I struggled to install the car seat, my husband took over. He had the idea of folding the second-row seatback forward a bit to access the Latch anchors, which allowed us to use them.
Get more safety information on the 2012 Chrysler 200 here.
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