The Chrysler 200 is not long for this world.
Engine: 3.6-liter with 295 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic.
Fuel Economy: 18mpg city, 29 mpg hwy (AWD).
Price: Starts at $22,695.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne has announced that his car company is getting out of the business of building small and midsize sedans, partly because truck and SUV sales are booming for the company right now, and this move will allow Marchionne to pour more resources into those profitable beasts.
Marchionne also believes the brand made a misstep when designing the 200, quoted by Automotive News calling the designers of the 200 “dummies” because of the cramped entry into the rear seat thanks to the sloping rear roofline.
But does this car really deserve the axe? We spent one last week with a Chrysler 200 S to try to figure out exactly why this car failed.
It’s Not the Looks
Even though styling is subjective, there are few that can fault the 200 for having a boring design. Expressive curves and round edges afford the car a premium feel that still hasn’t gone stale. Even inside, the 200 remains stylish, with simple center stack design that is pleasant to look at it.
But Sergio was right. The raking at the rear end of the car makes ingress and egress into the backseat a chore for a full-size adult. What’s more, once inside, the headroom is cramped.
Rear seat legroom is decent in the 200 at 37.6 inches, but it is beat by its competitors, with the Toyota Camry offering an extra inch and the Volkswagen Passat offering nearly two extra inches of legroom. The 200 is also slightly skinnier than cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, which means the rear bench seat is even smaller across.
It Could be the Drive
Driving the 200, even the V6-powered all-wheel-drive version like we did, is not all that enjoyable of an experience. This car feels a bit heavy and likes to push and roll through corners. It does provide a comfortable ride and muted interior, and for this segment, those are much more important than tight handling. Though the driving dynamics aren’t great, I don’t think the 200 lost sales over it.
The biggest letdown is that the 295 horsepower that comes from the V6 is spoiled by the nine-speed automatic transmission, which even near the end of the car’s life, still needs more calibration work.
Down low, the shifts can be clunky, while the transmission often doesn’t know which gear to go into. In this segment, the transmission should at the very least stay out of your way while driving, but the nine-speed unit can’t help but pronounce itself with some rough shifts.
Still, with nearly 300 ponies pouring out from the V6, the 200 is plenty fast and gets up to speed with little drama.
Having nine cogs does help with fuel economy, though, as we averaged about 25 mpg in our week with the car. According to the EPA, the 200S with all-wheel drive should achieve 18 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway.
It’s Not The Dash
Up front, the 200’s dash is not only attractive but also has large buttons that are laid out simply. The 200 packs Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect infotainment system and though it has gone unchanged for a what seems like many years, it still delivers a great user experience.
Soft touch plastics coat the doors and trim while the leather used in the seat feels quite nice.
The 200’s steering wheel is a rather large unit and it feels nice and confident in your hands. There are quite a few buttons on the wheel including those mounted on the back side, but they are easy enough to figure out and get used to.
Like many FCA products these days, the 200 uses a rotary shift knob, which works well at freeing up space, allowing all the buttons to be nice and big and still have ample space around them.
Is it the Price?
The Chrysler 200 starts at $22,695, which is right in line with the starting price for a Honda Accord and about $1,000 less than a Toyota Camry. And at the top end, a fully loaded Camry XLE maxes out just under $35,000, while the 200 sits at just a little bit over $35,000, remaining competitive.
Maybe It’s the Name
Since the last generation Chrysler 200 is widely seen as a dud, it seems the new 200 just couldn’t shake the reputation that was attached to the name. This car is miles ahead of that one, and it offers expressive design that few of its rivals can match.
It may not be the best handling car in the segment, but that hasn’t stopped midsize sedans from selling in the past.
So maybe a name change would have been the best thing for the new 200, after all, it was completely different car.
The Verdict: 2016 Chrysler 200S Review – Why Did It Fail?
So why did this car fail? It’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason. While the 200 name certainly didn’t help, many families probably walked away from the car when they discovered the cramped backseat, a cardinal sin in a car where the four passenger capacity will probably be in use a lot.
Add a nine-speed automatic that isn’t quite right, and that is enough to fall out of contention in this highly competitive segment. Because when you’re competing with names like Camry and Accord, you need to be perfect, and the Chrysler 200 is far from it.