2016 Chrysler 200S Review: Why Did It Fail?

The Chrysler 200 is not long for this world.

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.

SEE ALSO: FCA CEO Calls Chrysler 200 Designers “Dummies” 

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.

2016 Chrysler 200 Limited

 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

2016 Chrysler 200S

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.

2016 Chrysler 200 Limited

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?

2016 Chrysler 200S

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.

  • Mike Stoddart

    If Marchionne thinks the designers were dummies, who signed off on the design? Was he in charge then? If so its his fault.

  • Jason Aprill

    This seems really shortsighted. Eventually gas prices will go up and once again Chrysler will struggle and flirt with bankruptcy. Carmakers need to learn from history. Gas prices will go up again.

  • V8Supercar1

    Its a decent car that gave you a lot of options and bang for your buck. As for as the 9 speed gearbox being clunky, maybe they should dump the Germans (ZF), and get with Ford and GM on their new 10 speed auto.

  • Jeffery Surratt

    It seems like Chrysler has always had problems with transmissions. With these new systems, maybe they need to have better computer programmers or engineers to fine tune the performance. The used 200’s just do not seem to hold much resale value, If I wanted one, I would go used and save thousands over the new price.

  • windel Vernon

    I haven’t driven a 200, but I believe that the styling, inside and out, hit the target. Perhaps the back doors didn’t fit the American requirements, but that doesn’t justify cancelling the model when it represented the best looking midsized car that the company ever built. Then there’d the utter stupidity of totally surrendering the segment which Marchionne may want to reconsider.

  • Jack Woodburn

    Other sources reflected Chrysler’s history of poor reliability. Fit issues and rattles soon revealed themselves in this car. The the quality gremlins still persist at Chrysler…

  • ChiCarGuy

    I just rented a 200 yesterday. I was excited to try it because I think the exterior is one of the best designs on the market. Interior is attractive too, but not the rental car I had – it has some cheap plastics on the instrument panel and in other high-touch areas.

    What struck me about the car was the transmission. Holy moly that thing is a royal mess. One of the worst I’ve experienced in a car (the Ford Focus automatic being the other one). Shocking that some approved this thing for sale. It lurches at crawling speeds, refuses to downshift when coasting to a stop (giving the sensation that the car is fighting the braking and pushing you). It clunks down a gear right before making a stop, making smooth stops impossible. I tried using the most gentle throttle inputs and the car would lunge and jerk around parking lots and stop lights.

    The engine was nice, the ride and handling fine (better road feel through the steering than the 2015 BMW 228i I drove recently). But the transmission is an abomination. Sad, because it’s such a good looking and competent car in other ways.

  • William Hinkle

    Sad that Chrysler failed to refine this car. My ex-wife and I throughly enjoyed an ’80s Dodge Lancer that was completely reliable once we began to avoid incompetent dealer service departments. I’ve never driven a 200 but like its styling. Thinking the Fiat – Chrysler ‘marriage’ may be a joke.

  • William Hinkle

    Thinking you’re right.

  • William Hinkle

    Nah, keep this tranny and replace the incompetent software engineers.

  • akear

    Sergio is responsible for most of Chrysler’s failings. FCA reliability is at the back of the pack. Jeep is last in every category according to consumer reports. The guy from autoextremist is right Sergio is the biggest fool in the industry.

  • Frank Yoster

    I dont care..i really love that car! The interior is beauty! And it has what most compact sedans do not have is AWD…i want a 200S AwD! ….i just cant afford one right now hahaha

  • Independent Vyu

    Why would the CEO of Fiat Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne, state that the Chrysler 200 was a complete failure and the engineers were dummies and then take the face of this utter failure (the front end) and place it on the all-new Chrysler Pacifica minivan? Complete failure status would indicate that the Pacifica is going to be a complete failure also based on his statement. Sergio is haunting the success of his own company with statements like this and honestly believes that another automaker would have any desire to merge with this kind of corporate self destruction? It would have been better served if Mr. Marchionne would have made a statement that said “We made some mistakes with the engineering and design of the 200 and learned from our mistakes.” I am not stating that the Pacifica is going to be a failure, the CEO of the company did.
    Not every vehicle is for everyone.

  • Steven Smith

    The prices will drop soon. I was able to pick up a 200S with a V6 for under $23,000 back in January. For the money, I could not come close to getting a better car!!!

  • Isend2C

    I was so close to buying one of these but then the quality of the interior was rubbish. The B-pillar trim was coming off and the smart key wouldn’t let me unlock the car by touching the button on the door handle – this car had 235 miles on it. It was fast though and the tech in the car was fantastic!

  • Mick

    The Japanese (Accord, Camry) do it better, that’s why. Who cares if they cost a bit more , they retain their resale value and are more reliable also.

  • Mick

    What’s the point of a 9 speed when cars with less gears like the Accord get as good or better fuel economy and are faster and shift better.

  • sssharpie

    I own one and know the feeling of the 200 tranny lurching, especially in cold weather and before it’s warmed up, both at slow speeds and stopping. However, after the tranny programming update over a year ago, I learned to control it. It’s kinda like breaking a wild horse. (maybe a mustang, if you will!)

    I imagine a rental 200 would be even worse, with different drivers wreaking havoc with the transmission learning in the software.

  • Mike Stoddart

    I thought his comment was more about the lack of headroom in the back seats and the tight entry into them? I can’t remember exactly.

  • jeff hi

    The button on the door handle LOCKS the car. Reach under the door handle and the car unlocks.

  • Isend2C

    That is a weird way to work the system! I’d never heard of that – neither had the dealership that I test drove it at.

  • pedrocastimas

    Rented one, and i’d have to say it was one of the WORST cars i’ve ever drive. Loud on the road, numb steering, “busy” transmission, headlights that put me in “panic” mode on twisty roads (NO side or down-the-road forward illumination). in its defense; comfortable seating in the front (didn’t use the back seat), decent gas mileage and OK performance. In a category with LOTS of choices, this is a bottom-dweller.

  • LT Rusty

    A Chrysler dealer didn’t know how to lock and unlock the car? I find that a little odd and unsettling.

    Just walk up to the car and pull the handle with the key in your pocket, and it unlocks. Get out, shut the door, push the button on the handle and it will lock, so long as–again–you have the key in your pocket, or somewhere within a couple feet of the door handle.

  • Tom

    Not all smart-entry systems are alike. Quite a few models have you push the button for both unlocking and locking. Others have you grab the door handle to unlock and push the button to lock. Sometimes there’s no consistency between different models of the same make – e.g. the Ford Escape uses the first method I mentioned but the Fusion uses the second! I wish there were a standardized method that everyone could agree on.

  • NunUvYorBizness

    Arguably the BEST value for an AWD sedan with decent performance from a near-300hp V6 out there. You can buy a 2016 used in the Detroit area with low 4 digit miles and factory warranties of 2+ years remaining for under $18K.

  • 58trojan23

    Quite honestly, I think you are selling the 200 way short. I have driven this car many times and never found what you complain about the 9 speed transmission. Plus, it has a great ride

  • 58trojan23

    I’d put the v6 200 up against any of the competitors