The 2015 Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan is a good-looking, comfortable, and modern entry in a very competitive segment of the car market.
Part of the Fiat-led product renaissance at Chrysler, it replaces the grim, dated previous 200 derived from the old Sebring and largely relegated to car-rental fleets.
The 200 for 2015 has a pair of engine options, as well as available all-wheel drive.
DON'T MISS: 2015 Chrysler 200 - review
But we wanted to test the smaller, four-cylinder engine option to see how it matched up to its EPA fuel-efficiency ratings.
The 184-horsepower 2.4-liter four is paired with a new nine-speed automatic transmission to drive the front wheels; if you want all-wheel drive, you have to get the larger and less-efficient 295-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine.
The four is rated at 28 mpg combined (23 mpg city, 36 mpg combined). That's far from the top of the segment--and unlike mid-size sedans from Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, and other makers, the Chrysler 200 offers no hybrid, diesel, or "Eco" high-mileage model.
2015 Chrysler 200, Catskill Mountains, NY, Dec 2014Enlarge Photo
In 420 miles of driving, our Chrysler 200C averaged 28.5 mpg, according to its built-in trip computer.
That's pretty much on the nose for the combined EPA rating, but our trip was about two-thirds highway miles--where the high ninth gear of its transmission should be exceptionally fuel-efficient--and only one-third city and suburban stop-and-go and lower-speed driving.
That makes us rather wonder whether a four-cylinder Chrysler 200 used for more local duties might only reach the low or mid 20s.
In any event, the 200 seems to be fairly rated--though, as always, your mileage may vary.
Broadly, we liked the 200, which is doing fairly well in the market. The company now sells more than 100,000 of the cars a year, and sold 14,300 in November alone--a sign that the market likes what it sees in this critically important new entry for Chrysler.
Stylish, comfortable, and offered with a generous array of standard and optional features at competitive prices, the Chrysler 200 is let down by two fundamental issues. One's fixable, one's not.
Missing rear-seat room
The unfixable one is its lack of rear seat room. While it's a considerably bigger and wider car than the Dodge Dart sedan with which it shares some underpinnings, the mid-size 200 has less than 10 cubic feet more volume than the compact Dart.
That deficit falls mostly on the rear-seat passengers, who simply don't have as much legroom or headroom as their counterparts in the more spacious Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, or Subaru Legacy.
2015 Chrysler 200 4-door Sedan Limited FWD Rear SeatsEnlarge Photo
It may be that mid-size sedans are mostly occupied by one or two people, but back-seat occupants will have to bargain with those in the front simply to get enough room for their legs.
When the 200's front seats are pushed all the way back on their tracks, it's almost impossible to enter the rear compartment if the front seat-backs are reclined for taller drivers.
Slurring, grabbing transmission
Chrysler should be able to fix the other problem with the 200, though--one that's been commented on by reviewers for almost a year now. That's the odd behavior of its nine-speed automatic transmission.
On our four-cylinder 200, the transmission occasionally slurred its shifts, feeling for a moment as though it was slipping--but at other times, it was startlingly grabby, producing a lurch in the powertrain.
It also sometimes hesitated unpredictably before downshifting, then moving through several gears.