Room is key to Chrysler 200 Convertible

Buyers of Chrysler's 200 Convertible get a lot of room and style for the money.

Stretching more than 16 feet long, the two-door, 2012 200 Convertible has room for four passengers — complete with a back seat that has more legroom than the back seat of a 2012 Ford Mustang Convertible.

There's a full 13.3 cubic feet of trunk space in the Chrysler 200 Convertible with the top up and 7 cubic feet with the top down. This is more than what's in the trunk of the 2012 Volkswagen Eos convertible.

The Chrysler 200 Convertible also has attractive styling, right down to its pleasantly arranged dashboard and Audi-like light-emitting diode headlamp accents. There's no unfriendly, gun-slit-like windshield as in the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro convertible.

Better yet, starting retail price for a 2012 Chrysler 200 Convertible — with fabric, not vinyl, roof and standard automatic transmission — is $27,805, which is less than major competitors' base retail prices.

The base 200 Convertible comes with a 173-horspower, four-cylinder engine. A 200 Convertible with 283-horsepower V-6 and fabric top has a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $29,600 and compares with the $31,050 starting retail price of a 2012 Camaro Convertible with 323-horsepower V-6.

Two types of roofs are offered on the compact 2012 Chrysler 200 Convertible, and a hard-top version with standard V-6 has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $34,795.

This price is less than the $35,120 base price for a 2012 VW Eos that comes standard with a hard top and 200-horsepower four cylinder.

The Chrysler 200 replaced the Sebring convertible for the 2011 model year, and the car's size — longer and taller than the Mustang, Camaro and Eos convertibles — gives it an advantage when buyers look for decent travel space in a non-luxury-branded convertible.

As an example, a 5-foot-5 adult rode fine in the test 200 Convertible with the front seat up a ways on its track. Legs of the back-seat passenger didn't touch the front seatbacks, though on a rainy day, this passenger had to duck and scrunch to get under the roof and inside the back seat.

The trunk, with some mechanicals for the movable roof visible, is somewhat shallow, but expansive width-wise. There's also little liftover to fuss with and no spare tire.

But don't look for fuel efficiency in this car.

Both 200 engines — the 2.4-liter, double overhead cam, four-cylinder engine and the 3.6-liter, double overhead cam V-6 — earned low and surprisingly similar gasoline mileage ratings from the federal government.

The 200 Convertible with four cylinder is rated at 18 miles per gallon in city driving, while the convertible with V-6 has a 19-mpg rating in the city. On the highway, the 200 Convertible with either engine has a 29-mpg rating.

So, other than a lower initial purchase price, the four cylinder doesn't seem to offer monetary benefits, while its power output is so much lower than that of the V-6.

Peak torque from the four cylinder is 166 foot-pounds at 4,400 rpm, while it's a snorting 260 foot-pounds at 4,400 rpm with the V-6.

In the test car with V-6, the driver had to hold tight to the steering wheel when accelerating hard. Otherwise, the wheels would jerk to one side and then the other in a crazy motion. This aggressive acceleration came with strongly confident and powerful engine sounds.

Only a six-speed automatic is available in the 200 Convertible, and at times, riders noticed the shift points in the test car, even when the Auto-Stick manual shifter was not in use.

Combined city/highway mileage in the test car was 21.9 mpg, which is nearly equal to the federal government estimate. With a 16.9-gallon fuel tank, the test 200 Convertible with V-6 had a decent range of 370 miles.

Note VW's Eos, which has a turbocharged four cylinder delivering 200 horsepower and 207 foot-pounds of torque at 1,700 rpm, is rated at 22/30 mpg, and its estimated range on its 14.5-gallon tank is 362 miles.

Premium gasoline is recommended for the Eos, while regular is the only requirement for the 200 Convertible.

The test car was the top S model and included fine-looking, leather-covered seats with contrasting stitching. Armrests had some "give" to them and the plastic textures inside looked more upscale that they had in the old Sebring.

Note, however, that while styling is changed, the front-wheel drive underpinnings of the 200 Convertible are remnants of the long-running Sebring. Thus, the body and windshield shuddered a bit when the car went over poorly maintained railroad crossings. Passengers felt major vibrations and sometimes heard loud "whumps" on potholed roads.

While steering had good on-center feel, the overall sensation of the 200 Convertible was of a heavy car — the hard top tester weighed some 4,000 pounds — that carried a lot of its weight behind the passenger compartment.

Indeed, the side view of the 200 Convertible shows a trunk area that looks to be longer than the hood.

Additionally, the front seats in the tester could have used more lumbar support and even a bit more cushion.

Polished and painted 18-inch wheels on the tester added pizzazz.

A final point: Chrysler only offers the four-cylinder for 200 Convertibles with a fabric top. The heavy hard top is accompanied by the V-6.

The Chrysler 200 with V-6 was the subject of a safety recall because its connecting rod bearings might fail, causing the engine to seize up. This could create a potential crash situation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.