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A hard-top convertible that won’t break the bank

2012 Chrysler 200

petrina gentile The Globe and Mail

Overall Rating
7.5
Overall
An often overlooked and under-appreciated convertible that deserves a second look. You’ll like this car if: you want a comfortable four-seater for basking in the sun.
Looks Rating
7
Looks
Conservative and somewhat bland in design with familiar Chrysler cues such as the iconic badge on the front grille.
Interior
Spacious, tasteful interior with room for four adults. A bit plasticky inside, but it doesn’t look or feel cheap.
Ride Rating
8
Ride
Soft and subtle road manners – not a speed demon, but a pleasant cruising drop-top.
Safety Rating
8
Safety
Safety features include four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system as standard equipment.
Green Rating
5
Green
The V-6 is nearly as fuel efficient as the four-cylinder is.

Summer is over, but it doesn't necessarily mean the end of convertible season. A hard-top convertible lends itself to driving topless all year round. Normally you have to pay a premium for a hard-top convertible, but there are a few choices that won't break the bank.

The Chrysler 200 convertible is one of them – it's available with a soft- or hard-top roof. It's an often overlooked and under-appreciated drop-top, but it deserves a second look if you're shopping for a spacious convertible for four to drive every season.

The Chrysler 200 falls under the Chrysler 300 in size and price and is available as both a sedan, which starts at $16,395, and a four-seater convertible, starting at $30,095.

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The 200 convertible comes in four trims – a base LX, Touring, Limited and S. My tester is an S, which has a price tag of $39,695. While the base model comes with cloth seats, electronic stability control, remote keyless entry, power windows, locks and mirrors, and air conditioning, the S trim adds extras such as leather-trimmed seats, a 6.5-inch touch-screen display, 18-inch aluminum chrome-clad wheels, and a more powerful engine.

Its 3.6-litre V-6 is mated to a six-speed automatic, and delivers 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, while the 173-hp, 2.4-litre inline-four in the base LX trim is coupled to a four-speed automatic in the base LX trim. The V-6 averages 11 L/100 km in the city and 6.8 on the highway, while the four-cylinder gets 10.3 city/6.9 highway.

The V-6 is strong and smooth, suited for a pleasant cruising machine for soaking up the sun, but it's no speed demon and the suspension is on the soft-side. While it feels solid and secure on the road, handling isn't the most agile and at times it feels big and awkward to manoeuvre into tight parking spots.

For 2013, the 200 convertible gets an upgraded steering, suspension and brake system as well as a few new colours including bullet metallic, true blue pearl and cashmere pearl. I love the look of my tester's deep cheery red crystal paint colour – it's definitely a keeper.

The Chrysler 200 was redesigned and introduced as a 2011 model – before then, it was known as the Sebring. But the 200 is leaps and bounds ahead of the Sebring. On the outside, the 200 convertible is still rather conservative – it's unassuming and unpretentious in its design. It won't make onlookers do double takes, but it doesn't matter.

The 200 convertible is about basking in the sun and getting value for your money. It does have a few nice touches – its sleek lines and contours running the length of its body with Chrysler's familiar iconic badge on the front grille similar to its siblings. And the power retractable hard-top is a must-have. It's an option on the two top trims – the Limited and S.

When the roof is closed, it is quiet and comfortable in the cabin. Drop the roof and it's still easy to have a conversation with rear-seat passengers without wind or engine noise getting in the way. The roof is easy to use, too. There are no clasps or latches to fiddle with. Just push a button and the top drops in less than 30 seconds.

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Inside, the cabin is tasteful with a one-piece, soft-touch black dash accented with chrome touches. There are plastic materials everywhere, but it doesn't feel or look cheap. The instrument panel includes grey-on-grey graphics with white accent lightning. It's pleasing to the eyes as is the LED ambient lighting in the cabin.

The leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel feels meaty in your hands – audio and cruise control settings are at your fingertips so you don't have to take your eyes off the road. Large, round temperature dials are also simple to adjust and easy to find – they're a refreshing change from other vehicles with climate control adjustments built into frustrating, multi-step LCD touch screens.

The front bucket seats are heated and power adjusts six ways. They're comfortable and supportive. The two rear sculpted seats are useable for adults or kids. If you don't have any passengers you can add a wind blocker – it sits across the two seats and does a great job of keeping your locks in place at high speeds.

Top down, the roof eats up valuable trunk space – there's only 198 litres available. But that's the case with most convertibles. Top up, the cargo space expands to 376 litres, which is much more usable for storing grocery and shopping bags.

The Chrysler 200 convertible is an American-made ride that's not flashy or in your face. It's a subtle, yet solid ride – a pleasant cruising machine to enjoy not just in the summer, but during those crisp, cool fall nights.

Tech specs

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2012 Chrysler 200 S Convertible

Type: Two-door, four-passenger convertible

Base Price: $39,695; as tested, $44,995

Engine: 3.6-litre, DOHC, V-6

Horsepower/torque: 283 hp/260 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km) 11 city/6.8 highway; regular gas

Alternatives:Volkswagen Eos, Ford Mustang, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Chevrolet Camaro, Volvo C70

pgentile@globeandmail.com

Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More

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