By on January 6, 2014

200

Even when manufacturers restrict access to events, press fleets and product previews, TTAC manages to get the juicy details, thanks to an overlooked segment of the automotive industry. Our network of supplier sources is far and wide, spanning all tiers and market segments, and our latest bit of information comes from one source, who raised an interesting question about the Chrysler 200.

According to our source, the 200 is a pretty impressive looking car. The leaked photos that appeared at the end of 2013 are accurate, and the interior is just as striking. Along with the corporate 2.4L 4-cylinder and 3.6L Pentastar engine will be a 9-speed transmission, along with lots of other technology designed to save fuel.

But according to our source, there’s one big problem. “It might not be big enough”. Our source expressed concerns that the 200 suffered from the same fate as the Chevrolet Malibu, in that the passenger compartment, and the rear seat area, would be too small for American consumers.

The Malibu, as many will recall, was hung out to dry by the press, including our own Jack Baruth, for being an awful car. I happen to agree with Michael Karesh’s view that the 2.0T is a pretty good car, a victim of an overzealous press that chose the Malibu as a low-risk whipping boy for their Two-Minutes Hate.

Having already botched the launch of the Dart and the Cherokee, the 200 is one that they must get right. A poor model mix and unfortunate pricing (the larger, more powerful Avenger can be had for cheaper in some instances) hampered the Dart’s success, and Chrysler has used up their goodwill on the Cherokee launch – they won’t be able to take the courageous step of delaying the launch of the 200 without looking incompetent. A refresh 18 months in, like GM did with the Malibu, is not an option. We’ll know next week if Chrysler has a hit on their hands or not.

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89 Comments on “2015 Chrysler 200: Not Big Enough To Succeed?...”


  • avatar

    Why does everything have to become bigger? I’m definitely looking for a smaller vehicle next and it means that I must switch classes as the new generation blows up. So far the lower classes were able to deliver (e.g. Fit), but what happens when they don’t? Already there’s no smaller CUV with low range. Grand Vitara was the last and it’s gone, Cherokee promising a stump-puller gear only.

    • 0 avatar

      Big is back!!!

      The 200 needs to be at least as big as the Fusion/Accord/Camry to capture sales from people who can’t afford the 300.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      People always wanted larger but it used to cost more money both for purchasing and fuel. Efficiencies and technology improvements now mean that manufacturers can deliver larger cars that get the economy numbers of compacts from only a few years ago. So now people can have size cheaply with good fuel economy and they are voting for it with their wallets.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Well, Chrysler’s goal *should* be to make its 200 competitive, in the same arena as the Accord, Camry, Fusion, Optima, Sonata, etc. Some of those have more space than others, but they are all very accommodating. However, it shows a real lack-of-competitiveness when your midsized sedan doesn’t appreciably offer more space than your compact one…as is the case with the Malibu as compared to the Cruze. Too, the Chrysler—if it were too small—would probably also suffer from “Sloping Roof Syndrome”, a recent phenomenon that assumes rear passengers have really short necks, or like to slump in their seats.

      As for your low-range CUV dilemma…there must just not be a market for that sort of thing. Perhaps you could take a sawed-off Wrangler chassis and do something with that.

      • 0 avatar

        Frankly I was thinking about selling JK and finding a TJ in a decent shape. Or actually maybe GV even. Or a previous gen Pathfinder (it’s not very small though). The question is, what comes next. I don’t want to drive a TJ in 2025.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      Already trashing a Chrysler product that hasn’t come out yet.

      Just like politics. Setting up several negative narratives before the car evens comes out.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Its not so much being big for bigger’s sake as much as it is having an appreciable distance from the Dart. Remember the Ford Contour? No, but I’m sure you’ve heard of the Ford Focus that killed it. Chrysler doesn’t have the freedom or luxury to botch this.

    • 0 avatar
      DrSandman

      Why? Because my kids keep getting bigger. One daughter will soon be over 6′ tall. The other kid is about the same size. I’m well over 6’4″. My wife’s legs are longer than mine. I need a passenger car that can fit 4 AMERICAN-SIZED humans, not some poor, underfed, malnourished continental-types.

      Jeesh. If they ate steak and potatoes and had several hundred miles between major cities, these Asian and European types might understand why a “Golf” can only refer to the pastime, not the car.

    • 0 avatar
      d002

      Chrysler has the 300 as a large alternative. What does GM have ? Just another b*m-dragger with even more understeer.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Seems like the only goodwill the Cherokee used up was with the chattering press. Sales for the past 2 months seem to show the consumers embracing it.

    As for the 200, it would be a shame if they undersized it. The midsize sedan template is pretty straightforward, but Chrysler and GM just haven’t been able to grasp it in quite a while.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Current Chrysler 200 – Passenger Volume 100 cubic feet, Luggage Volume 14 cubic feet

    Chrysler 300 – Passenger Volume 106 cubic feet, Luggage Volume 16 cubic feet

    Dodge Dart – Passenger Volume 97 cubic feet, Luggage Volume 13 cubic feet

    Chevrolet Malibu – Passenger Volume 95 cubic feet, Luggage Volume 16 cubic feet

    Have any preliminary figures been released for the new 200? Although I know that the current 200 is not exactly lauded for being the most roomy in its class. I believe part of the reason for these perceptions is that the class of cars under the mainstream family sedans has gotten so large.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      The numbers on paper only tell half the story, at least in terms of customer perception. You can design a car (especially a midsized sedan) that hits all the right numbers, but still “feels” really small inside due to things like steeply raked windscreens and rear glass. Conversely, you can boost interior cube with useless airspace and one-up the competition on paper.

      Not to digress, but a big part of the reason I love wagons and hatches is the feeling of more space, even if head/shoulder/legroom are all identical to their sedan counterparts. And knowing Chrysler, if they outfit most of these with black or dark gray interiors, the resulting claustrophobia won’t do them any favors.

      Perception is reality and the numbers on paper don’t matter unless the customers feel like there’s space inside.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      If the Dart has more passenger volume than the Malibu, then the 200 won’t be anywhere near as tight as the Malibu as it is dimensionally bigger than the Dart, especailly in the back seat, if rumor is to be believed.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        We test drove a Dart, which included checking out rear set room/comfort (my wife is a real estate agent, so a roomy & comfy back seat is a must). To your point, I recall it as being quite satisfactory, even against the midsize cars (Focus, Altima, Passat, Optima)we looked at.

        My only issue was the proximity of the headliner to the top of my head on the “door side”.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      This. The Dart is almost as big as the outgoing 200/Avenger in total volume, and some specific measurements are actually bigger. I’m guessing the new 200 (assuming they keep the name) will be considerably larger than the old car.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    If you don’t keep up with the others in the segment, you lose.Period. Look at the Kizachi. an otherwise nice car, but too small to compete with the segment, Honda VW have to have larger mid-size cars in the US to be able to compete with the standard bearer Camry.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    “The Malibu, as many will recall, was hung out to dry by the press, including our own Jack Baruth, for being an awful car.”

    nothing I read in Jack’s review justifies calling it an “awful car.” There were things he didn’t *like.*

    just because you’ve managed to get a job as an automotive reviewer doesn’t make your opinion the Word of God.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I don’t think that there are any real “awful” cars in the midsize segment, except the 200/Avenger which will hopefully now get out of having that stigma attached to it.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      My rental experience with the current 200 hasn’t been awful. One of my passengers liked the “Chrysler clock” in the dash. I didn’t know there was such a thing but it did look nice. Otherwise the car had nothing on Camry or Accords I’ve driven, but it’s hardly awful.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        The “delta” between great and awful in a segment like family sedans is a pretty small variation indeed. Especially if you actually drive the loaded up versions. A 4-cyl Avenger may be pretty sucky compared to a 4-cyl Altima but try comparing a V6 200 to a Malibu LTZ or a Camry and the difference gets smaller.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I rented a Malibu a few months back, and despite being much less pleasant than other midsizers, I agree it was not “awful.” Overflowing with mediocre with a heaping side of meh, sure, but not awful.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    I’m convinced I drove behind one of these on one of the recent snowy nights here in SE Michigan. It was a car with the new Chrysler logo, looked better than the current 200, had no model marking, but clearly was not a 300. I pursued it for a while to figure out what I was looking at; it doesn’t do it justice to make that design on a small car. They should stick an additional foot right into rear leg room and sell a reborn Chrysler 300M.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    If the 200 doesn’t succeed, will we be able to say with any certainty that the smaller interior is to blame? The Malibu is selling about as well as the Sonata despite the backseat and press-hate. The Passat is selling half what the Malibu does despite the comically large interior and MT COTY award.

    I’m guessing there’s a point of diminishing returns for consumers regarding interior volume, wherein other attributes of the car become more important. The Passat was beyond that point for me; nearly everything in the class can easily fit two carseats, so powertrain, road noise, dealer network, anticipated reliability, etc. became the deciding factors rather than class-leading legroom.

  • avatar
    NN

    The 200 is invisible to most consumers. The “Cherokee” name most certainly is not. therefore Chrysler could actually afford to screw up/delay this launch because they won’t be upsetting people waiting for the vehicle with enthusiasm. There are zero expectations, because this car is coming from zero (I drove a 200 rental this past fall, worst car I’ve driven in many years).

  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    GM A-body from the 80’s/90’s had 97 cu feet for interior volume and those were more or less “right size” for a family.

    Not sure why a midsize car has to be the size of a full size/large car from the 80’s/90’s now. Even the 3 series BMW has inflated to make people happy. I always think I’m looking at an older 5 series until I read the badge.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I still think the A-body Celebrity that was my first car is still the best space utilization (passenger compartment and trunk) of any vehicle I’ve owned. It had better rear seat leg room than the 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme sedan my Dad and then I later owned.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        The downsized C-body cars starting in 1985 in the from of the Electra/98 and Deville were even more impressive for interior room for such short cars. They had nearly the same leg room as the much larger 1977-84 models.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          True, but in an awkward kind of way. The marketing approach was “Hey, giving up size and weight doesn’t mean you have to give up space and comfort”

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          And don’t forget about the H-bodies.

          I feel like the same group of commenters has had the same conversation before, but packaging seems to be a dead art. I think *some* of it is engineering (e.g., thicker A pillars to house airbags), but I think much of it is the whim of fashion and illogical design.

          I’d love it if someone had the guts to do a more formal roofline. And I’m not even talking about something like a 6th or 7th generation Cougar. A moderate design like a G-body Seville would provide a huge increase in rear headroom vs the typical sedan on the market today.

          I’m 5’10”. In the vast majority of current four-doors, if I sit up straight in the rear seat, my scalp will brush the headliner and/or rear window. That’s just bad design – no two ways about it.

          Overly wide consoles are a bugaboo too. And if you’re going to do a FWD sedan, take advantage of the drive-train packaging to make the floor flat.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Three letters Sergio: LWB.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The new Chrysler 200 HAS to succeed: That awful greenhouse stolen form the Saturn Ion and made even uglier has been tossed!

    Win-win for me. Maybe we’ll see one at our upcoming auto show in February, or get a rental 200 to check out when we head to Florida sometime in the next few months.

    In any event, I won’t be changing cars in the near future.

  • avatar
    mars3941

    I have a 2009 MKZ that’s about 192 inches long, over 15 cubic feet of luggage space and seats 4 adults comfortably. Cars today this size appear to be the norm in many makes and price points. Large cars like the new Impala, Ford Taurus and Chrysler 300 are about as large as cars are going to get. They average about 200 inches in length.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “But according to our source, there’s one big problem. “It might not be big enough”.”

    Conjecture from an anonymous source, without data or reasoning. I’ll wait for the real car to appear.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Another issues is that it looks too similar to a Hyundai Sonata from the side profile.

  • avatar
    Atum

    “And the rear seat area, would be too small for American consumers.”

    I don’t get that. Aren’t people taller in Europe than they are here in America? I’m 6’3″, so some backseats are usually cramped either way, but still.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Taller or not, Europeans seem to have an increased tolerance for discomfort, as evidenced by the relative scarcity of midsize and larger cars on the continent.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I doubt it has anything to do with tolerance for discomfort. Older, congested cities with narrow roads and limited parking, as well as more expensive fuel are probably more significant factors in shaping the European market.

        I think today’s midsize sedans are too big for many parts of the US. Nevermind the 190+” of length, they are too wide to comfortably fit in the parking spaces in many lots and garages. Especially in parts of CA and maybe other states that have a certain percentage of spots dedicated to “compacts.”

      • 0 avatar
        Atum

        True. Maybe that’s why Volvos sell so well over there.

    • 0 avatar
      Zoom

      Assuming Americans are fatter than Europeans, a bigger ass causes the body to take up more space in all directions when seated.

    • 0 avatar
      d002

      Umm, they’re talking about _width_ , Atum….

  • avatar
    mjz

    People worried about rear seat room buy SUVs or Minivans. If it as roomy as the Dart, it will do just fine. Seriously, how many times do you see a car fully loaded with five people anyway? Usually, just the driver, maybe a front seat passenger too. The Malibu was a dud because it had dorky styling, and that crappy Eco powertrain at launch (thank you Dan Akerson). If it looked as good as the new Impala, it would have been a sales hit, despite the tight backseat. The new 200 looks to be quite attractive, it will have the powerful Pentastar V6 engine option and the advanced nine speed ZF transmission standard. I think it will be a big sales hit if the new Cherokee (which all the blog naysayers predicted doom for) is any indication.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree with you on never seeing cars fully loaded but the “buy an SUV or minivan” attitude is part of the problem. Sedans should have enough passenger room to reasonably accommodate rear passengers, if they do not then they shouldn’t be sedans.

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        I have sat in the back seat of a Dart (which is actually classified as a midsize car based on interior volume), and it reasonably accommodates rear seat passengers. The new 200 will be as good or better. However, if I had to transport five or more people on a regular basis, I would be looking at a Minivan or a C/SUV for the additional space they afford.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’ll concede the minivan is probably the best people hauler on the market today, but a sedan with interior space for five passengers is preferred. I just don’t see the point of everything being a sedan if the majority of buyers (1) never haul people in them or (2) they are not comfortable enough for rear passengers other than for short jaunts. If were going to build sedans with no real rear passenger room then lets just sell coupes and be done with it.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Sometimes SUV/minivan and sedan ownership isn’t mutually exclusive. In the case of my family, we always have a large SUV or crew cab pickup for carrying people, towing and hauling, and have a smaller more economical vehicle that’s typically nice to drive more of the time like a sedan. However, duties inevitable cross and the sedan still needs to have enough room in the back for the two kids in seats, or two adults as occasion sometimes demands. Reasonable space for two adults in the back of a midsize sedan is expected.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    If the back seat is small, why not just buy a small car? My son is taller than me, he needs some leg room.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      If your son wants more room, why doesn’t he arrange his own transportation? That was certainly the rule when I was a kid.

      I can’t even begin to imagine parents of 30-35 years ago giving a flying fig about how comfortable we were in the back seat – the alternative was pedal power or walking, so we pretzeled up and lived with it. I was 6’2″ in the 8th grade, and our family cars were an old 911 and a ’77 Pontiac Grand Prix. neither car is renowned for its limo-like back seat… And I shared those back seats with my obnoxious kid brother.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        I’m with you krhodes1 – my parents didn’t give a damn about how comfortable I was in the back of any of our cars. Most were 4-doors or wagons, but we did have an AMC Gremlin for a while…

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    I expect the biggest barrier to success for the new 200 will not be lack of leg room but lack of mindshare – I expect many midsize sedan buyers don’t even consider Chrysler’s offerings.

    Their trucks, vans, SUVs, muscle cars and large cars are all class competitive or better now, and word seems to be getting out to buyers in these segments, but it’s been a long time since Chrysler had a competitive midsize offering so even if the new 200 is a decent product it will take a while for potential buyers to even realize it.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Big is back! Drive the Chrysler 6000 SUX today – just 8 MPG and based on a ’78 Oldsmobile.

    The “press” will love it. ;-) Oh yes, it must be a wagon, diesel, brown, and have a manual and be AWD AND under $12K.

    Tongue and cheek aside, the Malibu’s back seat is pretty near useless for the segment. When I was look at cars in 2005 I nixed the Mazda3 (which I adored) because the only person sitting in the backseat behind my 6’1″ frame was a double amputee.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    I’m 6 feet tall, wife 5’7″, teen one is 5’10 and teen two is 5’8″ and growing. I just don’t get why so many manufacturers make sedans that won’t comfortably seat my family of four. I have little brand loyalty. If I wanted a gm sedan only the new impala and XTS have enough room. The Fusion/MKZ are fairly comfortable but the focus and fiesta may as well be two seaters. Love the new Sentra, that thing is huge inside and still capable of 40 MPG highway. If Nissan can do it they all can. I realize our average height may skew to the high side but not by much.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The problem with the Sentra is the sinking boat look, caused by the extra tall side panels to cover up all that interior room.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The problem with the Sentra, which is now the same size as the original Altima, is that they didn’t upgrade the engine to carry the extra weight. You can get 40 mpg in the flat at 60, but with a couple passengers, it’ll take it’s time getting up there. Like a subcompact it’s economical but slow, without the nimbleness. Read Jack’s review:

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-nissan-sentra-sv/

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      @kcflyer

      The OEMs assume you’ll buy a 5 seat crossover if you need real room in the backseat.

      Look at sales of CR-V/Equinox/Terrain/Escape/RAV4….etc

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I don’t think the Chrysler 200 is bad. The 200 looks better than its Sebring predecessor, and the interior is MUCH better. The problem is the segment is full of excellent cars, and the 200 falls short of excellence. The Chrysler “world” engine has so far been an underachiever. Maybe the 9-speed automatic is what it needs to be competitive.

    On the subject of the Malibu. The ’14 Malibu’s back seat tweaks made a world of difference, and what’s this? a rear seat arm rest? My recent auto show impressions of the Malibu were positive until I found out there was no way to get into the trunk without power (except maybe through the rear seat). There is no key lock on the trunk, and there is no latch by the driver’s seat. That’s old-GM costcutting which was mostly not evident in the Malibus that I saw. There was no problem getting to the trunk in the ’14 Hyundai Sonata.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I just love the 06 Town & Country front end! The side marker light along the wheel arch looks wonky too, and it’s at a higher level than the rear reflector on the wheel arch.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I was thinking the same thing when I saw these pictures. It really isn’t a good idea to have a vehicle that straddles the fence between compact and midsized. If the new 200 ends up being similar to the Malibu in size, hopefully it has tricks up its sleeve to keep that from being too apparent to shoppers…

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I really think they should ditch the 200 name. To most people it means one or two things:

      1) Is a Sebring.
      2) Is an Enterprise rental.

      It has very little brand equity. But since they broke the mold with the Dart, they could’ve resurrected another old name, or etc.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        The problem is Chrysler doesn’t really have a strong name in the midsize segment to use as they have never had strong, consistent branding with their sedans. Unless they want to resurrect the LeBaron nameplate (doubtful).

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        +1 on ditching the 200 name. The 300 name makes sense because of the tie to the classic 300s, but 200 seems silly.

        Agreed that Windsor, Saratoga or Newport would be good names – but I doubt they would mean much to people not familiar with old cars. Maybe the base 4 cylinder version could be a Windsor and the Pentastar or better equipped models could be a Saratoga.

        Personally, I think the 300 badge should be reserved for the SRT8 version of the 300, and lesser versions should be called New Yorker – but I doubt this will happen as some of these names are no doubt considered old fashioned, and the individual models would all appear to be really slow selling compared to having one nameplate for a wide variety of trims.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      The DART straddles the fence between compact and midsize. IT has been called out for being TOO big and heavy for a COMPACT. The new 200 is supposed to be a BIGGER version of the Dart, slotting above it in size. I don’t understand all this hand wringing about it being too small. Slow news day? Why don’t we wait until it is unveiled at the NAIS in a couple of weeks before condemning it. This reminds me of all the hullabaloo towards the new Cherokee, which just happens to have been the 8th best selling SUV in December, in only the second full month of being on sale.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        The Dart may be heavy, but as far as interior space goes, everything I’ve read has found it to be on-par with or smaller than other compacts, and I’ve come to similar conclusions after spending some time in one. So a “larger Dart” doesn’t necessarily end up being one that is competitive in the mid-sized arena. However, I agree that we should wait to see it in person before freaking out. Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers for a winner!

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        If the back seat is too small, then the car will fail. It’s as simple as that.

        TTAC has a source who claims that it is small. We’ll see soon enough, but that could be interesting news.

        It’s next to impossible to make a global midsize sedan. If it’s the right size for the US, then it will be too large for Europe, while the dimensions for European family sedans are too small to appeal to US tastes. The company may lack enough funds to make cars to please buyers on both sides of the Atlantic.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          “It’s next to impossible to make a global midsize sedan”

          I think you’re spot on in this assessment. OEMs should hire you to drill this fact into the design team’s collective heads.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I think that this is more of a finance/ beancounter problem. With limited funds, it’s tempting to build a one-size-fits-all world car, but it won’t help the bottom line if there aren’t enough buyers.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Well, there is also the small detail that Europeans don’t buy non-premium sedans in any meaningful quantity. I suppose the Chinese might, just from sheer market size. They seem to go for bigger or smaller though. And Chrysler has minimal presence in China.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The market for family sedans is smaller, but there are quite a few of them. Ford, Opel/Vauxhall, VW, Skoda, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Honda and Mazda all have cars in this segment.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Actually if you compare compacts such as Elantra, Corolla, Fusion, Sentra and Cruze they are roughly the same size as the Dart. I guess you can call it upsizing or model bloat. 10-20 years ago cars this size would be considered mid-sized. Exmple: 2014 Corolla is roughly the size of a mid-late 90’s Camry.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    As an update to this thread, I managed to check out the interior accommodations of the new 200, especially the back seat. I’m 6’2″ and 205 lbs and I found the back seat space reasonable for a midsize car. Leg and foot room were fine, the seats are comfortable. Not as much leg room as the larger cars in the segment, but definitely not as snug as others, it falls somewhere in the middle. My only concerns with the back seat was the need to duck to when climbing out. The swooping roof line and thick roof rail come down quite a bit at the door opening. Head room would be tight in the back for someone taller than me. Overall, nice accommodations, the back seat shouldn’t be the car’s downfall.


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