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Restyled Chrysler 200 has upscale look

The newly designed Chrysler 200 might have all the right stuff to compete with the big guys, finally. Critics call the new look a stretched out Dart on steroids with a little taste of Sebring. No matter, its popularity is showing off with first quarter sales in the hotly contested midsize sedan segment.

For Fiat/Chrysler, the 200 represents the new dynasty’s bold look, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The new sedan has been re-worked on the outside with sculptured lines and on its interior with an upscale look and feel and, just as importantly, with its underpinnings.

The new look is upbeat, with the company’s emblem centered into a narrowed grille surrounded by LED lighting. Fog lamps are sculpted into a lowered bumper, while tail lamps cut into rounded quarter panels and the trunk lid. The look is sleek and brings the 200 into league with top competitors Accord, Camry and Ford Fusion.

The 200’s body originates from an enlarged platform based on the Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Dart and is held together with high tensile steel for improved body rigidity and a quieter ride. Trim levels include the LX, Limited, S and C starting from a base price of $21,800.

Our test car was an all-wheel-drive S model with the optional V-6 engine, a more spirited ride than the standard four-cylinder with 111 more ponies. All the oomph comes at a price, however, with the larger engine getting 5 mpg less in combined city/highway driving.

If performance is high on your list, the V-6 is one of the fastest in this segment, reaching 60 mph in just 6.2 seconds in the test car.

Cabin materials are of higher quality than its predecessor. An extra storage bin is in the center console in place of the gear shifter. Instead, a rotary dial gear selector is mounted in front of cupholders. Several other brands have moved to the rotary dial shifter. While the fad may catch on, it seems an awkward way to control the car’s movement.

Roof pillars are attractive from the outside but also partly obstruct rear views. Fortunately, Chrysler makes blind spot monitors, forward collision and other safety features available on all models.

Seating is comfortable in front and back, and the 200 cabin has been quieted with extra acoustic materials save the throaty exhaust sound from the V-6. All sedans are mated with a nine-speed automatic transmission that boosts fuel economy for both engines.

A new interface, dubbed Uconnect, works with touch screen controls. While I am not a big fan of touch controls, this system performed well once the familiarization curve was achieved. Rival cars’ systems tend to perform better, though, with less effort.

Two large dials anchor the driver screen projecting engine vitals. A customizable center info screen is pretty cool, with movable readouts for miles remaining, temperature, compass heading, fuel economy and more.

Trunk space of 16 cubic feet is near class-leading with a pass-through compartment for carrying longer items. Overall, the 200 sedan is worth a test drive when shopping in this segment.

• Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist. Contact him at lenscarcorner@ptd.net.

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