Chrysler significantly redid its aged Sebring model for 2011 and renamed it the “200.” The 2012 version with the optional hardtop and strong V-6 make it a pleasant cruising convertible, and it’s virtually unchanged for 2013.

The front-drive, two-door Chrysler 200 convertible with its cloth power top starts at $26,995, but you get far more than open-air driving with it. Standard items include a six-speed automatic transmission instead of the dated entry level 200’s four-speed automatic, power driver seat, climate and cruise controls, adjustable wheel with audio controls, keyless entry and power windows and mirrors.

The 200 convertible is offered with a marginal 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower four-cylinder or a smooth 3.6-liter, 283-horsepower V-6, which provides fast merging and passing.

The four-cylinder in the 200 sedan works with a dated four-speed automatic transmission. The 24-valve V-6 is hooked to a modern six-speed automatic, which can be manually shifted. However, it’s calibrated more for smooth operation than sporty driving.Fuel economy with the V-6 is an estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on highways, with the four-cylinder doing just a little better. Only regular-grade gasoline is required.

I tested the mid-range $31,950 200 Limited convertible with attractive “Deep Auburn Pearl Coat” paint and the $1,995 “Deep Auburn” retractable hard top, which operates quickly and efficiently and is hidden in its lowered position.

My test car had such goodies as a remote start system, power heated front seats and an easily read 6.5-inch touch-screen display.

A drawback with the deftly designed retractable hardtop is that trunk space is at a premium with it. A cargo shield consumes most trunk room and must be put in place when the top is lowered. Placing objects on the shield will interfere with the top lowering and “cause extensive damage,”  warns the owner’s manual.

Still, a retractable hardtop on most cars results in more security from thieves and a quieter interior.

Got a fair amount of cargo and aren’t traveling with more than one passenger? Then toss the cargo in the rear seat. The backseat provides virtually no leg room for a 6-footer behind the driver, but is roomy for such an occupant behind the front passenger.Entering the rear from the passenger side is fairly easy with the power front passenger seat moved forward.

But no matter how you get in, long, heavy doors must be contended with and aren’t suited for tight spots.

My 200 Limited convertible looked especially sporty with its chrome dual exhaust tips and 18-inch polished aluminum wheels.

Safety items include front- and front-seat-mounted air bags.

But the 200 convertible isn’t much fun to drive quickly. Driving passion isn’t on the menu.

A fairly soft suspension easily swallows bad bumps and allows a comfortable ride. But it causes noticeable body sway in sweeping curves if you’re moving quickly. And there’s occasional side-to-side body shake on some pavement.

Still, structural rigidity is good, and the 200 isn’t clumsy. Not with such equipment as large wheels, wide tires, electronic stability control, traction control and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. Steering is accurate, and the brake pedal has a progressive action for consistently smooth stops.

In short, my Chrysler 200 Limited convertible test car was a quiet, comfortable cruiser best driven moderately, with its six-speaker audio system switched on. There’s an audio jack input for mobile devices.

The seats don’t provide much side support in curves, and reaching their power controls can pinch fingers because they’re on the sides of the seats near floor level.

But gauges can be read quickly, controls are easy to use and dual console cupholders are located to avoid spills. The interior generally looks upscale, despite some hard plastics and a few cheap interior touches. But my test car had leather-trimmed upholstery, and its dashboard analog clock looked classy.

Air vents for the climate-control system are strategically located on the dashboard, and the air conditioning worked well on 90-plus degree days.

Most convertible buyers aren’t looking for high performance. They just want pleasant, no-fuss, top-down motoring in a sporty looking car. The Chrysler 200 convertible seems ideal for such folks.

Pros: Slick styling. Comfortable cruiser. Strong optional V-6. Nifty extra-cos retractable hardtop.

Cons: Marginal base four-cylinder. Tight legroom behind driver. Long, heavy doors.

Bottom Line: Retractable hardtop version with a V-6 is the way to go.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. Read more of his new and vintage car reviews on his website, www.danjedlicka.com.

 

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