Want to feel like you're permanently on vacation? Try one of these on for size.

What is it?
There was a time not that long ago when most mainstream automakers had a convertible that was based on a midsize sedan of some sort (Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme ring a bell?). Not anymore. For whatever reason, middle-class North Americans are becoming averse to sunshine, leaving the Chrysler 200 as one of the last of its breed. It also happens to leave its mark as one of the cheapest ways of getting into a convertible that isn't the size of a roller skate.

What's new?
In 2011 the Sebring midsize sedan and convertible received a serious identity overhaul; with a new look, a new interior, and a new engine; it took a monumental step forward into relevancy, becoming the car it should have been from the beginning. While the update wasn't enough to lead the pack, it made the smaller-statured Chrysler attain a level of competitiveness it formerly could not achieve. Paired with an ad campaign featuring a notorious Detroit-born rapper as the spokesperson, and the 200 had effectively received a new lease on life.

Also new is the "S" trim line, which is designed to "showcase Chrysler's signature sense of style." As with the 300 S, the package is all about visuals: your extra cash buys you leather and ultrasuede-upholstered front seats (complete with embroidered S badge), a killer Boston Acoustics sound system, and black exterior accents on the wheels, headlamps, and grille.

What's it like to drive?
Do not allow yourself to be convinced those S badges stand for Sport — this 200 is not a sporty car. S should instead stand for smooth, which is exactly what the Pentastar V6 is, and you'll feel it as it whisks you up to speed in near silence. Top-down highway cruising is its forte; with the windows up and the wind deflector in place, the cabin is draft free. Add to that a strong heater and heated seats, and you can still enjoy top-down motoring well after the autumnal equinox.

In addition to a new name and a new identity, the 200 also received a re-worked suspension that fitted springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars that worked to cure the Sebring's tendency to bob up and down excessively over undulating roads. While slightly firmer than before, it's still at odds with the steering, which is very quick to turn-in and is very low on feel. Head down a twisty road, and you'll find yourself having to hold onto the steering wheel and brace your knees against the dash due to lack of support from the seats, while sawing away at the steering wheel to find the right line. Add this to spongy brakes and a sluggish transmission, and this is a frustrating car to drive quickly.

Should you buy one?
If you want to feel like you're always on vacation, sure — the 200 is, after all, still a choice pick of rental car agencies across North America. But we can't recommend it — not because the 200 Convertible is a bad car, but because in the relatively narrow field of affordable four-seat convertibles, there are simply better choices out there. Most offer a better blend of power, fuel economy, and comfort. As for pricing, the $45,995 Chrysler wanted for this particular specimen is a spectacularly unfunny joke.

In lesser trim levels, the 200 Convertible is one of the cheapest ways to get a four-seat convertible with a folding hardtop roof, but we'd recommend Volkswagen's Eos over it as it's a much nicer ownership proposition, even if it doesn't have the 200's rear legroom. For everyone else, consider the Ford Mustang Convertible. Its new V6 doles out more power and it can drive rings around the 200 — not to mention it has character by the bucketload.

2012 Chrysler 200 S Convertible
Base price / As-tested: $39,695 / $45,995
Type of vehicle: FWD convertible
Engines: 3.6-litre, 24V, DOHC V6
Power/Torque: 283 hp/ 260 lb.-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
0-100 km/h (est.): 7.1 seconds
Fuel consumption (city/hwy/as-tested): 11.0 / 6.8 / 12.0 L/100 km
Competitors: Ford Mustang V6 Convertible, Volkswagen Eos


Smooth engine
Spacious rear seat
Base models are affordable

S model pricing
Wet-noodle dynamics
Rearward visibility