Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) offers two sedans built on the same platform and that share much in common, though there are also distinct differences. I’m talking about the 2016 Chrysler 200 and the 2016 Dodge Dart. The Dart has been around since 2013 with minor changes and is due for an update. Chrysler redesigned the 200 for 2015 and what emerged was a stylish midsize sedan that earned praise from a number of automotive publications.
Having recently tested both sedans, the similarities between the two cars are obvious and a number of friends asked if the Chrysler 200 is simply a more stylish version of the Dart. In other words, what’s the difference between these two cars? This simple comparison identifies key differences to help you make a smart decision if you’re considering either car.
Pricing: Dart is More Affordable
The 2016 Dodge Dart SE starts at $16,995 and climbs all the way to Dart Limited model with a base price of $24,395. That makes the Dart one of the most affordable compact cars in the United States today.
Expect to pay a lot more for a new Chrysler 200. The base model, the 200 LX starts at $21,995. Step up through the remaining three trims and you’ll pay $26,625 for the top-of-the-line 200c model. Interestingly, the gap between the high-end models of both cars is smaller than you’ll find in the entry models.
Verdict: If you’re looking for the lowest price, start with the 2016 Dodge Dart. There are five Dart models and the first three all cost less than the base Chrysler 200.
Exterior Design: The 200 Exhibits More Style
Neither the Chrysler 200 or Dodge Dart turn heads when passing through an intersection. In fact, a friend described the Dart as “completely fine in its design, but nothing I would remember.” With the exception of the Dart’s stylish taillights that mirror what you’ll find on the Charger, that statement is generally true. The Dart looks decent, at least as decent as many affordable cars in its class. But that’s about it.
The updated Chrysler 200 is a big improvement on the outgoing model. The new sheetmetal offers more style and creased lines than what came before it and offers an overall better look than the Dart. Not by a lot, mind you, but I would certainly choose the style of the 200 over the Dart. You may disagree.
The 200 comes standard with 17-inch wheels and you can upgrade to 18-inchers. The Dart starts with 16-inchers and you can upgrade to 17- or 18-inch steel wheels if you’re inclined.
Verdict: Viewed side by side, the Dart and Chrysler 200 exhibit subtle differences and those with discerning eyes will likely favor the 200.
Power and Performance: Chrysler 200 Offers More of Both
The Chrysler 200 weighs around 3,400 pounds and offers two powertrain options. The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower and connects to a nine-speed automatic transmission. If that’s not enough boost, you can upgrade to the highly regarded 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that makes 295 horsepower and is also mated to the same nine-speed automatic.
The Dart is lighter with an average curb weight of 3,165 pounds. That lighter weight helps it feel fairly fleet, especially if you choose the most powerful engine. Base models feature a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque.
The 1.4-liter turbo-four is available on the fuel-efficiency-focused Dart Aero and generates 160 horses and 184 lb-ft of torque.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is the workhorse of the bunch and the most satisfying engine. It makes 184 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. You can select either a six-speed manual or automatic.
Verdict: The base engine on the 200 is the top engine on the Dart. If you seek optimal power, the Chrysler 200 with the 3.6-liter V6 is the end game. But that engine will cost more.
Fuel Economy: 2016 Dodge Dart is More Fuel Efficient
When it comes to fuel efficiency, the 2016 Dodge Dart has a big lead on its cousin, especially if you choose the Dart Aero with its 1.4-liter engine and manual transmission. That combo should allow you to reach up to 41 mpg. Most people won’t choose that combination, however. They’ll favor either the 2.0-liter Tigershark engine that can return up to 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Or you can select the 2.4-liter Tigershark Multiair four-cylinder engine that should return 23 mpg in city driving and 35 on the highway.
By comparison, the Chrysler 200 with the automatic transmission and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine should return 23 mpg in city driving and 36 on the highway. Economy takes a dive with the 3.6-liter engine, but performance is certainly more engaging. This one will average 19 mpg around town and 32 mpg on the highway. Add all-wheel drive to the mix and city economy drops to 18 mpg while highway efficiency drops to 29 mpg.
Verdict: The Dart easily wins the fuel-economy battle.
Interior: Chrysler 200 Is Slightly More Luxurious
Both vehicles offer premium cloth or leather seats. Look at the dashboard of the two models side by side and you’ll see many common elements in the dials and switch gear. If I’m pushed to name a favorite, I’ll vote in favor of the Chrysler 200. But you’ll be happy with either interior.
The 8.4-inch uConnect system is available in both vehicles and it’s easily one of today’s best infotainment systems. Use the touchscreen to tap clearly labeled features like Climate, Radio, Media and more. Bluetooth works well and you can pair a phone quickly. So, again, no real winner or loser in the infotainment battle. Of course, this system isn’t available on lower trims.
Available upgrades for both vehicles include heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Interestingly, the last Dart I tested during late December didn’t offer heated seats and I immediately missed the feature on a frigid morning.
The Chrysler is slightly longer than the Dart, which means rear legroom is superior. Yet neither vehicle is particularly commodious. They’ll work well enough for most passengers, but you may hear a few small complaints on a longer journey.
The Chrysler 200 offers 16 cubic feet of cargo space, which is better than average for midsize sedans. The Dart offers only 13.1 cubes — average for the compact car category. One bonus space you’ll discover in the Dart is under the front passenger seat. It’s a good place to stow an iPad or your phone and wallet.
Verdict: The interiors are similar, but the Chrysler 200 ultimately prevails in a head-to-head battle.
Safety and Reliability: Chrysler 200 Earns Top Safety Pick+ Rating
Though the two vehicles offer similar standard and optional safety features, the 2016 Chrysler 200 is the only domestic model to earn a “Top Safety Pick+” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The 200 also earned a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The 2016 Dodge Dart earned a “Good” rating from the IIHS and a five-star overall safety rating from NHTSA.
Ten airbags are standard on every Dart. Recommended upgrades include a rearview camera, blind-spot system, and the rear cross-path detection system.
The 2016 Chrysler 200 features only eight airbags, yet they obviously do a great job protecting occupants. Like the Dart, the rearview camera is strongly recommended. Available and standard features include electronic stability control, blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with active braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist.
Reliability is a serious black eye for both the Dart and the 200. Consumer Reports expects the Dart to prove much less dependable than average cars in its class. The 200 is only slightly better and still expected to underperform its peers. Buyer beware.
Verdict: Safety scores are exceptional for both vehicles while reliability is an ongoing and, potentially expensive, problem.
Warranty: Three Years and 36,000-Mile Warranties
Chrysler and Dodge back 200 and Dart owners with a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Verdict: The warranty is the same for both vehicles. Call this one a coin toss.
The Chrysler 200 Gets My Vote
I’ve tested both vehicles during the past year and I prefer the Chrysler 200. Sure, it costs more and it’s certainly more sedate looking, but I prefer the 9-speed transmission, the larger, more powerful engine and the outstanding safety rating. As always, the best way to make your decision is to drive both vehicles at your nearby Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealership.