when your daily commute is done in a 10 year old car with close to 250,000 miles on it, you have to make decisions about maintenance and usage. with this is mind, we decided that our 2002 Madza Protoge 5 would be an in town car and an road trips would involve a rental of some sort.

This weekend during trips to Cincinnati and Chattanooga we managed to put a little over 1,000 miles on a Chrysler 200. With that amount of time in the car, I thought it would be a good idea to document the experience.

I have to start of by saying I don’t like the car. There are some great features but overall I don’t think I’d rent this car again, much less purchase one. The car is marketed by Hertz as a standard vehicle, other vehicles that I’ve rented from them that fall into that class include the Nissan Altima and Madza 6. By this standard and looking at the exterior of the car, I expected a much roomier vehicle.

My primary disappointment with the car in the interior space. I spent the first 10 minutes in the car adjusting the seat and steering wheel finding a comfortable position far enough away from the looming dashboard. It seemed no matter how far back or how high or low I adjusted the steering column I could not find an ideal position that didn’t feel like the steering wheel was in your lap or uncomfortably on my knees. Eventually I settled for the seat about 80% of the way back. This presented another problem, with the seat that far back there was almost no room for an average height adult to fit behind me. The problem was the same on the passenger side. After three days of multiple hour trips and constant adjustment to the seat, I still found myself getting out the car with hip and ankle discomfort. Sadly, this is not a family road trip car.

If I could ever get comfortable, I would have really enjoyed the minimal car noise, the quality of the sound system, the clever placement of the volume, mode and channel buttons behind the steering wheel and the voluminous trunk space. There were two other things that were mildly disappointing in this experience. First, the lack of indication when the cruise control was engaged. The word ‘cruise’ lights up on the dash when you enable it but there is no other indication when you’ve set a speed and the ‘manual’ gear shift is sluggish and almost useless on any kind of elevation change.

In terms of fuel efficiency, I managed to do 1069 miles of interstate and stop and go driving on 35 gallons of gas which works out to be approximately 31 mpg. The pickup on the car is not bad on the flat but on inclines it’s best to remain in the slow lane.

Overall the car, looks OK from the outside but requires some fundamental changes to the interior, like trimming about six inches off the dash and back seat bench, to compete in the family sedan market.

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