03 November 2006
Author: Nat Barnes
|Category:|| Upper medium|
|Key rival:|| Toyota Avensis|
Chrysler may be well known for its Jeep off-roaders, but when it comes to saloon cars, that winged badge has hardly been beating down the doors of fleet managers.
Until the brazenly styled 300C arrived in 2005, Chrysler's MD Peter Lambert openly admits the company was barely talking to fleets because it simply didn't have a suitable line-up.
Today, however, all that has changed. The all-new Chrysler Sebring is due to go on sale in June next year and the US firm is setting its sights firmly on the likes of the Toyota Avensis and Honda Accord, which attract more conservative buyers. Like the larger 300C, more than 85% of Sebrings sold will be for business use through Chrysler's 25 UK corporate dealers.
Certainly the Sebring has the on-paper spec to compete with its rivals. There's a choice of three engines, a 2.0 and 2.4-litre petrol and the 140PS 2.0-litre turbo-diesel borrowed from the Volkswagen Passat, the last of which is expected to account for two-thirds of sales. Covering the 0 to 60mph sprint in 9.9 seconds and with a 130mph top speed, the diesel is swift rather than sporty, although the 45.6mpg average fuel economy is respectable.
On the road though, while you'll enjoy the Sebring's smooth ride, there's too much wind noise (particularly at faster speeds on the motorway) and the engine needs to be worked hard to keep it within its natural powerband. The handling isn't pin-sharp, either, but it's certainly on a par with the Avensis or Accord. However, the rear seats have plenty of head and legroom, so the car can easily seat four adults in comfort and five at a squeeze.
There's a reasonable sized boot, too, and the front passenger seat can fold flat for carrying extra long items back from Ikea.
Technology fans will be keen on the Sebring, too. As well as Bluetooth compatibility and touch-screen satellite navigation, the stereo has an input jack plug for your MP3 player. There's also a USB port and a 20GB hard disc for storing photos or personal information on the satnav system, along with heated and cooled cupholders.
The Sebring might not be able to boast the same head-turning styling of its bigger brother the 300C, but with only around 3000 sales per year, it will certainly appeal to those who don't want to pull up alongside the same Mondeo/ Vectra/Avensis crowd in the car park.