Chrysler is hoping a fresh blend of style and technology will help it win sales in one of the most competitive sectors of the fleet market.
But the US brand is hedging its bid for business by offering the new Sebring saloon at prices that undercut what it perceives to be its rivals by around 10%.
Chrysler Group UK managing director Peter Lambert said: “We know the upper-medium sector has shrunk from 500,000 units to 400,000 over the last five years, but it is still the third biggest in Britain and accounts for 17% of registrations.
“Our aim is to win a share of sales at the upper end of the market – we believe the elegant, unassuming design of our car will prove to be attractive to a significant number of customers.”
On sale this month, the Sebring has the highest standard specification levels in the Chrysler range and boasts features that include leather trim, electrically-adjustable driver’s seat and a front cupholder capable of keeping drinks either hot or cold.
Among the few options available is a multi-media infotainment and communication navigation system backed by a 20-gigabyte hard disc drive.
Mr Lambert added: “We’re not seeking to rival the Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Vectra.
Our aim is to win sales from the Honda Accord and Toyota Avensis by offering luxury motoring at a lower cost. We believe we will attract a lot of interest against vehicles that seem bland by comparison.
“Our car will appeal to older user-choosers who have conservative tastes. We think there are great opportunities for the Sebring with buyers looking for good value in a car that appears different from run-of-the-mill products.”
Chrysler aims to sell 1,000 examples of the Sebring this year and a total of 2,000 in 2008.
The entry-level car uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine and a 2.4-litre petrol automatic is also on offer, but 70% of customers are expected to opt for the Volkswagen Group-sourced 2.0-litre turbodiesel.
Behind the wheel
Chrysler’s challenger might undercut its upper-medium sector rivals on price, but it lacks the refinement to pose a serious threat to the likes of the Accord and Avensis.
Despite being a lusty performer, the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine sounds clattery at idle and noise levels only become subdued when cruising.
Leaden steering and a soft ride mean the Sebring is best suited to plying main road routes rather than offering much dynamsim on twistier roads.
On the plus side, the Sebring feels well-built, comes with plenty of equipment as standard and provides ample room for four adults and their luggage.
Although Chrysler scored a hit with the head-turning 300C executive model, the Sebring fails to make the same visual impact also disappoints on the road.
Model: 2.0 CRD Limited
Power (bhp/rpm): 138/4,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 229/1,750
Max speed (mph): 126
0-62mph (sec): 12.0
Fuel consumption (mpg): 45.6
CO2 emissions (g/km): 170
On sale: Now
Price (OTR): £18,995