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Sebring outdone by Camry

I like Chrysler. I like its management, its freehand styling and its gumption to mass produce cars that were last seen as Hot Wheels models in a toy store.

If it's about looks, Chrysler and its subsidiary Dodge have it in spades.

Chrysler's products will hypnotise you into visiting a showroom where, in a trance-like state, you will buy the classiest thing ever built on four wheels. That's when the spell will end.

The Chrysler Sebring, rival to the Toyota Camry, Mazda6 and Honda Accord, breaks my heart. It's a very ordinary product from an outstanding company.

There is not one area where the Sebring outshines the Camry.

It has a hint of the famed styling madness that we love, like its straked bonnet, but is generally styled for an older audience.

A tad conservative, it's nicely balanced, though the front bumper is too long and the car is not distinctive enough for passers-by to give it a second glance. Sebring 0; Camry 1.

Inside it's a Tupperware party that has overdosed on Fruity Lexia with lots of hard, multicoloured plastic, mostly browns.

The seats are leather-trimmed and the front ones are heated. But they are most uncomfortable, with a bulging squab a bit like a lumbar support with a hernia.

There are appreciated features like a cupholder that can heat or cool, a tyre-pressure monitor, a quality audio system, a split-fold rear seat and cruise control.

The 2.4-litre motor is also used in Hyundai's Sonata and Mitsubishi Outlander, though you wouldn't pick the relationship.

The Sebring's engine is a modest performer, 0-100km/h in a weary 11.3sec but it is economical.

The economy is because at no stage does the raw vacuum-cleaner sound of the motor relate to what's acutally happening at the wheels. Push hard on the accelerator and no one will know what you've done.

The lack of go isn't helped by a four-speed auto with ratios designed for country touring on flat roads.

Handling is good. In motion, the Sebring will glide through corners and mid-corner bumps with ease. The lifeless steering points well and ride comfort is commendable.

The excellent standard safety equipment includes ESC and six airbags, and the solid chassis inspires confidence.

Some good, but more bad about this car. C'mon Chrysler, you can do better.