Someone else observed:
Interesting that a Cherokee 180 has a useful load of 1170 lb – pretty darn good for a vintage 60’s airplane.
I asked a very similar question of Cirrus - specifically I pointed out that the empty weight of a Piper Arrow is around 1500-1600 lbs, vs. the SR20’s weight of 2050 lbs, and asked why it should be so much heavier.
The off-the-cuff answer was that the Arrow and in fact virtually every other 4 place aircraft on sale today was originally certified under the CAR-3 rules, whereas the SR20 is certified under the much tougher FAR-23. The composite construction is also heavier, but probably has a bigger safety margin, and allows significant performance improvements (due to smoother, more precise surfaces). The parachute also adds weight, of course.
The whole Piper PA-28 series are surprisingly light in empty weight, and this leads to quite good useful loads. But the bottom line is that the SR20 is a lot stronger and safer, and faster for the same HP.
An interesting comparison is with the Commander 114B, it has a larger engine (IO-540), same cruise speed and range as the SR20, and a payload (useful load minus full fuel) of 618 lbs. It is also a FAR-23 plane, so the bottom line is that it offers
essentially the same capability as the SR20, but for a much higher price and operating cost, and lower safety (does not have the 'chute).
Interior room on the 114B is less than the SR20 - yet the cabin size is a selling point for the Commander (it’s 47" wide).
So, if you compare apples with apples (FAR-23 with FAR-23) the SR20 comes up smelling like roses. Comparing FAR23 with CAR-3, it does suffer from higher empty weight. The gross weight increase should fix that, though.
But the bottom line is that the sR20 offers everything the 114B does, and more, at around half the price (and they’re both nice-looking aircraft, too!).