Chrysler Group’s design corps can never be accused of playing it safe.

Its space-saving cab-forward sedans shaped the marketplace last decade. While currently, the Chrysler 300’s bold face represents the industry’s most innovative and, arguably, captivating design.

Next month, at the Geneva International Motor Show, Chrysler hopes to raise the bar again when it unveils the Dodge Demon. In keeping with its reputation for ambitiousness, the auto maker targets the segment-leading Mazda Miata, which last month eclipsed 800,000 sales, prompting Mazda to reapply to the Guinness Book of World Records for certification as the world’s best-selling roadster.

“That’s what we aimed for,” Chrysler design chief Trevor Creed says unabashedly.

The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive Demon features a 172-hp 2.4L I-4 from Chrysler’s World Engine family. Mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, it generates peak torque of 165 lb.-ft. (224 Nm) at 4,400 rpm.

If Chrysler were to build the Demon, it would start at about $15,000. Creed laments: “There are no affordable sports cars today. The moment you put your pen anywhere near the options, you’re at $26,000-$28,000.”

An ’07 Miata stickers for $21,030, while the Pontiac Solstice – which stole Miata’s U.S. sales crown in 2006 – starts at $21,995.

The Demon features Dodge’s trademark crosshairs grille, accented by projector headlamps framed by triangular lenses that are slanted to suggest aggressiveness. The high belt line kicks up as it flows back, over the car’s 19-in. wheels, to a rear deck defined by two chamfered outboard planes and long, tapered trapezoidal taillamps.

“In the manner of timeless British sports cars, the interior of the Dodge Demon is purposely functional, not frivolous,” says Dan Zimmerman, principal interior designer. “Everything relating to the driving experience is emphasized. Everything you need – the gauges, circular AC outlets, radio – is encapsulated in a cross-bar brushed aluminum bezel that also accentuates the width of the cabin.”

Top of mind was the creation of a “clear zone” to accommodate the driver’s shift arm, regardless of the seating position, Zimmerman adds.

The Demon is 156.5 ins. (397 cm) long, with a wheelbase of 95.6 ins. (243 cm). The width is 63.3 ins. (174 cm) and it has an estimated curb weight of 2,600 lbs. (1,179 kg).

emayne@wardsauto.com