Special Coverage

Ward’s Auto Interiors Show

Include a picture of a Dodge Journey interior in a Rorschach inkblot test and you’re bound to elicit this response: Clever.

That’s the word that kept coming to mind for Ward’s judges impaneled for the 2008 Interior of the Year competition, as they sat inside the midsize cross/utility and discovered all its well-thought-out, smartly integrated features.

To start, the Journey has more hiding places than a Nancy Drew mansion. Flip forward the front passenger-seat cushion to reveal a nicely sized compartment for keeping valuables out of sight, a feature Chrysler dubs “Flip 'n Stow.”

Judges happily noted that when riding solo, the seat cushion can remain upright, penning in a laptop bag or other cargo and preventing it from spilling into the footwell during a quick turn or sudden stop.

There’s also concealed compartments under the floor in the rear cargo bay and ahead of the second-row seats, the latter specially lined for potential use as an ice chest. Additional storage is found in the rear seatback, which when folded forward presents a small bin and two cupholders.

Second-row seats incorporate a clever – there’s that word again – integrated child booster seat that, like all the gadgets, levers and lids, is easily and intuitively operated.

The 60/40-split middle-row seats slide forward and aft 4.7 ins. (11.9 cm), allowing adult passengers more legroom or enabling parents to position the seat closer to the front for easier access to small children.

The center armrest slides forward and back 3 ins. (7.6 cm) to maximize driver comfort.

“Extreme functionality,” sums up one Ward’s judge of the Dodge’s flexible interior.

Some of this innovation – a chilled glove box, illuminated cupholders, child observation mirror and emergency flashlight nestled into the cargo bay wall – we’ve seen on other vehicles, including Chrysler’s award-winning Town & Country minivan.

But packaging it all together in a smaller, under-$20,000 kid-hauler took some segment-busting ingenuity worth noting.