The Chrysler 200C brings a ton of value to the midsize sedan segment while adding a new sense of style with an original, airy design that surprises and delights at every turn.

The eyes first are drawn to the gauge cluster that is painstakingly detailed and backlit with a rich blue glow. Then they follow the line of a specially crafted single piece of wood veneer that sweeps across the instrument panel and frames the steering column, instrument cluster and center stack. The same wood also dresses up the front door panels.

Unlike most trim in mainstream family vehicles, the wood has a matte finish with a natural feel that rewards the fingertips.

Chrysler Interior Design Chief Klaus Busse says every touch point in the 200C cabin has been engineered to have a soft and natural feel, a radical change from when the automaker used to be savaged for cabins overrun with hard-plastic surfaces. The plastic lip of the center-console storage bin, for instance, has the feel of a smooth rock found on a Great Lakes beach, Busse says. 

The whole center console is a major focal point of the interior design, combining superb ergonomics with great functionality. On top, Chrysler’s innovative rotary shift knob is tilted slightly at the driver, putting it within easy reach. It sits next to the emergency-brake switch. Because both are electronically actuated and not wedded to any mechanical levers or cables, the area beneath is open and provides a handy space to stow a tablet computer or purse. It also has the added benefit of an impressive see-through design.

In fact, if cars had middle names, the 200C’s would be “storage space.” The hollowed-out center console also has copious storage room on top, allowing for a unique sliding cupholder, plus the dashboard glove box may be the deepest we’ve ever encountered. It can swallow the average arm up to the elbow.

Tasteful ambient lighting, contrasting piping on leather-trimmed seats and attractive brightwork round out an interior that is remarkably roomy and appealing for a family sedan topping out at $31,470.

That price includes an impressive array of safety items, from full-speed forward-collision warning and adaptive cruise control to lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist in addition to blindspot and cross-path detection.

It will parallel park itself too.

And at least one editor was thrilled to learn the trunk won’t shut if there is a key fob inside.

The judges were quickly captivated with the 200C’s stylish and roomy interior, but the stunning number of advanced electronic features really sealed the deal.

Senior Editor Christie Schweinsberg summed up the opinions of all when she noted on her score sheet: “You get a lot for under $32,000.”

dwinter@wardsauto.com