The Dodge Hornet, after a long sea voyage, is finally reaching dealerships.
Dodge called the Hornet a “gateway vehicle.” Some thought it would be a hybrid Challenger or Charger to bridge the gap between gas-powered models and EVs; but it was a gateway in different ways—
- A gateway to Dodge for first-time buyers
- A gateway between FCA and Stellantis—between SUSW and STLA Small
- A gateway between gasoline and electric
- A gateway between Dodge as “only big cars and trucks” and Dodge as a full line
One could also call the Hornet a gateway between past and future; the original Hudson Hornet was a full sized car, sold in several body styles, that won NASCAR and AAA racing championships with its six-cylinder engine and either two-barrel carburetor or twin single-barrels (Twin-H Power).
The AMC Hornet, in contrast, was closer to the current model; it was also sold with a straight-six engine (though a V8 was optional), but it was a compact car at the lower end of the market. This one would set no performance records, even though, at the end, it wore the AMX label. It did have a hatchback version whose profile is vaguely similar to the Dodge Hornet, and a Sportabout semi-crossover version.
Dodge’s newest vehicle is a small crossover, sitting in (arguably) the hottest segment in the United States other than pickups. The division that brought us the Hellcat cars is taking a different approach with the Hornet, focusing on fun-to-drive and technology—with an interior about the size of the little Mazda 3, and considerably smaller than the longer, wider Dart.
Tim Kinuskis, Dodge chief executive, wrote, “the all-new Dodge Hornet R/T [represents] the first electrified performance vehicle from Dodge. The Dodge Hornet is poised to jolt the mainstream compact utility vehicle segment with looks, feel and performance that are unmistakably Dodge. Hornet shakes up the status quo with aggressive Dodge styling, the most power in the segment from our multi-energy lineup, the best driving dynamics, a full lineup of segment-exclusive performance features, the best standard technology, as well available Direct Connection factory-backed performance upgrades. And this is just the start of the Dodge brand’s electrification journey.”
The Hornet interior is comfortable, with supportive seats and reasonable visibility; the controls are generally rational but they were moved over from Alfa Romeo, not Jeep, and some of them are more “driver-friendly” than others. It is surprising to see the climate control as a row of buttons, with fan speed and temperature in button form, and no distinguishing characteristics that would let a driver just feel for a knob or differently shaped button; this is an “eyes off the road” design (though nowhere near as bad as a certain Jaguar’s massive matrix of identical buttons from two decades ago).
Dodge Hornet Engine/Trim Levels
So far, only the 2023 Dodge Hornet GT is on sale; the R/T is coming later. The Hornet GT has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder GME engine, 9-speed automatic transmission, and all wheel drive; there is no front drive Hornet, so the prices may seem higher than they should be. The GT has a Sport Mode with sharper throttle response, delayed upshifts, tighter steering, and tweaks to the electronic limited slip differential. It runs slightly behind the Chevy Volt but ahead of the Dart in 0-60, with a 6.5 second run.
The Hornet R/T is a plug-in hybrid, with a turbocharged 1.3-liter 4-cylinder GSE engine and six-speed automatic transmission working with a rear axle-mounted electric motor. This system delivers 285 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque—but the PowerShot system provides 25 extra horsepower in 15-second bursts. When using PowerShot, the Hornet R/T PHEV runs 0-60 in 6.1 seconds.
There are two major option packages, Blacktop and Track Pack. The Blacktop package adds 18-inch black wheels, black mirror caps, black badging and black DLO moldings. The Track Pack adds 20-inch wheels, Brembo front brakes, specially tuned adaptive suspension with Koni dampers and Alcantara interior trim.
Standard features include a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen, running UConnect 5 and allowing a great deal of customization. For those who prefer their phones, it has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. They also have standard wireless phone charging and Alexa compatibility. Options include Level 2 autonomy and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.