2023 Dodge Hornet First Look
The long rumored reinvention of the Dodge brand is finally at hand with the first new Dodge in more than a decade: the new 2023 Hornet. What’s in a name? Glad you asked. Hornet dates back to the AMC days, before they were acquired by Chrysler, Dodge’s parent company. The 1970 Hornet was the replacement for the Rambler American line of vehicles and became the best selling AMC of the 1970s. It was also coincidentally used as a test bed for alternative fuel research including the Electrosport which was a full electric Hornet. Also fun fact: My dad had a hornet. My mom hated it.
The new Hornet is a far cry from the awkward 1970s version but it too is a test bed for new drivetrains. More on that later.
Dodge is calling the Hornet a “compact crossover” but it’s really more of a segment splitter. At 179 inches long it’ll be the smallest “compact” segment vehicle in America splitting the difference between the Jeep Cherokee and the Jeep Compass with witch it shares virtually nothing. Rather than being a “Dodge Jeep,” the Hornet is instead the American cousin to the Alfa Romeo Tonale.
Under the hood beats the familiar 2.0L turbo four-cylinder spreading across the Stelantis lineup in America (the parent company of what most of you know as Chrysler) mated to the just as familiar 9-speed automatic transmission by ZF. Dodge wants the Hornet to be the sporty option in the segment so they decided to give it 268 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque standard (although they are recommending premium gasoline). Since that would be a bit much for a FWD crossover, Dodge makes AWD standard.
The PHEV version is what I find intriguing. It’s based around a 1.3L four-cylinder turbo engine, the same one we’ve seen in a few Fiats in Europe for a while plus two electric motors. Up front there’s a 44 horsepower belt driven starter/generator which supplies power to the 15.5 kWh active cooled battery pack and the 121 horsepower electric motor on the rear axle. This setup is similar to Toyota’s newest hybrid systems in the USA where there’s no mechanical connection between the axles. Total power is rated for 288 ponies and 383 lb-ft of twist. One interesting twist is that the automatic transmission is a 6-speed unit although we don’t know if this is a new in house design or perhaps one borrowed from Aisin.
According to the early specs we should expect 30 miles of all electric range out of the PHEV, 6.1 second 0-60 blasts and Dodge is even making a track pack available. All PHEV models get Brembo braked front and rear and the track pack will add so far unknown “performance features.” If you’ve been paying attention to the Alfa Romeo press releases, you might notice that the Hornet apparently will pack more of a sting regardless of the drivetrain you select. Handling seems to be a particular focus as well and Dodge is making a bold claim of best in class handling with a max 0.9 lateral Gs.
So far only two interior shots have been released but what they show is an interior that certainly seems to be a blend of Alfa and Dodge. The steering wheel, infotainment system, switchgear and perhaps even the shifter are borrowed straight from the Alfa. The dashboard, dash styling, and infotainment software appearance are unique to the Hornet, but the changes are likely just skin deep. Assuming these components are competitive for the Alfa, the Hornet may end up beating Mazda to the “premium crossover” goal.
Standard across the line will be a 12.3 inch LCD instrument cluster and a just over 10 inch infotainment system. If you’re wondering why there’s a chip shortage, the sudden leap in LCD usage in new vehicles is part of the problem…. Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto is standard
Detailed pricing has yet to be announced for the 2023 Dodge Hornet, but the base version should start under $30,000 which sounds like a great deal considering the power and the standard all wheel drive. Basic safety systems like blind spot monitoring and autonomous emergency braking will be standard but you’ll have to pay extra for adaptive cruise control, driver attention monitoring and Dodge’s more aggressive lane centering.
If you’re interested, Dodge will open orders tomorrow (August 17) and they will start arriving on dealer lots later in 2022. Unlike the rest of the Dodge lineup, the Hornet will be built in Italy right along side its Alfa sister so folks hoping to snag a tax credit on the PHEV model may want to look elsewhere. The new regulations around battery content and vehicle production will preclude the Hornet from the revised credit scheme.