Crossovers. Compact crossovers are everywhere, and it's not by accident: People love them, small and large. Looking at market trends, Dodge is throwing its hat back into the small car game with the Hornet (following the Dart's 2016 departure). Based on the Alfa Romeo Tonale, the Dodge Hornet helps put the brand on the map for mass-market consumers but also gives CUV buyers a taste of what Dodge is about: horsepower and fun.
In base GT trim, the Dodge Hornet’s 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 sends at least 265 horsepower and 295 lb-ft through a nine-speed transmission to the standard all-wheel-drive system. Dodge hasn’t finalized the output of the base powertrain yet, but 265 hp represents almost 10 hp more than the base-model Alfa Romeo Tonale.
Dodge will also offer the Hornet with a plug-in hybrid powertrain under its R/T guise, which offers 285 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. While the 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine is mated to a six-speed automatic, the hybrid power comes from a starter-generator mounted on the engine and an electric motor that feeds the rear axle. The hybrid system uses a 15.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which can feed all-electric power for 30 miles. This hybrid also uses a push-to-pass system called PowerShot, which adds another 25 hp and shaves the 0-60 time to 6.1 seconds.
These potent powertrains might not make up for the looming Charger and Challenger departure, but they do show that Dodge still cares about straight-line performance. Though the Hornet does more than just offer hot-hatch-esque speed, it’s also looking for the right handling. The Hornet GT sports a standard set of Koni dampers, with dual-stage dampers available in the track pack. Yes, the Hornet has a track pack. Alongside the uprated dampers, the track pack features four-piston Brembo brakes and Alcantara microsuede seat inserts. If that’s not enough, the folks at Direct Connection will support a GLH kit to give your Hornet some retro Dodge flair and more aggressive styling.
Otherwise, the Hornet is relatively reserved. Instead of taking a loud route, the design team at Dodge opted for a cleaner approach without lots of creases or creative sheetmetal. The fact that this shares a platform with the Tonale probably went into the decision during the design process, but the final results work well. While the Tonale and Hornet share body panels, the Hornet sees an entirely revised front fascia and follows the muscular approach Dodge has shown with the latest Charger and Durango.
The interior styling team looked at making the Hornet relatively driver-focused. In front of the driver, you’ll find a standard 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, which is flanked by a smaller 10.25-inch touchscreen media system. The push-button starter is fixed to the center console to make it easier for drivers to see, and cloth and leatherette seating is standard on GT and R/T models, with the aforementioned Alcantara featured in the Track Pack.
While design and performance are crucial, consumer and safety tech might be the most important part for some. Dodge says the Hornet is available with Level II driver-assistance technologies, such as adaptive cruise control, intelligent speed assist with traffic sign recognition, and driver attention assist. But these are tucked behind the Tech package. Standard-issue active safety is limited to automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and blindspot assist.
Dodge is putting all of this together at an attractive entry point. Formal pricing for the various trims and the R/T aren’t available yet, but the base GT model will start below $30,000. That means this would undercut hot rods like the Hyundai Kona N, Volkswagen GTI, and Mazda CX-30. Still, we’ll have to see what it feels like in person. Dodge says the Hornet is going to sneak into dealers later this year in GT trim, with R/T models next spring.
Do you think the Dodge Hornet will help fill the entry-level shoes of the outgoing Charger and Challenger? Tell us your thoughts below.