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We’re getting a bit of déjà vu with the 2023 Dodge Hornet. It’s a small car based on an Alfa Romeo (the Tonale) with Dodge styling and marketing. The Dodge Dart was also a small car based on an Alfa Romeo (the Giulietta) with Dodge styling and marketing. The Dart didn’t go over great. But we think the Hornet has a few advantages the Dart didn’t. It’s an SUV, which is still a popular and growing segment. It packs much more potent powertrains, unlike the Dart’s underpowered base naturally aspirated and turbo engines. And while this is even closer to its Alfa donor, Dodge is pledging more support for owners to hop up their Hornets, which is a way to distinguish the model and help it fit the Dodge image.
Design-wise, the Hornet is very much a Tonale with a Dodge facelift. The front clip has been updated with a fascia similar to those of the Charger and Durango. It even gets the signature hood with vents. Around at the back, the full-width taillight has been tweaked with different lighting elements and a light-up Dodge “Rhombi” logo. The Hornet also sports some admittedly very cool Hornet badges on the front fenders. The inside is also mostly carry-over from the Tonale save for some air vents, some screen graphics, upholstery colors (always black and red) and moving the start button to the dash. None of this is necessarily bad, as the Alfa was pretty nice to begin with, but it’s worth noting.
Mechanically, the Hornet is still very much like the Tonale, though it does boast slightly higher power numbers for both variants. The base model is the GT, and it gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 268 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard with all-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic, and Dodge claims it will get to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds.
Above it is the R/T, which gets the plug-in hybrid turbocharged 1.3-liter four-cylinder powertrain. At the front, it has the engine and an electric motor powering the front wheels through a six-speed automatic. At the back is a 90-kW electric motor powering the rear wheels. Total output is rated at 288 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Dodge touts the hybrid’s PowerShot launch control. It’s an overboost function that provides an extra 25 horsepower for 15 seconds (a 15-second cool down is required between uses). Dodge says the 0-60 time is 6.1 seconds. The R/T also picks up fixed four-piston Brembo front calipers and Brembo rear calipers, dual exhaust and the lovely metal paddle shifters from the Alfa. The brakes and paddles are available on the GT, too. The R/T is also visually distinguished by black-painted cladding, dual-exhaust and unique badging.
All Hornets come standard with Koni frequency selective-damping shocks, which can be upgraded to electronically adjustable units. The suspension setup is MacPherson struts up front, and a three-link independent strut rear suspension. They also get electronic limited-slip differential functions that can also provide some torque vectoring.
Dodge intends to offer performance upgrades for both versions of the Hornet. The first to get upgrades will be the GT with the Direct Connection GLH (Goes Like Hell) package. It features lowered suspension (by a bit more than an inch), a cat-back exhaust, unique 20-inch wheels, black cladding and GLH exterior graphics. The company didn’t give power estimates except to say it would have a far better power-to-weight ratio than the Omni GLH that provided the name. The R/T will also get an upgrade kit, but it’s still in development and doesn’t have a name yet. We’d imagine GLH-S (reportedly Goes Like Hell S’more) would be a strong possibility.
The Hornet comes with a strong list of standard features. On the safety front it has automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, automatic wipers and parking sensors. Convenience features include a 12.3-inch instrument display, 10.25-inch touchscreen, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and the ability to pair two phones to the infotainment simultaneously. Optional features include adaptive cruise control, lane-centering, driver attention alert, wireless phone charging, heated steering wheel and seats, hands-free power lift gate and a Harman Kardon sound system.
With this high feature set comes an arguably high price tag. The destination charge hasn’t been announced yet, but pricing for the GT starts at $29,995. The R/T starts at $39,995. Note that the actual price will be slightly higher when a destination charge is factored in. The R/T will likely qualify for some level of tax credit because of its PHEV powertrain. Dodge will start accepting orders for GT models on August 17, with deliveries starting in December. The R/T will start arriving this coming spring.