Compact crossovers are generally not considered enthusiast products. It’s the default product, the product people imagine today when the phrase “everyday transportation” comes up. But Dodge totally missed that memo, because the first thing it brags about when talking about the 2023 Hornet compact CUV is that it’s “the fastest, fastest, most powerful compact utility vehicle ever.” less than $30,000″. Oh, and it’s electrified too.
Let’s do like Dodge and start with the powertrain because some interesting stuff is happening. The base Hornet GT is also the one Dodge describes with the quote above, with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s got a decent 265 horsepower (198 kilowatts) and 295 pound-feet (400 newton-meters) of torque, which is enough to kick to 60 in a quick 6.5 seconds. It’s as fast as a Mini Cooper S. And yes, it’ll start at under $30,000, though Dodge won’t share much pricing information beyond that.
Perhaps the most forward-thinking version of the two is the Hornet R/T, which is only the second plug-in hybrid to roll out of Auburn Hills in a decade. The front axle spins via a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder taken from the Jeep Renegade/Fiat 500X range, while a 90 kilowatt electric motor sits atop the rear axle. Between the two is a 15.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, which takes just 2.5 hours to recharge via a 7.4 kilowatt charging module and contains enough electrons to cover 35 miles when it is is fully charged.
The gas-electric combo runs through a six-speed automatic transmission and features an integrated starter-generator for better low-end response. Stretch the legs of the Hornet R/T and you’ll hit 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds, thanks to the 285 hp (213 kW) and 383 lb-ft (519 Nm) of the powertrain. But you will only do this particular act if you use PowerShot.
Dodge claims the system, activated by pulling both the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and the throttle, produces an additional 25 horsepower from the engine for up to 15 seconds and provides immediate torque (although that’s a the case with electric motors, so it’s hard to know what exactly Dodge means here – we’ll try to get to the bottom of it). When engaged, PowerShot shaves one second off the 60mph run. Both Hornet models also feature Dynamic Torque Vectoring, though it’s unclear if that’s braking or something more advanced.
Giving power to a vehicle with no suspension or brakes to back it up is so 1968, so Dodge also equips all Hornet R/Ts with Koni FSD shocks, fully independent suspension at both ends and a brake package. Brembo which includes ventilated discs and four-piston calipers up front. Black calipers are standard, although a track set is available for R/T and GT which adds a red paint job (and is the only way to brand Brembos on the gas-only model). And because the Hornet is closely related to the Alfa Romeo Tonale, Dodge claims best-in-class body rigidity with excellent weight distribution.
Dodge is also rethinking the in-cabin experience, delivering a class-leading 22.6-inch screen real estate standard. The breakdown sees a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster in place of the physical gauges, along with a 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system running Uconnect 5. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard and with wireless connectivity. Truly, the Hornet meets the basic requirements of a modern, successful infotainment suite. There are even different themes for the digital cluster.
While Dodge will open orders for the 2023 Hornet beyond the $30,000 target, it has not released any pricing information at press time. We’re also in the dark on fuel economy for both engines. But while those question marks loom large, the Hornet’s driving-related material looks incredibly impressive. Dodge has gone a long time without a compact crossover, but it seems this renewed effort is designed to make a splash in a typically stuffy segment.