Compact crossovers are not usually considered an enthusiastic product. They are the standard, the product that people imagine today when the phrase “everyday transportation” came about. But Dodge completely missed this memo, as the first thing it brags about when it discusses the Hornet 2023 compact CUV is the fact that it’s “the fastest, fastest, most powerful compact utility vehicle under $30,000.” Oh, and it’s electrified too.
Let’s do it like Dodge and start with the powertrain because there are some interesting things going on. The base Hornet GT is also the one that Dodge describes with the quote above, complete with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a nine-speed automatic transmission. It has 265 horsepower (198 kilowatts) and 295 pound-feet (400 newton-meters) of torque, which is enough to hit 60 in 6.5 seconds. That’s as fast as the Mini Cooper S. And yes, it will start at under $30,000, though Dodge doesn’t share much pricing info beyond that.
Perhaps the more forward-looking trim of the two is the Hornet R/T, which is the second plug-in-hybrid to come out of Auburn Hills in a decade. The front axle rotates via a turbocharged 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine plucked from the Jeep Renegade/Fiat 500X line, 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 the 7.4-kilowatt charging module and packs enough electrons to cover 35 miles on a full charge.
The gas-electric combo works through a six-speed automatic transmission and features an integrated starter-generator for enhanced low-end response. Stretch the legs of the Hornet R/T and you’ll reach 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, thanks to the combined 285 hp (213 kW) and 383 lb-ft (519 Nm) powertrain. But you will only perform certain actions if you use PowerShot.
Dodge claims the system, activated by pulling the wheel-mounted paddle shifter and pressing on the gas pedal, delivers an extra 25 horsepower from the motor for up to 15 seconds and delivers direct torque (although that’s kind of a deal with electric motors, so it’s hard to know what that actually means). Dodge here – we’ll try to figure it out). Engaging, the PowerShot slashes a second from speeds to 60 mph. Both Hornet models also feature dynamic torque vectoring, though whether that’s brake-based or something more sophisticated is unclear.
Giving the vehicle power without the suspension and brakes to back it up once 1968, so Dodge also paired all Hornet R/Ts with Koni FSD dampers, fully independent suspension at both ends, and a Brembo braking package that included ventilated discs and four-piston calipers up front. Black calipers are standard, although a Track Pack is available for the R/T and GT which adds a red paint job (and is the only way to print Brembos on gas-only models). 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-cab experience, offering a class-leading standard of 22.6-inch screen real estate. The breakdown sees a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster replacing the physical gauge, as well as a 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system running Uconnect 5. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and with wireless connectivity. Indeed, the Hornet meets the basic requirements of a modern and successful infotainment suite. There are even different themes for digital clusters.
While Dodge will be opening orders for the 2023 Hornet, beyond its $30,000 target, Dodge has not released any pricing info at the time of publication. We also don’t know the fuel economy for both engines. But while those question marks seem big, the hardware related to how the Hornet will drive seems pretty impressive. Dodge has spent a long time without a compact crossover, but it looks like this new effort is designed to make a splash in a normally quiet segment.