2023 Dodge Hornet vs. 2022 Mazda CX-30: Sporty small SUVs compared

The 2023 Dodge Hornet is the American automaker’s signal to the world that it wants to enter the lucrative small crossover market segment for the first time since, well, before that market mattered much. (Anyone remember the sad Caliber? We didn’t think so.) Dodge has already surprised its competitors with the endurance of its aging Challenger and Charger muscle cars, while its coverage of the larger, three-row SUV market with the similarly old Durango that’s another bright spot. Unlike when the Caliber rolled across the earth, Dodge’s Hornet will face stiff and varied competition from a deluge of subcompact SUVs from Honda, Toyota, Ford and others. But the closest small SUV competitor, at least mentally, is the sporty and stylish Mazda CX-30.

Hear us out: Both the 2023 Dodge Hornet and 2022 Mazda CX-30 offer turbocharged four-cylinder engines and are designed to appeal to buyers looking for a little street-oriented attitude from their crossovers. The 2023 Dodge Hornet attempts to repackage its muscle car sibling vibe into a small SUV shared with Alfa Romeo (it’s a thinly disguised Tonale, if you can’t tell), while the Mazda CX -30 One of the Japanese automaker’s latest efforts is to position itself as an affordable luxury brand. Let’s see how these beefed-up crossovers compare against each other.

Dodge Hornet vs. Mazda CX-30: styling

This is one area where these two crossovers couldn’t be more different. The 2023 Dodge Hornet combines the look of a muscular Charger sedan with the details of a Durango. The Hornet even has the same inverted trapezoidal air valve found on the front of the Charger. From the front, the Dodge Hornet comes across as a bigger, blunter object, but in a meaningful way. As long as you’ve never seen a Tonale, it looks relatively fresh and original.

The Mazda CX-30 has a more elegant “sculptured” look that is in line with the automaker’s Kodo design language. The chrome accents on the large grille combined with the thin headlights and smooth surfaces give a luxurious appearance, which is exactly what Mazda is going for. Lower and slimmer than the Dodge, the Mazda could almost be mistaken for a hatchback – that’s not far off, as it’s closely related to the Mazda 3 saloon and hatchback, albeit with a little more ride height.

Dodge Hornet vs. Mazda CX-30: Powertrain and Fuel Economy

The 2023 Dodge Hornet is the automaker’s first car to feature its new in-line engine architecture, dubbed “Hurricane.” The Hornet GT trim comes with a 2.0-liter Hurricane I-4 that puts out 268 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and is claimed to reach 60 mph in a quick 6.5 seconds. The R/T trim is a plug-in hybrid, combining a 1.3-liter I-4 with an electric motor, producing 288 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. That mighty torque figure drops the zero-to-6o-mph time of the R/T to a claimed 6.1 seconds. Both trim levels come with all-wheel drive as standard, although the GT trim uses a nine-speed automatic, while the R/T PHEV uses a six-speed automatic. At this time, we have no official EPA ratings for the Hornet’s fuel economy.

The base CX-30 is motivated Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter non-turbo engine good for 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque; those numbers are average for the segment. The 2022 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo competes more directly with the Dodge with its Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter turbocharged I-4. While the CX-30 2.5 Turbo’s 227 horsepower is significantly less than the Hornet’s, its increased displacement gives it a torque advantage over the Hornet GT, at 310 lb-ft. Both turbo and non-turbo versions of the CX-30 come with Mazda’s six-speed automatic transmission. Like the Hornet, all versions of the CX-30 come with AWD standard.

Dodge Hornet GT Dodge Hornet R/T Mazda CX-30 2.5 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo
Engine 268 hp / 295 lb-ft 2.0L I-4 288 hp / 383 lb-ft 1.3 I-4 & electric motor 186 hp / 186 lb-ft 2.5L I-4 227 hp / 310 lb-ft 2.5L I-4 turbo
Transfer 9-speed automatic 6-speed automatic 6-speed automatic 6-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy City N/A N/A 24mpg 22 mpg
EPA Fuel Econ Hwy N/A N/A 31 mpg 30mpg
EPA Fuel Econ Comb N/A N/A 26mpg 25mpg

Since we don’t yet have EPA numbers for the 2023 Dodge Hornet, we can’t make fuel economy comparisons with the Mazda CX-30, which has been on the market for a while. We can look at the power numbers and easily see that the Hornet offers (for the most part) more power and torque than the CX-30 across the board. Conventional knowledge says the Hornet GT is likely to be less fuel efficient than the CX-30, but the Hornet R/T is the wildcard with its electric motor and yet-to-be-determined EV-only range.

Dodge Hornet vs. Mazda CX-30: Dimensions and cargo space

The 2023 Dodge Hornet surpasses the Mazda CX-30 in exterior dimensions and is significantly wider. The Hornet has a height advantage of five centimeters and that higher roofline could give the Hornet a more imposing profile than the CX-30. Oddly enough, despite the CX-30 being smaller in almost every dimension, the wheelbase is actually about half an inch longer than the Hornet’s.

2023 Dodge Hornet Mazda CX-30 from 2022
Length 178 in 173 in
Width 82 inches 70.7 inches
Height 63.8 inches 61.7 inches
wheelbase 103.8 inches 104.4 inches

Given the larger exterior dimensions of the Dodge Hornet, one might think that the interior of the Hornet is significantly larger than the cabin of the CX-30. But when it comes to interior space, the two SUVs are nearly identical. The Hornet technically offers more headroom, legroom, hiproom and shoulderroom, but only just. Where the Hornet really takes the lead is in cargo space where it has a 7 cubic foot advantage over the CX-30 (with the 2nd row seats upright).

2023 Dodge Hornet Mazda CX-30 from 2022
Legroom (F/R) 41.7in/38in 41.7 inches / 36.3 inches
Headroom (F/R) 38.8in/38.1in 38.1 inches / 38.3 inches
Shoulder room (F/R) 55.7 inches / 55 inches 55.6in/53.6in
Hip Room (F/R) 54.3 inches / 53.5 inches 54.6in/53.2
Passenger volume 109 cubic feet 94.1 cubic feet
Cargo volume (rear seat up) 27 cubic feet 20.2 cubic feet

Dodge Hornet vs. Mazda CX-30: Interior and Technology

Surprisingly, the interior designs of the 2023 Dodge Hornet and the 2022 Mazda CX-30 are somewhat similar. Both SUVs have a simple layout without a lot of embellishments or eye-catching materials or color contrasts. The differences are in the styling of the dashboards. The dashboard of the Hornet is simple and is not molded around any of the components. On the other hand, the CX-30 dashboard continues the sculpted theme of its exterior, which makes for a more luxurious look and winds its way around the instrument panel and steering wheel, as well as the sleek central display.

As the newer of the two, the Hornet features a digital gauge cluster display, while the CX-30 sticks to the traditional analog gauges, albeit supplemented with bits of screen. The Hornet also offers a much larger touchscreen infotainment screen in the center of the dash. The CX-30 also has an infotainment touchscreen, but the way it’s positioned in the dash means it’s reachable for touch input; Mazda also oddly locks the touch input portion of the screen when the vehicle is in motion, forcing users to turn and click a control button on the center console.

Dodge Hornet vs Mazda CX-30: Prices

At this point, the Dodge Hornet isn’t on sale yet, so we don’t have official MSRPs, but we estimate the GT trim will cost $31,500 and the R/T will cost another $10,000. If our estimates are correct, that would mean the Dodge Hornet GT has a starting price higher than seven of the eight CX-30 trim levels available. Although, to be fair, only the top three trims of the CX-30 are equipped with the GT-matching 2.5-litre turbocharged engine.

Dodge Hornet Mazda CX-30
2.5 sec $22,500
Select $24,900
Preference $27,950
Carbon Edition $28,590
Premium $30,360
GT $31,500 (estimated) 2.5 Turbo $30,500
2.5 Turbo Premium $33,100
R/T $41,500 (estimated) 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus $34,700

At the feature level, both crossovers come with similar safety packages that offer driver attention, automatic braking, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring with rear cross path detection.

A Track Pack will be available for the Dodge Hornet with 20-inch black wheels, two-stage valving, faux suede accent seats and aluminum interior trim. Dodge has not revealed how much the Track Pack upgrade will cost you, but we will provide an update as soon as we have that information. Dodge will also offer a Tech Pack that includes driver attention assist and active driving assist. Semi-automatic parking, a 360-degree surround view camera, a power tailgate and a 13-speaker (plus subwoofer) Harman Kardon audio system are all available options for the Hornet. We’ll just have to wait a bit longer to see the price tag on those features.

The top-level 2.5 Turbo Premium and 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus CX-30s have nice features like a power tailgate, adaptive LED headlights, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, leather trim on the seats and steering wheel, and more.

So, how do the two crossovers stack up in the end? On paper, at least, the Dodge Hornet offers far less choice than the Mazda CX-30 and its eight different packages. The bright side for Hornet buyers is that, with fewer configurations to choose from, their shopping experience should be easier. On the other hand, the CX-30’s offerings may be overwhelming, but they’re also pretty affordable overall. If a buyer doesn’t mind giving up the souped-up engine, they can get into a CX-30 for less than $23,000, and even if that buyer decides they want a turbo, they’ll probably still pay less than for the Hornet GT. We can’t wait to get these two sporty little SUVs together for a proper test; when that happens – and the final price comes from Dodge – we can make a final decision on which is better.

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