Dodge’s first new model in years is causing quite a stir

In North America, there are plenty of new and innovative models from Stellantis’ Jeep and Ram divisions. Not so much in the Chrysler and Dodge camps which together produce a total of five vehicle models.

However, things are looking a little brighter for Dodge with the imminent arrival of the 2023 Hornet compact utility vehicle. Scheduled to arrive in late 2022, it powers a brand best known for the small (and very old) Challenger and Charger.

A Hornet concept vehicle was launched more than 15 years ago, but it hasn’t gotten any further. The new Hornet comes from the Alfa Romeo Tonale, meaning it will be built in Naples, Italy, not North America.

The vehicle joins a red-hot segment with a lot of competition, such as the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4, the Hyundai Tucson and the Mazda CX-5. The Dodge Journey may have been considered part of the segment, but was retired in 2020. That left the brand without a small commercial vehicle at a time when they were pretty much anything buyers wanted (except pickups). For context, the RAV4 and the CR-V are top sellers for their respective brands.

The arrival of the 2023 Hornet compact utility vehicle supports a brand best known for the small Challenger and Charger. PHOTO: STELLANTIS

Compared to the class leaders, the length and distance between the front and rear wheels of the Hornet are on the more compact side. So is the load volume, but it’s so close you probably won’t notice it.

The appealing body of the vehicle should arouse interest. So are the interior trim and controls, including a large 10.25-inch touchscreen that faces the driver. A traditional floor shifter is part of the mix.

But to significantly differentiate it from the herd, Dodge is betting that creating a performance vehicle for the masses – with all-wheel drive as standard – will create a lot of buzz (pun intended).

The base GT, priced at $40,200 including destination charges, has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 268 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Standard active safety technologies include automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert and reversing sensors.

Although the Hornet uses the platform of the Alfa Romeo Tonale, the dashboard is slightly different.  But the console, gear lever, steering wheel and lower half of the dashboard seem to have been taken from the Hornet's Italian cousin.  PHOTO: STELLANTIS

Although the Hornet uses the platform of the Alfa Romeo Tonale, the dashboard is slightly different. But the console, gear lever, steering wheel and lower half of the dashboard seem to have been taken from the Hornet’s Italian cousin. PHOTO: STELLANTIS

The R/T plug-in hybrid (PHEV), arriving next spring, will have a turbocharged 1.3-liter four-cylinder with electric assistance. The net output is 288/383. The PHEV also offers approximately 50 kilometers of electric driving before the petrol engine kicks in. While not quite class-leading – the Toyota RAV4 Prime PHEV makes 302 horsepower but less torque – the R/T is still pretty solid.

An eight-speed automatic is standard on the GT and a six-speed automatic on the R/T. Fuel consumption figures are not available.

According to Dodge, the GT can accelerate to 60 mph from a standstill in a respectable 6.5 seconds; the R/T is just 0.4 seconds faster at 6.1. A so-called PowerShot function, exclusive to the R/T, delivers 25 more horsepower for a 15-second burst.

For its quicker reflexes, the Hornet R/T has Brembo-branded brake calipers, Koni-branded shocks, a dual-exhaust system and 18-inch wheels (17s were installed for the GT).  PHOTO: STELLANTIS

For its quicker reflexes, the Hornet R/T has Brembo-branded brake calipers, Koni-branded shocks, a dual-exhaust system and 18-inch wheels (17s were installed for the GT). PHOTO: STELLANTIS

In addition to its faster reflexes, the R/T comes with Hybrid, Electric and E-Save (economy) driving modes. There are Brembo-branded brake calipers, Koni-branded shocks, a dual-exhaust system and 18-inch wheels (17s were installed for the GT).

A Track Pack option, available on both trims, offers 20-inch wheels and a unique interior finish.

With the arrival of the Hornet, Stellantis seems determined to keep Dodge as a performance brand. The vehicle also offers a clear alternative for buyers of regular compact commercial vehicles.

But that is not everything. Dodge’s reputation for performance will be expanded with high-performance battery electric vehicles such as the two-door Dodge Charger Daytona SRT.

Stellantis doesn’t appear to be intent on letting the Dodge brand slide, using its global production horses to do so.

2023 Dodge Hornet logo

What you need to know: 2023 Dodge Hornet

Type: Compact commercial vehicle with four-wheel drive

Engines (hp): 2.0-liter I-4, turbocharged (268); 1.3 liter I-4, turbocharged with electric assist (288)

Transmissions: Eight-speed automatic (2.0); six-speed automatic (1.3)

Market position: The Hornet marks the first new model in Dodge’s lineup since the ill-fated Dart compact sedan (2013-’16). The Hornet shares platforms and powertrains with the also new Alfa Romeo Tonale. That means the Hornet will be built in Italy.

points: Styling has a European touch but with recognizable Dodge touches. • Both powertrain choices offer good power, enhancing the brand’s performance. • Attractive interior combines modern controls with a familiar gear lever. • Performance fans will be drawn to the R/T. • For a standard AWD vehicle, the pricing seems to be just right.

Active Safety: Blind Spot Alert with Cross Traffic Backup Alert (Std.); automatic front emergency brake (std.); warning for inattentive driver (opt.); lane departure warning (std.); pedestrian detection (opt.)

L/100 km (city/highway): after Base price (incl. destination): $40,200

FOR COMPARISON

Toyota RAV4 AWD

  • Base price: $36,700
  • Leading model consumes little fuel. Hybrid and plug-in hybrids available.

Hyundai Tucson four-wheel drive

  • Base price: $39,850
  • The new-for-2022 model is available with two optional hybrid choices.

Volkswagen Tiguan four-wheel drive

  • Base price: $35,800
  • The largest commercial vehicle in its class comes with a 184 hp four-cylinder turbo.

– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media

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