Dodge brought arguably the most important vehicle of the past 10 years, the 2023 Hornet, to the 2022 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Note that we didn’t say “most exciting.”
Because this isn’t a tire-melting American muscle car – he brought one too, in the form of the electric Charger Daytona SRT – but rather a compact SUV with a PHEV powertrain option. The fact that it is the brand’s first vehicle in the popular small SUV segment and that it comes with partial electrification makes it the “most important”. The fact that it is in many ways a re-badged Italian luxury vehicle? That’s just an added bonus.
The 2024 Hornet actually debuted way back in August, but this was the first time welcoming the public to its seats. A blue Hornet GT and a black GLH (Goes Like Hell) concept car – currently only for Europe – were both prominent in the Stellantis showroom area. So after President Joe Biden and his shield of Secret Service agents finished exploring the goods, we slid into the passenger seats to see how the interior stacked up against the competition, and to learn firsthand just how much the Hornet shares with the Alfa Romeo Tonale with which it shares much of its underpinnings. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot. But maybe that’s good?
To recap, there are a few power sources offered here. GT trims run with a gasoline-powered turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder that puts out 265 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which is actually a bit more than the Alfa Romeo Tonale it’s based on; while the R/T plug-in hybrid variant gets a 1.3L engine paired with an electric motor on the rear axle and a belt/starter generator and a 15.5kWh battery. That PHEV model puts out 288 horses and 383 pound-feet of twist.
Based on its overall look – Dodge car shades with plenty of tonal – and reported expected Canadian price of “under $40,000”, we think the Hornet GT will compete well with the compact competition, but be more on par with the subcompact segment. sometimes feels like it belongs. The PHEV model will compete against its few competitors such as the Toyota RAV4 Prime and Chevy Bolt EUV. At least when it comes to the interior makeup, I don’t think drivers will feel like they’ve been stung if they catch themselves on a gadfly.
Sitting in the driver’s seat of the gas-powered Hornet GT at the show, a nice base model, I was struck by the simple comfort of the car. Generally probable because it’s essentially a rebadged Alfa Romeo, the interior vibe seems somewhat un-American. It is uncluttered, but clean. Relatively simple, but well-considered. A Dodge, but made in Italy.
There is a cigarette lighter, with the lighter actually in there. Because people smoke and occasionally need to set things on fire. They still get that in Italy.
Seats in the GT Hornet at NAIAS 2022 were comfortable, firm-feeling and manually adjustable, as was the steering wheel, but Plus trim features included premium leather-trimmed seats in black or red with 12-way power, heating, ventilation and memory settings. Alcantara race-oriented perforated leather seats with a fading ‘red crust’ design and Dodge Rhombi logo are included in the Track Pack option.
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The Hornet shown also had a metal roof, and not the optional sunroof which is 63.8 inches (1,620 cm) in the GT and 63 inches (1,601) even in the R/T. Now, as a six-foot freak show of a human, I always appreciate the extra headspace when there’s no glass on top, but at the same time I recognize that no one builds anything for the vertically mutated. (Woe to me – at least when I’m shopping for cars or pants.) Unfortunately, the black GLH concept out there was also on the low end, so we couldn’t experience the sunroof there either. Nor the PHEV for that matter – it will debut later this fall.
Regardless of model and equipment, the Hornet gets the same 12.3-inch “best-in-class” instrument panel and 10.25-inch center display as the Tonale, with the same Uconnect 5 infotainment software.
Standard red stitching follows the dashboard and runs along the seats, armrests and doors against the black interior. Vents between the gear lever and screen look almost identical to those in the Tonale above the sleek row of 11 buttons, but the eye-shaped vents at the ends of the dash give the Hornet something to contrast with its Italian cousin. Like twins who mercifully wear different hairstyles so people can tell them apart.
The gear lever is simple and familiar, with a few buttons and a volume knob framing it. It feels quite Mazda. But the angled wireless charging bay in the center console is a clever bit of modern design – Italians know where you keep that phone of yours too.
In the back seat, legroom wasn’t a problem even when I left the front seat as I’d had it, but sitting up straight isn’t possible for someone like me. It’s something that, as a tall person, I’ve often noticed when a vehicle touts extra legroom, because it’s never a knee-to-hip issue and always a butt-to-head issue. Anyway, I imagine a normal person would fit just fine.
Exact dimensions for the interior of the 2023 Hornet place it squarely in Subaru Forester territory. Gas models have quite a bit more interior space at 27 cu-ft (765 L) than the R/T PHEV’s 22.9 cu-ft (650 L). Fold the rear seats down and those numbers jump to 54.7 cu-ft (1,550 L) and 50.5 cu-ft (1,430 L), respectively. That doesn’t negate the RAV4’s 37.6 cu-ft (1,065 L) and 69.8 cu-ft (1,977 L) dimensions, and probably won’t be enough to put it on future “best cargo space” lists. but it will still fit a lot of stuff plus five people, which is enough for many.
My conclusion, stepping away from the Hornet and watching other journalists and enthusiasts flit in and out of it, is that there’s quality in this SUV, and very likely value, precisely because of its shared DNA. It’s American. It’s Italian. It is worth your consideration.