Compact crossovers are not usually considered enthusiast products. They’re the default, the product people imagine nowadays when the phrase “everyday transport” comes up. But Dodge totally missed this memo, because the first thing it brags about when discussing the 2023 Hornet compact CUV is the fact that it’s the “quickest, fastest, most powerful compact utility vehicle under $30,000.” Oh, and it’s electrified, too.
Let’s do like Dodge and start with the powertrain because there’s some interesting stuff happening. The base Hornet GT is also the one that Dodge describes with the above quote, complete with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a nine-speed automatic transmission. It has an ample 265 horsepower (198 kilowatts) and 295 pound-feet (400 newton-meters) of torque, which is enough to scoot to 60 in a brisk 6.5 seconds. That’s as quick as a Mini Cooper S. And yes, it will start at under $30,000, although Dodge isn’t sharing much pricing info beyond that.
Gallery: 2023 Dodge Hornet
Perhaps the more forward-looking trim of the two is the Hornet R/T, which is only the second plug-in-hybrid to come out of Auburn Hills in a decade. The front axle turns via a turbocharged 1.3-liter four-cylinder 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 a 7.4-kilowatt charging module and packs enough electrons to cover 35 miles when fully juiced.
The gas-electric combo works via a six-speed automatic transmission and features an integrated starter-generator for improved low-end response. Stretch the Hornet R/T’s legs and you’ll find 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, thanks to the powertrain’s combined 285 hp (213 kW) and 383 lb-ft (519 Nm). But you’ll only do that particular deed if you use PowerShot.
Dodge claims the system, activated by tugging both the wheel-mounted paddle shifters and flooring the accelerator, yields an extra 25 horsepower from the motor for up to 15 seconds and delivers immediate torque (although that’s kind of the deal with electric motors, so it’s hard to know what exactly Dodge means here – we’ll try to get to the bottom of it). Engaged, PowerShot slashes a second off the run to 60 mph. Both Hornet models also feature dynamic torque vectoring, although whether it’s brake-based or something more advanced is unclear.
Giving a vehicle power without suspension and brakes to back it up is so 1968, so Dodge is also fitting all Hornet R/Ts with Koni FSD dampers, a fully independent suspension at both ends, and a Brembo braking package that includes vented discs and four-piston calipers in front. Black calipers are standard, although a Track Package is available for both R/T and GT that adds a red paint job (and is the only way to score Brembos on the gas-only model). And because the Hornet is closely related to the Alfa Romeo Tonale, Dodge is claiming best-in-class body stiffness with excellent weight distribution.
Dodge is also rethinking the in-cabin experience, offering a class-leading 22.6 inches of screen real estate standard. The breakdown sees a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster in place of physical gauges, as well as a 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system running Uconnect 5. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and with wireless connectivity. Really, the Hornet nails 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 hasn’t released any pricing info as of publication. We’re also in the dark on fuel economy for both engines. But while those question marks loom large, the hardware related to how the Hornet will drive seems incredibly impressive. Dodge has spent a long time without a compact crossover, but it appears this renewed effort is designed to make a splash in a typically staid segment.