New Dodge Hornet GT Stings the SUV Market with Turbocharged Venom  - IMBOLDN
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The new Dodge Hornet compact SUV is a vehicle that sees the return of two historic details. The first is the return of the Hornet nameplate. Those of a certain age or interest in history may recognize the name with the letters AMC before it. In its heyday, the AMC Hornet replaced the note-worthy Rambler marque in 1970 before being 86’d in 1977. 

The second detail is being Dodge’s first compact SUV in over ten years since the Caliper ended production in 2012. 

Photo by Jesus R. Garcia

Moreover, the Dodge Hornet comes right out of the gate sporting a GT badge and a stylishly aggressive insect emblem as hints that this is not another compact SUV with an appearance package. This Hornet carries venom. 

Italian Heritage with Turbocharged and Hybrid Powertrains 

underneath the red parallel line Dodge emblem, the Hornet shares platform DNA with the equally stylish Alfa Romeo Tonale. You quickly see the family resemblance if you study the two compact SUVs side-by-side. Both share the same narrow, wing-tipped headlamps and arched hood line, provoking imagery of an angry wild cat staring you down with ears folded back. 

The Hornet separates itself as an Americano with a fascia that could pass as the Dodge Charger’s younger sibling. Complete with the cutest little pair of hood vents. 

The 2023 model of the Dodge Hornet GT comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four producing 268 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. With all-wheel drive, that’s enough firepower to scoot from zero to 60 in about six seconds. Moreover, it has room for five passengers and cargo space to hold five people’s luggage. 

For 2024, Dodge introduced the R/T and R/T Plus trim levels featuring a more potent hybrid powertrain. The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) uses a 1.3-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 177 hp and 199 lb.-ft and a 12-kWh lithium-ion battery pack to power its electric motors for a combined output of 288 hp and 383 lb.-ft of torque. As a result, the Hornet R/T PHEV sprints to 60 in 5.6 seconds. 

Gas mileage for the 2.0-liter engine is rated 21 city and 29 highway, and I averaged 21 mpg during the week-long road test. 

The PHEV variant also features a boost option Dodge calls Powershot, which temporarily increases the power output by 30 more horsepower for an extra kick off the line. Or use the battery’s pack energy to travel in zero-emission motion with a claimed 30 miles of all-electric range (per charge). 

Gas mileage for the 2.0-liter engine is rated 21 city and 29 highway, and I averaged 21 mpg during the week-long road test. 

Body of a CUV, Heart of Hot Hatch 

The model shown wears an eye-catching shade of Acapulco Gold accented with the optional Track Pack ($2,995). This available appearance package adds 20-inch wheels finished in a black shadow of gloss called Abyss with bright red Dodge branded Brembo brake calipers peeking behind the five twin-spoke wheel design. 

Inside, the Track Pack upgrades the interior with black Alcantara sports seats decorated with red accents and a leather steering wheel. In addition to the Tech Pack ($2,245), featuring a 360-view camera, a drowsy driving detection sensor, parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control with lane assist. 

One thing I found particularly surprising in the GT Plus trim level is the lack of paddle shifters—a detail brought to my attention by a passenger who first noticed it. Paddle shifters have become so typical in many modern vehicles that I assumed they were there. If you want to have some control over the 9-speed transmission, you’ll have to settle for toggling the shift lever.

Regarding first impressions, the Dodge Hornet GT is a firm handshake that shows confidence and character. Being a new face on the street meant it garnered attention from the public eye. Many pedestrians and motorists rubbernecked to get a full glimpse of the aggressively styled gold SUV. The bright color with dark wheels and red brakes gives it a sincere performance personality. But the Hornet’s tall ride height restricts the spicy turbocharged engine and lively design from being a full-time sport SUV.  

Too Tall to Handle 

One doesn’t need the eyes of a hawk to notice the gap in the Hornet’s wheel well. The open space is large enough to fit your hand and play the tire like a bongo. The tall ride height is further hammered into the psyche when you look up at the giant label on the sun visor serving as a reminder and warning that it’s vulnerable against the laws of physics if pushed over the edge. 

If you want to feel like you’re in a Hollywood car chase from the early 1970s, the Dodge Hornet provides a period-correct soundtrack.

The Dodge Hornet has the heart and soul of a hot hatch trapped in the body of an SUV. When you toss all-wheel drive into the mix, you’re left with a sporty crossover that loves to torture tires when you show it a corner under acceleration. 

Photo by Jesus R. Garcia

The steering is light and agile, and the Brembo disc brakes can throw out the anchor with rapid ferocity. Moreover, with four-wheel suspension, adaptive damping, and a rear sway bar, the Hornet can barrel through tight turns while producing a symphony of tire squeals at low speeds.

If you want to feel like you’re in a Hollywood car chase from the early 1970s, the Dodge Hornet provides a period-correct soundtrack.

Avoiding the Meek with Mopar Chic 

The new Dodge Hornet GT delivers the flare in style and performance within the parameters of the practicality of a compact SUV. Based on how many people I caught staring at it, I expect to see a swarm of Hornets on the road within the upcoming months. Its modest size and $30K starting price make it a viable option to fit the needs of multiple demographics and lifestyles. The mid-range GT Plus model shown carried an MSRP of $41,810 with options. 

Photo by Jesus R. Garcia

Its single Achilles heel is its tall ride height preventing the Hornet from reaching its full sizzling potential. However, most people driving these off the lot will not be slinging it like a hot hatch from the 1990s. But, like a cosplayer at Comic-Con, it wears the uniform with pride and convincingly immerses you in the character, making it a fun commuter.