Dodge Hornet crossover starts under $30K, offers brand's first plug-in hybrid

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Pontiac — The new 2023 Dodge Hornet seeks to sting its performance DNA into the compact SUV segment with a starting price below $30,000, and marks the Stellantis NV brand's first foray into the electrified space.

Based on the same platform as Alfa Romeo's new Italian-built Tonale, the Hornet is available in gas-powered or plug-in hybrid versions. It's meant to serve as a gateway to grow Dodge's "brotherhood of muscle," to boost volume and to improve the automaker's ability to meet federal emissions and fuel economy standards. The PHEV, however, is $10,000 more to start. Orders open Wednesday.

Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis with the 2023 Dodge Hornet GLH at Tuesday's reveal.
A mechanical Hornet showcases a video presentation to unveil The 2023 Dodge Hornet at the M1 Concourse.

Compact SUVs are the segment to accomplish those goals, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis said. Prompting an explosion in the number of nameplates, the compact SUV market is expected to grow to roughly 1.5 million vehicles in five years from 1 million currently, and customers cite affordability, reliability and fuel economy as some of their top reasons for a purchase. Power, acceleration, driving enjoyment and brand image were minor factors.

"This seemed like the perfect politically correct segment for us to go in and rile it up and disrupt that segment," Kuniskis said ahead of the vehicle's public debut at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac as part of its second day of "Speed Week" reveals.

The all-new 2023 Dodge Hornet earns its spot in the brand’s vehicle lineup with distinctive Dodge DNA, including hood and front fascia design elements.
2023 Dodge Hornet G/T

All-wheel drive is standard. The Hornet features a Charger-like front fascia and a vehicle-width taillamp with a center illuminated racing slashes Rhombi logo, the first for a Dodge vehicle. Inside, red stitching comes on all the vehicles, and the cockpit is driver-focused with a standard 12.3-inch digital cockpit cluster screen larger than the 10.25-inch, Uconnect 5 infotainment central display. And the PHEV has standard a "PowerShot" feature serving on-demand additional horsepower.

"Don't ever tell a guy that his Demon used to be a Chrysler 300," Kuniskis said, regarding the use of the Tonale platform for the Hornet. "We took a car that was already a fantastic car, a fantastic platform that already had the Alfa Romeo DNA in it. The car already handles fantastic, and we injected it with the Dodge DNA."

The 2023 Dodge Hornet R/T during a Dodge event in Pontiac on Tuesday, August 16, 2022.
The 2023 Dodge Hornet R/T badging.

With such a large number of buyers looking for a vehicle this size, "there’s not a reason why there shouldn’t be demand for this flavor," said Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst for S&P Global Mobility. "There is a wide variety of personalities and tastes."

Kuniskis is confident the Hornet will sell more than 40,000 vehicles annually to place it among the top sellers in the segment, though he declined to provide an exact production figure. The compact SUV market is 18% of all U.S. sales, said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at auto information website Inc.

"It is a really crowded segment," Caldwell said, but "it is a very big segment. It's a body type a lot of people are looking for. It seems like if you can build something good in that category, you can get the volume you want. ... At the end of the day, if you sell more cars, you can get a lot more money."

The taillamp of the 2023 Dodge Hornet extends the width of the vehicle and features a lighted red signature, as well as an illuminated Dodge Rhombi logo in the center — featured for the first time on a Dodge vehicle — identifying from a distance that it’s a Dodge.

At $29,995, the Hornet GT is just the fifth vehicle from Stellantis in the United States with a starting price under $30,000. The 2-liter turbocharged inline, four-cylinder Hurricane engine produces 265-plus horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, making it the segment's most powerful gas engine, according to the company. Shipments of the GT will begin from Pomigliano, Italy, in December.

"This car is the quickest, fastest, the most powerful UV in the compact segment under $30,000," Kuniskis said. "That is going to be a screaming, all-wheel-drive little hot hatch for that customer."

The 2023 Dodge Hornet GLH peers through fog during a Dodge event held at the M1 Course in Pontiac.

The $39,995 electrified R/T's 1.3-liter turbo with an e-axle kicks the output to 285-plus horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, according to Dodge.

"This is serious technology," Kuniskis said. "It shows why Dodge is getting serious in this space."

The R/T has more than 30 miles of all-electric range from a 15.5-kilowatt-hour, 360-volt lithium-ion battery, whose manufacturer the company declined to disclose. Its PowerShot, activated by steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a pedal kickdown, also supplies a burst of 25 additional horsepower for up to 15 seconds, after which the battery needs to cool off. PowerShot shaves a second from the Hornet's normal 6.1-second 0-to-60-mph time.

"You can use it from launch, obviously," said Brian Del Pup, who works in powertrain and engineering for Dodge. "You can use it on the freeway. You can use it in passing or just showing off to your friends."

The GT's "Sport Mode" offers sharper throttle, tighter steering and electronic limited slip differential to go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. The R/T also has a Sport Mode as well as modes to drive as a hybrid, all-electric or in E-Save, which conserves the battery. A Level 2 charger will power the battery in 2½ hours. Deliveries of the R/T will start next spring.

The 2023 Dodge Hornet R/T shows its bold styling in Pontiac on Tuesday, August 16, 2022.

The introduction of the PHEV comes as President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed into law legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act, which applies the electrified vehicle tax credit as a discount. Many available vehicles, however, won't qualify for the full $7,500 subsidy because of North American-made requirements for assembly and battery manufacturing.

"We priced the car we think competitively in the segment," Kuniskis said. "If you look at the segment, where it's placed in the segment from a PHEV standpoint, I don't think there's any concern there."

Final fuel economy specifications aren't completed, but Micky Bly, Stellantis' propulsion system chief, says it's expected to be around 70 mpg equivalency.

"You can imagine that from a CAFE point of view," Bly said, referring to Stellantis' corporate average fuel economy that ranks last among major manufacturers, "depending on the volume, it really starts balancing out the portfolio. It's a huge help."

The R/T comes standard with 18-inch Graphite Grey wheels, Dodge-branded Brembo front fixed calipers, dual exhaust and steering-mounted paddle shifters. Other driving features include Koni shocks, Brembo four-piston brake calipers and dynamic torque vectoring. There are seven available exterior colors.

The 2023 Dodge Hornet GT GLH Concept showcases available Direct Connection performance parts upgrades for the newest entry in the four-car Dodge vehicle lineup.
2023 Dodge Hornet GT GLH Concept

A $2,995 Track Pack package available on both trims offers 20-inch Abyss wheels, Brembos and upgraded suspension. The Dodge Hornet GT GLH Concept — a tribute to the Dodge Omni "Goes Like Hell" GLH produced in the mid-1980s — also sports available Direct Connection parts, including stage kits, lowered suspension and 20-inch wheels.

"The GLH exists because of these two cars," Kuniskis said, referring to the GT and R/T. "When you have these two cars carrying the weight for compliance, volume and profitability, then I don't really care about that one (the GLH). I can have a little fun with that."

The 2023 Dodge Hornet GLH as seen at the M1 Course in Pontiac on Tuesday, August 16, 2022.
Tim Kuniskis, Dodge brand chief, introduces the 2023 Dodge Hornet R/T during an event at M1 Concourse in Pontiac on Tuesday.

The Hornet name itself first was used on the Hudson Hornet in the 1950s, on the AMC Hornet in the 1970s and again in 2006 on a Dodge concept vehicle.

The 2023 Hornet's Android-based Uconnect 5 system with Inc.'s Alexa voice assistant and TomTom navigation is compatible with Wireless Android and Apple CarPlay connectivity. Harman Kardon supplies an option for a premium sound system with 14 speakers and a subwoofer. Level 2 automated features are available with intelligent speed assist with traffic sign recognition, driver attention assist and intelligent adaptive cruise control.

The 2023 Dodge Hornet GT GLH Concept.

Attendees of the Woodward Dream Cruise on Saturday will be able to see the Hornet at Dodge's display in Bloomfield Township near Pontiac. It'll also be shown at the North American International Auto Show at Detroit's Huntington Place next month.

On Wednesday, for the third day of Dodge's Speed Week reveals, the brand will share its much-anticipated electric muscle car concept.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble