Review: 2023 Dodge Hornet isn’t what we expected
The 2023 Dodge Hornet looked to be a decent entry into a popular vehicle segment. It’s relatively compact, looks nice and, on paper, has good numbers. But most of my colleagues have not been kind to the Hornet. However, I think they’re wrong.
At a Glance
- Not the most high-end interior feel
- Strong performance cred for the class
- PHEV is pretty pricey and probably not worth it
Most of the negativity around the 2023 Dodge Hornet has been either because of the name’s history or because of the expensive price tag for how low-cost the Hornet can feel. The former is just, in my mind, grandstanding. The Hudson Hornet has been gone for decades. It was never coming back. The latter is mainly due, I think, to the high price of the plug-in hybrid Hornet model. I’d personally steer clear of that. I said as much about the Hornet’s cousin, the Alfa Romeo Tonale, which is built on the same platform. At that price point, it’s worth just going into the luxury realm instead.
No, the Hornet is, instead, everything its maker is known for. Unlike the Tonale with its Italian trappings and quasi-Euro appeal, the Hornet is purely Dodge. Which means it’s more about what’s under the hood and how it makes you feel than it is about interior 'bling' and technology claims. Those red forward slashes aren’t about ergonomics, tech bling, or fuel economy. They’re about feeling faster than you should be.
The company that brought us Hellcats and Demons and tailpipe sounds that are almost as recognizable as Harley-Davidson is also delivering its own version of a compact utility. Unlike most entries in this segment, the Dodge Hornet actually has performance cred, even if it’s pretty light duty compared to the wicked cool Durango SRT. Pound-for-pound, though, it’s not too far off.
The 2023 Hornet has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 268 horsepower (197 kW) and 295 pound-feet (400 Nm). It does so relatively early in the RPM band – somewhere around 2,000. That runs to a pretty well-done nine-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive.
For the record, that’s 120 more horsepower (88 kW) than the 1951 Hornet with its two-barrel six. And it’s 100 more horses than near-comparables like the Honda HR-V and the Toyota Corolla Cross. In fact, the only real comparable in the Hornet’s class is the Mazda CX-30 at 250 hp (184 kW). You could also look at the Golf GTI, but that’s a much smaller hatchback.
Dodge says that this base engine in the 2023 Hornet will sprint to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 6.5 seconds. Our drive showed more like 7.5, but we were on public streets, and we are not professionals. The gap can be shortened if you use the PowerShot button, though. And the plug-in hybrid models can go even quicker, but at a price. There’s a US$10,000 difference between the base model Hornet GT and the lowest-trim PHEV RT. That’s a hefty jump that soon may not be eligible for US Federal tax credits, since the Hornet is made in Italy.
To be frank, we don’t think the price jump is worth it for the plug-in; the base model GT and GT Plus with their 2.0-litre turbo are great vehicles as is, and their outfitting and feel justify their $30,000-ish price points. And they’re pure Dodge – simple on the inside, good (but not fantastic) on technology, and punchy-quick, embodying the logo's iconic twin forward slashes. Add in Italian design elements for suspension and handling, this is a fun crossover for everyday driving.
That seems to be the point of the Hornet. Apart from the Mazda, there really isn’t another performance-centric compact crossover that isn’t in the luxury vehicle realm. Throw in one of the better color options (our white test model wasn’t one of those) and some aftermarket Hornet Super Bee badges (to replace the plain ones included) and you have a cool little ride.
Product Page: 2023 Dodge Hornet