EAST HADDAM, CT – Dodge is at a crossroads, and its Hornet crossover is a clear indicator of that. Having previously spun off its truck portfolio into RAM, the Detroit automaker actively repositioned itself. Dodge became America’s performance car and utility vehicle brand, with snarling V8s and Hemi engines. Until now.
As the industry shifts toward electrification, Dodge is being forced to reinvent itself. Flying stinger first into the fray is the Hornet crossover. It’s a model that has underpinnings from its Alfa Romeo Tonale corporate cousin. (They’re both made in Italy.)
The Hornet name, by the way, was previously used by American Motors and Hudson, which were historically part of the parent company Stellantis’ nest.
The all-new compact Hornet that I drove was a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). “The Dodge brand’s electrified transformation has left the starting line, with the Hornet R/T representing the first electrified performance vehicle from Dodge,” according to the company.
Performance, however, is a relative term.
The optional 1.3-liter, four-cylinder Turbo PHEV engine (known as the Fiat Chrysler Global Small Engine) with electric motor assist delivers 288 combined horsepower with 383 lb.-ft. torque. It drives through a 6-speed automatic transmission with e-AWD. With a 30+ hp on-demand PowerShot jolt (to achieve the 288), the Hornet goes from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds. All electric range is on the order of 32 miles for an overall total of 360.
While the R/T Plus edition I had did indeed provide some extra punch, it certainly wasn’t to be confused with a true Dodge muscle car. By comparison, a hard charging Dodge Charger can get down to 3.5 seconds for 0-60.
The Hornet is, however, the industry’s fastest compact PHEV with PowerShot engaged.
To ensure that the tractable Hornet puts the power to the pavement as it should, 20-inch alloy wheels and tires are included. It has adaptive Koni shock absorbers that include selective operating modes. It also has Brembo four-piston calipers with regenerative braking.
As you might imagine, available packages abound. There’s a Blacktop Package ($1,595) which includes gloss black mirrors, window surrounds and Abyss Finish wheels. There’s the Tech Pack ($2,245) provides Intelligent Speed Assist, Active Driving Assist, Surround-View Cameras, Drowsy Driver Detection and Park Assist.
There’s also a Track Pack ($2,595) with black Alcantara sport seats and red accents, aluminum door sills, sport leather steering wheel, bright pedals, red-painted brake calipers and more. Lastly, you can get a Cold Weather Package with heated front seats, heated steering wheel and remote start.
While it can obviously be extensively outfitted, the Dodge Hornet also delivers a bit of contradiction when it comes to customer convenience. For example, its PHEV charging cable is extremely long, which comes in quite handy when trying to reach a distant 110V outlet. Manufacturers recommend against using extension cords in such situations.
Meanwhile, the windshield wiper control switch is rather user-unfriendly and the steering column-mounted shift paddles are so close to the wheel that they serve as knuckle busters when taking a turn.
After buzzing about in a Hot Tamale red Hornet R/T for a week, the good news is that this 2024 Dodge clearly attracts its fair share of attention. Considering the girl at the fast food drive-thru who exclaimed, “That car is awesome. What is it?” as she was hanging out of the service window.
The bad news at $44,995 to start and optioned out at $52,305 with the Plus trim level, I doubt she’d be able to afford an R/T.
There is, however, a non-electrified, entry-level Hornet GT that starts at $31,400. It features a 2.0-liter, Hurricane four-cylinder gasoline engine with 268 horsepower and a 9-speed automatic. Unfortunately, though, you’ll still get stung because it, too, runs on “Recommended” premium fuel.
From my perspective, the 2024 Hornet R/T PHEV proved to be a capable, compact crossover with just the right size and stance. It’s quiet, comfortable, competent and curvaceous.
The interior is spacious enough, outward visibility is good and for utmost practicality, the split rear seat folds easily. There’s also a bit of storage beneath the five-door trunk floor. With two available powertrains, there should be a Hornet for every hive.
Dodge says that up to $7,000 in Federal Tax Credits are available when the PHEV is leased. So like the drive-thru burger business, you can always “have it your way.”
(Photos courtesy of Dodge unless otherwise noted.)