Dodge prides itself in being America’s performance-first brand. But as we all know, performance is going through lots of changes these days. For Dodge, that means entering the small crossover segment and doing it the way only Dodge can!

If you don’t remember the Dodge Caliber, that’s okay; Dodge would probably rather that you didn’t. So, let’s just say this 2023 Dodge Hornet is the brand’s first serious entry into the ever-growing small crossover field.

Dodge claims it’s the quickest, fastest, and most powerful compact utility vehicle you can buy for less than 30-grand; and indeed, you’d have to look European and spend a lot more money to match the Hornet’s numbers. It starts with this base Hornet GT which outpowers anything else in the segment with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 outputting 268-horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque. It comes with standard all-wheel drive.

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Arriving not long after, will be the Hornet R/T with a smaller 1.3-liter turbo-4 engine, but gets a unique all-wheel drive setup with a 90-kW electric motor powering the rear wheels for a combined 383 lb-ft. of torque. And it’s a plug-in hybrid with a 15.5-kWh battery providing more than 30-miles of strictly EV driving. The PHEV gets a true 6-speed automatic transmission, while this GT works with a 9-speed.

To create the Hornet, Dodge did indeed begin in Europe, borrowing the Alfa Romeo Tonale’s chassis. But Hornet is mostly wrapped in its own bodywork, including an aggressive face with lots of air flow, a wide stance, functional hood vents, and a full width taillamp with an illuminated logo. And, as with the Hellcat, they’ve created a unique Hornet mascot to adorn the front fenders.

The interior is driver-focused, with tasteful amounts of chrome trim; and well outfitted with a 12-inch digital cockpit, and 10-inch touchscreen for Uconnect 5 both standard. “Plus” trim adds navigation, sunroof, and leather; while an optional Track Pack spices things up with red accents, Alcantara sport seats, aluminum trim, and a unique steering wheel. Those front sport seats are plenty comfortable, rear seats feel adequately spacious for a small crossover, and cargo space at 27.0 cubic-ft. in back and a seats folded max of 54.7 cubic-ft. is certainly on par for the segment.

2023 Dodge Hornet DashboardThe dashboard of the 2023 Dodge Hornet GT Plus.

Despite all of that, this Hornet’s real mission is to deliver a true sting of performance to small utes, so a trip to Mason Dixon Dragway was in order.

Our GT didn’t feel overly strong off the line, but once this Hornet got moving, it really flies. We hit 60 in just 5.8-seconds. Expect the R/T to be a second quicker. The 1-2 shift was strong, but then they seemed to lag a little more as we revved higher. The engine sounds very aggressive the whole time, and it was a speedy 14.5-second ¼-mile, finished at 95 miles-per-hour.

But Dodge didn’t design Hornet to be a straight-line, one hit wonder. So, Alfa’s athletic chassis was a great starting point. From there, they made Koni shocks standard. Plus, the available Track Pack adds upgraded brakes and 20-inch wheels. Now, it does take some effort to find the right tech settings, as initially, the stability systems were really holding us back. But once dialed in, the Hornet easily handles among class leaders. Steering was light, turn-ins were quick, and torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive effectively managed power distribution to allow us to throttle steer our way through the cones. Away from the track, the ride is definitely Euro-firm with the Track Pack’s 20s, but nothing unreasonable.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings with the 2.0-liter are 21-City, 29-Highway, and 24-Combined; we saw a good 25.2 miles-per-gallon average with Regular fuel. Factor in destination charges and you’re slightly over that $30,000 mark, with the base GT coming in at $31,590, Plus trim takes it to $36,590, and the R/T starts at $41,590.

Why a compact SUV? Well, that’s where the sales are these days, and if you’re Dodge and want to expand your lineup that had only 3 models, that’s where you need to be. Fortunately, Dodge did it in a way that’s totally jives with their performance first attitude. It may not have a HEMI, but this pint-sized performer truly delivers the muscle car vibe to the small crossover segment, and anyone in this HEMI-sphere can appreciate that.


  • Engine: 2.0-liter Turbo-4
  • Torque: 295 lb-ft.
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.5 seconds at 95 mph
  • EPA: 21 City / 29 Highway / 24 Combined
  • Horsepower: 268
  • 0-60 mph: 5.3 seconds
  • 60-0 Braking: 98 feet (avg)
  • MW Fuel Economy: 25.5 MPG (Regular)