2023 Dodge Hornet GT Review: Spunky class leader


Dodge certainly reached back a bit into history to find a name for this smallish crossover SUV. The sporty Hudson Hornet was built from 1951 to 1954, and the not-so-sporty AMC Hornet from 1970 to 1977. Whatever Dodge’s reasoning for the name choice, this SUV couldn’t arrive at a better time.

With the reassignment of its trucks to the Ram stable, Dodge has only the Hornet, the Durango, the Charger, and the Challenger in its showroom. The V-8-powered Challenger and Charger are expiring after this year, and the next Durango, or whatever its replacement is called, will likely be all-electric or hybrid. So the little Hornet—it’s about 178 inches long, compared to the 185-inch Honda CR-V and 181-inch Toyota RAV4—has a lot of Dodge’s weight on its shoulders.

The Hornet GT gives Dodge its first really competitive smaller car since the hatchback PT Cruiser, which was technically a Chrysler. That car was followed by the unloved Dodge Caliber and the even-less-loved Dodge Dart, which came and went so quickly you’d think Dodge wanted us to forget it—and you’d be correct.

2023 Dodge Hornet GT in Acapulco Gold overhead

You’ll have to take our word that the Hornet is a Dodge, since the brand name appears nowhere on the outside of the vehicle. It’s built in Naples, Italy, a fact explained by the build location of its corporate cousin, the 2024 Alfa-Romeo Tonale, which is just now hitting the show floors of Alfa dealers.

The Hornet GT reviewed here is powered by a 2.0-liter, 268-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder, coupled to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The yet-to-be-released Hornet R/T is a different story, essentially the same one as the Tonale. Both the R/T and the base Tonale are plug-in hybrids, powered by a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder aided by an electric motor. The model release is staggered the gas-only Hornet GT arrives first, the Tonale second, the Hornet R/T third. (The Tonale comes only as a hybrid.)

Fortunately, even the entry-level Hornet is a capable vehicle. Styling is handsome from any angle; there’s really no Dodge family resemblance, because Dodge vehicles no longer have much of a family to resemble.

The base GT model gets you a lot for $31,390 (that figure includes a $1595 destination charge, one of the highest we’ve seen). Every Hornet variant is all-wheel-drive, a feature for which most manufacturers of small SUVs charge a premium. You get the same engine and transmission on the base Hornet as on our $41,710 tester. (Ours ran fine on regular gas, by the way, though premium is recommended by the manufacturer.) GT Plus, the trim level of our test Hornet, adds leather seats and a navigation system.

2023 Dodge Hornet GT interior front dash full

Specs: 2023 Dodge Hornet GT Plus

  • Price: $34,995 / $41,810 (base / as-tested)
  • Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbo-four; nine-speed automatic transmission
  • Output: 268 hp, 295 lb-f. of torque
  • Layout: Four-door, five-passenger, unibody crossover
  • Weight: 3715 pounds
  • EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city /28 mpg highway / 24 mpg combined
  • 0 to 60 mph: 6.6 seconds
  • Rivals: Mazda CX-50, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4

Our model had the Tech Package ($2245) which adds, among other features, a surround-view camera, parking assist, Intelligent Speed Assist, and Active Driving Assist—pretty much all the electronic safety features that higher-priced vehicles have. It also had the Track Pack ($2995) which adds black Alcantara upholstery with red accents, a dual-mode suspension, aluminum-trimmed pedals, a leather-covered steering wheel, red Brembo brake calipers, aluminum door sills, and 20-inch wheels in the Abyss finish, which apparently means “dark.” (Seventeen-inch tires and wheels come as standard.)

With Acapulco Gold paint, a $595 option (black and white are the only colors that don’t cost extra), it was a very pretty vehicle. Bottom line: $41,810. Quite a distance from that $31K base price, sure, but a very well-equipped vehicle.

2023 Dodge Hornet GT interior front side view

So how well does the Hornet work? Surprisingly well, in almost every area. The engine is not as smooth as many of its rivals’ four-cylinders, but the 2.0-liter isn’t a nuisance. And there’s plenty of power, thanks both to the engine and the busy nine-speed automatic transmission, which we prefer to the CVTs that populate some of the Hornet’s competitors.

Handling with the Track Pack is precise and firm, only slightly uncomfortable on the roughest pavement. All-wheel drive is always welcome, and the Hornet’s system cuts down on understeer in sharp corners, something to which the front-wheel-drive competition is prone. The Hornet is sure-footed and fun on winding roads, but it’s at home in stop-and-go traffic, too. Highway ride is quite good for the vehicle’s size. Brakes and steering feel are fine.

2023 Dodge Hornet GT in Acapulco Gold high angle wide

Inside, the cockpit is modern and the layout reasonably intuitive. A 10.25-inch touchscreen display handles the navigation system and other as-expected functions. Front seats are comfortable, with adequate elbow room, but the rear seats are more cramped than in most of the Hornet’s competition: Don’t expect many volunteers to ride in the middle. Rear cargo room in the Hornet is 27 cubic feet in the hybrid R/T, that figure falls to just 22.9. Towing capacity is 2000 pounds, enough for a small trailer or a Jet Ski.

Really, there isn’t much to complain about with the Hornet at any price point. We’ll miss the Challenger and Charger, but we’re curious to see what else Dodge is hiding behind the curtain.

2023 Dodge Hornet GT Plus

Highs: Prodigious power, sharp handling, attractive styling.

Lows: Unimpressive fuel economy, slightly cramped rear seat and storage compartment, engine a bit raucous.

Takeaway: Dodge finally—finally!—gets a decent small vehicle to sell.




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    Does these Hornets come in other exterior colors & wheels other than black ?
    This goldish color is hoorrrrid & I have never liked black wheels. ( must be the masses don’t like to see brake dust) How about that bright brilliant red that Mazda has & burnished wheels, that would be one good looking ride !!

    I have a CTS-V with black wheels. Rest assured, you can see brake dust on black wheels. I’ll wash the car, drive it down the block and you can already see dust on the wheels.

    Compared to the Ciuntryman tested just below this review it’s; “ Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”

    Only loses on mileage to the mini.

    Finally Dodge has a decent small vehicle to sell. Small? 3715 lbs. doesn’t seem so small to me. Does anyone build a small lightweight vehicle anymore? With the coming EVs the weight of vehicles will go up even more. How about a basic vehicle without all the electronic wizardry, simple interior, maybe even (gasp) a manual transmission, light and fun to drive. Oh well, I can dream.

    Nice to see that its comes in colour, even if that gold likely wouldn’t be my first choice. But a world better then the usual black, white, silver or grey. Kinda shocking that its what’s considered a small car nowadays. How much better would this be if it was just a 500 lb lighter small station wagon.

    If this is a represention of Dodge’s future then they are going to be in big trouble. This little thing looks like every other suv thing running around out there. My prediction is this car will go nowhere.

    Interesting review. Had a caliber and loved it. Interested in Hornet ’cause it looks very much like the caliber. Why the delay on the plug in hybrid. Need a car soon. Will look at the Rogue

    The wifey picked one up three weeks ago. So far it’s been very practical to us. The 2.0 Turbo engine along with the 9 speed AWD is awesome here in the Island of Enchantment. We were raised Mopar. 1948 Plymouth Deluxe, 1961 Dodge Pioneer, 1969 Plymouth Satellite, 1993 Chrysler Town & Country, 2017 JK, 2017 RAM 1500.

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