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A yellow 2023 Dodge Hornet is shown from the rear.

2023 Dodge Hornet Buyer’s Guide

When the Ram truck line separated from the Dodge brand in 2010, it was to allow Dodge to focus on performance vehicles with plenty of muscle. The first thing that comes to mind when someone says “high performance” probably isn’t a compact crossover, but that’s exactly what Dodge delivers with the all-new 2023 Dodge Hornet. A far cry from the wide range of tepid compact models out there, the Hornet is built on an Alfa Romeo platform and packed with incredible power. I won’t say it will replace the Charger or Challenger for folks looking to buy a muscle car, but if you want a compact crossover that doesn’t feel dull to drive, then this is definitely one you need to check out.

Two Engine Options: Powerful Dodge Performance

One of the biggest drawbacks to choosing a small crossover is that you’re typically stuck with a weak, mediocre engine that’s far from thrilling. Since these are small, lightweight models, they don’t need a ton of power to get from point A to point B, but there’s a world of difference between just getting where you need to go and enjoying the drive. The 2023 Dodge Hornet delivers in a huge way, with two engines to choose from in its inaugural year, both of which will provide you with a fantastic driving experience that’s actually fun.

Although more trims will come in the future, and we could see more engine options, Dodge has provided two main trims with two engines for the launch of the Hornet. The standard option is the Hornet GT, which features a turbocharged 2.0L I-4 that delivers 265 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, ensuring you have a fantastic time behind the wheel. The Hurricane4 powerplant comes with a 9-speed automatic transmission and makes the Hornet GT the most powerful crossover starting under $30k with a best-in-class power-to-weight ratio. Class-exclusive Brembo four-piston brakes are available on the GT but come standard on the next trim.

The GT is a great place to start, but the Hornet R/T is getting most of the attention. Going with the R/T, you get a 1.3L Turbo engine joined by a 90-kW electric motor to make this Dodge’s first Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). This engine boosts the Hornet’s power to a combined 285 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, and it comes paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission that’s smooth and responsive. As a PHEV, the Hornet R/T has about 30 miles of all-electric range, so you can run errands or get through your daily commute without touching the gas tank. When it’s time to recharge, it should take about two-and-a-half hours using a Level 2 charger.

In case that wasn’t enough, every Dodge Hornet, regardless of trim and engine choice, comes standard with All-Wheel Drive (AWD). This is perfect for bold performance and excellent handling, and it lives up to the kind of functionality and daily-driving needs you expect from a crossover. I’ll be honest: I was a bit skeptical about a compact crossover fitting into the image of muscle that Dodge wants to project, but the specs speak for themselves. The Hornet is a welcome addition and demonstrates how “muscle” can mean more than what we expect from something like the Challenger.

The black interior of a 2023 Dodge Hornet shows the steering wheel.

A Gorgeous and Innovative Interior

The 2023 Dodge Hornet isn’t just about raw performance; this is a compact crossover that has to compete with models like the Mazda CX-30. Inside the Hornet, you’ll find one of the most comfortable and innovative interiors that Dodge has ever offered. Based on its shared platform with the Alfa Romeo Tonale, there’s probably more room up front than for rear-seat passengers, but that’s to be expected in a compact model like this. It’s perfect if you have kids who ride in the back or if you primarily use your backseat as added cargo space for loading up for the weekend.

It’s clear that comfort and convenience were at the forefront when Dodge was designing the interior of the Hornet: black upholstery with red stitching is standard, and the interior feels like it wraps around the driver. The infotainment display and controls on the center console are slightly angled toward the driver to make them easier to reach and use without taking your attention off the road. Luxury is also readily available, with the GT and R/T Plus trims outfitted with leather upholstery and the optional Track Pack adding faux-suede for extra richness. You can also choose a red-leather interior if you prefer. Altogether, your options let you create a cabin you can’t wait to get back into.

Technology features throughout the interior are also incredibly impressive, starting with a 12.3-inch digital gauge display that comes standard on every model. You don’t have to pay more to get the kind of experience that you deserve when you sit behind the wheel, something I can’t say about every compact crossover out there. That display is joined by a 10.25-inch infotainment display that utilizes the latest Uconnect 5 software, a standard feature on every Dodge for 2023. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are also standard. The Plus trims add to these features with a best-in-class 14-speaker Harman-Kardon sound system for an unbeatable driving experience.

A blue 2023 Dodge Hornet is shown from the side.

The Best Safety Features in the Dodge Lineup

In looking at the all-new Hornet, Dodge appeals to drivers with a family or a significant other who still want a fun driving experience. The key to that, which I think they’ve nailed, is providing excellent functionality and a safe ride that happens to have a fantastic engine packed into it. Toward that end, Dodge has fitted the Hornet with the best selection of standard safety features in their lineup.

For starters, every model includes Automatic Emergency Braking to help you avoid a collision or lessen the damage if one is unavoidable. The Lane Support System alerts you when you’re starting to drift from your lane and uses automatic counter steering to make subtle adjustments if you fail to respond or correct the Hornet’s lane position. Blind Spot Detection is also standard on every Hornet, warning you when someone is lurking where you can’t see them, and works with Rear Cross Path Detection to alert you when someone’s about to pass behind you while you’re backing up.

There are also a few available options if you want your Hornet to be even safer. The available Tech Pack includes Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control and Intelligent Speed Assist with Traffic Sign Recognition for enhanced cruising performance and Driver Attention Assist to warn you when it appears your attention is faltering, perhaps because you’re getting drowsy. You can also choose Semi-Automatic Parking to make parking easier and a 360-degree Surround View Camera for a virtual look around your vehicle. Whether you stick with the standard features or opt for the available upgrades, there’s no denying that the Hornet packs a lot of protection with all of its muscle.

Prepare to Enter the Hornet’s Nest

As you can see, the 2023 Dodge Hornet brings together a fantastic combination of raw power, innovative technology, and advanced safety to create a compact crossover quite unlike any other. This is an interesting move for Dodge. I would’ve expected a new muscle option rather than something to join the Durango, but there’s no denying the popularity of SUVs these days. Still, the Hornet has a lot to offer, and it will be a fantastic option for many drivers. If you’re ready to join the hive and jump into the Hornet, then head to your local Dodge dealer to see it for yourself.