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2023 Dodge Hornet detailed: US brand launches 'quickest, most powerful' small SUV ready to take on Hyundai Kona N and Volkswagen T-Roc R

Could the Hornet give Dodge a shot at the Australian market?

Dodge disappeared from Australia back in 2016 when the forgettable Journey brought the brand to its end. Now it’s poised to usher in a new electrified era started by the all-new 2023 Dodge Hornet.

It’s a US twist on the recently revealed Alfa Romeo Tonale, as the two Stellantis brands pool resources, but instead of focusing on its available plug-in hybrid powertrain as a fuel-saving attribute Dodge is selling it as a ‘PowerShot’.

According to the company this new compact SUV “opens [the] ‘gateway’ for enthusiasts to enter the Dodge Brotherhood of Muscle” as it tries to expand beyond its current focus on the Charger and Challenger muscle cars, which will be in run-out in 2023.

There are two models in the new range, the Hornet GT and Hornet R/T, the former is the entry-point while the latter is the hybrid flagship. 

The GT is powered by the brand’s new ‘Hurricane4’ 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that makes 195kW/400Nm, which Dodge claims makes it the most powerful SUV in its class.

But the Hornet R/T is “Head of the Hive”, combining a 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor to make 209kW/520Nm. And that’s not all, it also has a ‘PowerShot’ feature that provides an 18kW boost of performance for 15-seconds when needed. 

The company claims it “shaves one second off” its normal 0-60mph time and is activated by pulling both steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters at the same time and stepping on the throttle.

Dodge enters the small SUV ring with a serious performance promise.

Underneath there’s Koni shock absorbers and Brembo brakes to try and ensure the handling lives up to the performance under the bonnet.

Tim Kuniskis, Dodge brand CEO, is hopeful the new Hornet will both rejuvenate the brand’s small car sales but also lead it into its new electrified era.

“The Dodge brand’s electrified transformation has left the starting line, with the all-new Dodge Hornet R/T representing the first electrified performance vehicle from Dodge,” Mr Kuniskis said. “The Dodge Hornet is poised to jolt the mainstream compact utility vehicle segment with looks, feel and performance that are unmistakably Dodge. Hornet shakes up the status quo with aggressive Dodge styling, the most power in the segment from our multi-energy lineup, the best driving dynamics, a full lineup of segment-exclusive performance features, the best standard technology, as well available Direct Connection factory-backed performance upgrades. And this is just the start of the Dodge brand’s electrification journey.”

For Dodge, the Hornet represents a slice of its electrified future.

The key models for the brand will be its upcoming new-generation Charger and Challenger, which will switch from their popular V8 powered form to an all-electric future. These so-called 'eMuscle cars' will need to succeed for the brand to retain its core audience.

Both models were well-overdue for replacement with the pair dating back to the mid-2000s and the DaimlerChrysler era. 

The pair would also form the basis for any potential Australian re-launch, or at least that was the expectation eight years ago when Dodge departed. At the time getting access to a right-hand drive Charger and Challenger was seen as crucial to the brand’s acceptance here, and there’s yet to be any official comment from either Dodge HQ in Detroit or the local Stellantis arm if that’s a possibility.

Stephen Ottley
Contributing Journalist
Steve has been obsessed with all things automotive for as long as he can remember. Literally, his earliest memory is of a car. Having amassed an enviable Hot Wheels and Matchbox collection as a kid he moved into the world of real cars with an Alfa Romeo Alfasud. Despite that questionable history he carved a successful career for himself, firstly covering motorsport for Auto Action magazine before eventually moving into the automotive publishing world with CarsGuide in 2008. Since then he's worked for every major outlet, having work published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age,, Street Machine, V8X and F1 Racing. These days he still loves cars as much as he did as a kid and has an Alfa Romeo Alfasud in the garage (but not the same one as before... that's a long story).
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