Seeing an American automotive brand not playing in the lucrative compact crossover segment is like seeing a supermarket refusing to sell bread and milk — they’re missing out on a whole lotta customers. Dodge has been conspicuously absent from this market, while even corporate cousin Jeep makes bank with its offerings. That changes today with the introduction of the Dodge Hornet.

Taking more than a few styling cues from other rigs in the Dodge lineup, this Hornet will have two powertrain options. A gasoline-fuelled 2.0L turbocharged four from the Hurricane family will make 265 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque in GT trims; while the R/T will get an electrified plug-in hybrid plant utilizing a 1.3L mill paired with a rear-axle-mounted electric motor, plus a belt/starter generator and 15.5-kWh battery.

Those gubbins are good for 288 horsepower and a stout 383 lb-ft of twist, though the latter number is given as “installed” torque (199 lb-ft in the ICE; and 183 in the e-Motor) and not as a peak number. We’ll reserve judgment until we drive it. The gasser gets a nine-speed automatic, while the PHEV has six cogs. All-wheel-drive is standard across the board and, if you’re wondering, the PHEV weighs 425 lbs more than the gasser — 275 lbs of that is the battery. It’ll be able to run approximately 48 kilometres (30 miles) on electricity only, in the right conditions.

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2023 Dodge Hornet GT Photo by Dodge

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2023 Dodge Hornet GT Photo by Dodge

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2023 Dodge Hornet GT Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet GT Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet GT Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet Photo by Dodge

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2023 Dodge Hornet Photo by Dodge

In keeping with the Dodge M.O. of lairy driving habits, the R/T will get a so-called PowerShot feature, which permits the battery to dump more power – about 25 extra horses – into the equation at the push of a button for about 15 seconds. This allegedly shaves about one second off acceleration times and is available when the battery is at proper temp and more than 50-per-cent charged. Feel free to mash the button again after a 15-second refractory period. Incidentally, the head honcho at Dodge, Tim Kuniskis, told this outlet that “every electrified Dodge will have the PowerShot” feature, meaning future EVs and PHEVs will also have some iteration of this entertaining go-fast button.

Topping the range is the Hornet GLH, a thinly veiled concept based on the GT and paying homage to the original Omni GLH (Goes Like Hell) of the mid-1980s. This so-called concept has said ‘yes’ to large swaths of the Direct Connection catalog, including a suspension lowering kit and unrestricted dual exhaust. A smattering of visual cues further separates it from the pack. Dodge won’t talk horsepower other than to say it beats the old ’80s Omni’s power-to-weight ratio, a figure we researched and found to be roughly 14.63 lbs/hp. A stock Hornet GT has 268 hp and a listed curb weight of 3,715 lbs, sums which already beat the old GLH (13.86 lbs/hp in the modern car). We’ll put the over/under on GLH horsepower at 295 ponies, besting both the GT and R/T.

Outside, the Hornet takes many design cues from the current Dodge family, including its full-width taillamps and a set of angry headlights. The company ‘Rhombi’ logo is set dead-centre in the frowny-face mail-slot grille, a strange decision given its offset location on other Dodge rigs — not to mention it draws the viewer’s eye as if it were a red blemish. Kuniskis insists only its doors are comparable to the Alfa Romeo Tonale’s, a machine with which it will share its country of assembly. Bene grazie.

Inside, look for more Dodge calling cards like centre-stack controls and display screens subtly tipped toward the driver, plus red stitching accents and available Alcantara seats. Red leather is on tap for all you extroverts in the audience (*raises hand*). A standard 12.3-inch digital cockpit cluster screen and standard 10.25-inch Uconnect 5 infotainment system bring the goods in terms of visual tech, packing wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It can also be connected to your Amazon account so Jeff Bezos can know your music preference you can ask Alexa to start the car or close the garage door.

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet GT Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet GT Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet GT Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet GT Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet GT Photo by Dodge

amazon, android

2023 Dodge Hornet Photo by Dodge

Certain trim packages will have a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. Typical driving aids, such as automatic emergency braking, are on tap, as is an optional system which can be classified as Level 2 autonomy thanks to its intelligent speed assist, which supports stop-and-go traffic.

Pricing is critical in this cutthroat segment, and the only Canadian figure disclosed by Dodge is to say the GT will be priced “under $40,000.” We do know more south of the border, where GT trims will start at US$29,995, with the R/T costing a cool $10,000 extra. Customers can add a Plus suffix to those trims for five grand, bringing the likes of leather seats and other toys. Prices and feature mix may change for Canada, of course.

The 2023 Dodge Hornet will be built at the Giambattista Vico Stellantis plant in Pomigliano d’Arco, Naples, Italy. The GT trim will open for orders August 17 and begin arriving in dealers later this year, while the electrified R/T is scheduled to hit showrooms in spring 2023.

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