2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Review and Test Drive: Style and Efficiency
Turbo performance and plug-in hybrid efficiency with an Italian twist.
The Dodge Hornet is an all-new compact crossover SUV positioned as an entry-level vehicle in the brand's small existing lineup. Besides focusing on performance, the Hornet shares nothing with Dodge's current models. It is, however, a close cousin of the brand-new Alfa Romeo Tonale.
With the Hornet, Dodge enters the PHEV crossover segment, a rapidly growing market in the automotive industry. In addition, the most potent Hornet models feature a plug-in hybrid powertrain, making it Dodge's first electrified vehicle since the short-lived Durango Hybrid of 2009. The Hornet is a critical bridge for Dodge to travel as it transitions to a more electrified future.
The all-new Dodge Hornet comes in GT, GT Plus, R/T, and R/T Plus trim levels. The gas-powered 2023 Hornet GT and GT Plus are on sale now, with the Hornet R/T and R/T Plus plug-in hybrids joining the lineup as 2024 models later this year. Base prices range from the low $30,000s to the mid-$40,000s, including the $1,595 destination charge to ship the SUV to your local dealership from the Giambattista Vico Stellantis factory in Naples, Italy.
That pricing range puts the Dodge Hornet R/T into premium territory, with rivals that include the Buick Envision and Mazda CX-50. Larger alternatives such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento also overlap with the Hornet and offer their own plug-in hybrid powertrains.
For this review, I test-drove a 2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Plus in Asheville, North Carolina. It came with the Blacktop package, Tech Pack, and Track Pack, bringing the manufacturer's suggested retail price to $52,405, including the $1,595 destination charge. Dodge provided the vehicle for this Hornet review and paid for airfare, lodging, and meals during the evaluation period.
2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Review: The Design
No shrinking violet, the new Hornet draws its visual cues from existing Dodge muscle machines. As a result, the Hornet looks like a junior Dodge Charger sedan from the front, with a mail-slot grille, functional dual hood vents, and a Durango-style wide-mouth lower fascia. The black-out trim continues around the rocker panels and large wheel openings, culminating at the rear with a black lower fascia punctuated by large-bore dual exhaust outlets.
At the rear, the Hornet gives off a hot-hatch vibe with a roof spoiler, wraparound tail lamps, and a full-width light bar with an illuminated dual-slash Dodge Rhombi insignia. It's a lot for such a small vehicle, but the Hornet manages to pull it off.
The loaded Hornet R/T Plus test vehicle had the optional Blacktop package, which includes gloss-black-finish 18-inch alloy wheels, mirror caps, window trim, and badges. Dodge also fitted my Hornet with the extra-cost Track Pack. In addition to upgraded interior trim and dual-stage suspension damping, the Track Pack adds larger Brembo brakes with red calipers and Michelin Pilot all-season performance tires on larger black 20-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, the Hornet R/T benefits from its association with the Alfa Romeo Tonale. As a result, the materials are a cut above the usual compact SUV fare, with plenty of soft-touch, padded, and wrapped surfaces on the dashboard and door trim. In addition, leather covers the shifter and heated, flat-bottom steering wheel.
The amply bolstered front bucket seats, heated and power-adjustable in the R/T Plus, provided generous thigh and lower torso support and were plenty comfortable during my three-hour test drive. The R/T Plus comes standard with ventilated leather upholstery, but my Track Pack-optioned test vehicle swapped them for grippy, perforated Alcantara suede.
In the aft section, passengers sit on a relatively flat bench seat, but I managed to slide my 6-foot-2-inch frame back there without feeling jammed into the Hornet. The rear seatback has a 60/40-split design, a fold-down center armrest with cup holders, and a center pass-through that could be used when hauling skis.
The Hornet's control and display layout is driver-centric, with the center controls, console, and infotainment screen angled slightly toward the driver. The configurable digital instrumentation panel measures 12.3 inches and features large, easy-to-read gauges and clear, bright graphics. Seven available themes adjust the appearance of the content or change with the Hornet's drive modes. There is even a mode that maximizes the navigation map within the display. Switchgear, such as the physical controls for the standard dual-zone automatic climate control system, conveys a high-quality, tactile feel.
Storage up front is passable but not great. There are bottle holders in the doors, a decent-size glovebox, an adequate cubby under the center armrest, and a pair of cupholders on the console. A small tray for odds and ends lives ahead of the shifter, but it also serves as a wireless smartphone charger in the R/T Plus. Unfortunately, the space barely accommodates today's larger phones.
At 22.9 cu-ft behind the rear seat and 50.5 cu-ft with the back seat folded flat, the Hornet R/T's cargo space is more like what you'd find in a small hatchback car than a compact SUV. The R/T loses about 4.0 cu-ft of cargo space compared to the base Hornet GT due to the placement of the R/T's lithium-ion hybrid battery, electric drive motor, and other hybrid system controls under the cargo floor.
Nevertheless, there's room for as many as three airline carry-on bags behind the R/T's rear seat. The Hornet has no spare tire, instead using a tire sealant kit and electric inflator stowed under the cargo floor. The underfloor space is sufficient to stash the R/T plug-in hybrid's AC charge cord and a few small items.
2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Review: The Technology
The Hornet R/T has a standard Uconnect 5 infotainment system with a 10.3-inch touchscreen. Highlights include Bluetooth connectivity for two devices simultaneously, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a complimentary trial subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio, and subscription-based connected services, including access to an in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot.
With R/T Plus trim, an embedded navigation system is standard and can supply turn-by-turn instructions within the digital instrumentation panel. This version of the Hornet also upgrades the R/T model's base six-speaker stereo to a terrific 14-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system with immersive sound and excellent clarity.
Uconnect 5 is one of the most straightforward infotainment systems to learn and use. It offers bright graphics and responds quickly to your input. The screen layout is logical, with shortcut tabs for media, phone, climate control, navigation, and vehicle settings. And if you go wandering through on-screen menus and get lost, push the dedicated Home button at the top left of the screen. Unfortunately, Dodge does not provide volume or tuning knobs adjacent to the screen, but you can use steering wheel controls for these functions.
Setting up Uconnect 5 was a breeze. Upon starting the vehicle, the system immediately recognized my phone, prompted me to pair it, and asked if I wanted to use Android Auto. The native voice-recognition system delivered helpful and accurate responses to most of my spoken commands.
As far as safety features, the Hornet R/T comes standard with a segment-competitive collection of advanced driver assistance systems. They include adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high-beam headlights. Rear parking assist sensors are also standard.
My test vehicle's optional Tech Pack added Active Driving Assist, a Level 2 semi-autonomous driving assist system. Level 2 means this is a hands-on system, so you cannot remove your hands from the steering wheel while using it. It groups adaptive cruise control, lane-centering assist, and low-speed Traffic Jam Assist functions to aid the driver during highway travel.
The Tech Pack also includes a traffic sign recognition system, a driver monitoring system that checks for drowsy or inattentive drivers, front and side parking sensors, and a surround-view camera. In addition, a semi-autonomous parking-assist system is part of this package. It's able to steer the Hornet into parallel and perpendicular parking spaces while the driver operates the shifter, brake pedal, and accelerator.
North Carolina's twisty mountain roads were great for evaluating the Hornet R/T's dynamic capabilities but did not give me much of an opportunity to test out the driver-assistance system. The Hornet has some significant blind spots due to the SUV's sloping roof, upswept rear roof pillars, and angled rear glass. Nevertheless, driving in town made me appreciate the SUV's blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear park-assist sensors, and the test vehicle's available surround-view camera.
Because the Dodge Hornet is a new model just going on sale, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had published crash-test results as I wrote this review. Check the
2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Review: The Drive
As the more powerful of the two Hornet models, the R/T offers as much as 288 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. The plug-in gas-electric powertrain consists of a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a belt-drive electric starter/generator attached to the engine, and a rear-axle electric motor. All-wheel drive is standard, with the gas engine and electric belt starter/generator powering the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission and the electric motor driving the rear wheels.
While the R/T's total output trumps the Hornet GT base model's 268-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine, it's important to note a distinction. To access the Hornet R/T's 288 horsepower, you must use the SUV's Power Shot mode, which supplies an added 30 horsepower from the rear electric motor for 15 seconds.
You can activate Power Shot by selecting the Sport driving mode, pulling back on both steering-wheel paddles, and depressing the accelerator past a physical detent. Using Power Shot mode, Dodge says the Hornet R/T can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, shaving 1.5 seconds off the standard 7.1-second run to 60 mph. It's a fun exercise, but you can't select Power Shot repeatedly due to concerns about overheating the rear electric motor.
So, despite the ample power the Hornet R/T offers, don't go looking for any Hemi-powered Dodge Chargers to mess with at a stoplight. Instead, think of the Hornet R/T as an engaging compact crossover SUV with ample power, all-wheel-drive traction, and nicely balanced handling thanks to its impressive 52:48 front-to-rear rear weight balance.
There's also a plug-in hybrid story here, with Dodge promising more than 30 miles of electric-only range from the 15.5-kWh lithium-ion battery. Moreover, the gas-electric hybrid drivetrain will almost certainly give the R/T better fuel economy than the base Hornet GT gas engine. That said, final EPA estimates were unavailable as I wrote this review. Check the
How long does it take to recharge the Hornet R/T? Dodge says you can replenish an empty battery in about 2.5 hours using a 240-volt AC power source, the onboard 7.4-kW charging module, and the included cord. Of course, you can expect the same using a Level 2 public charging station. But don't forget that you can drive a Hornet R/T without ever plugging it in, thanks to its turbocharged gas engine. If you're going to do that, however, you might as well just get a Hornet GT.
On the road, the Hornet R/T Plus with the optional Track Pack offered surprisingly good balance and grip from the optional Michelin Pilot Sport 235/40R-20 all-season performance tires. I appreciated these dynamic traits on my drive route, which took me on miles and miles of twisting roads through the Pisgah National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Then again, if this chassis is good enough to underpin the next Alfa Romeo, it's an unexpected gift in a new small Dodge.
The Track Pack includes dual-stage dampers that provide firmer vertical body control when the R/T's Sport mode is active. Choosing the Sport mode also slightly firms up the R/T's steering effort. Otherwise, the Hornet R/T's electric steering offers precise control and good response, although not much road feedback. In Sport mode, the rear wheels benefit from dynamic torque vectoring, which helps minimize understeer in the curves.
The Hornet R/T's standard Brembo four-piston fixed brake calipers give the small SUV confident, fade-free stopping power from speed. In addition, a brake-by-wire setup helps deliver pinpoint top-of-pedal response and natural feel and modulation.
In the cabin, road noise is minimal despite the grippy tires. Dodge resisted the temptation to pipe in a synthetic engine sound through the audio speakers, so the brand's returning buyers accustomed to the rumble of a V8 will have to settle for the organic sound of a smaller four-cylinder.
Is the 2024 Dodge Hornet R/T a Good SUV?
Dodge has not successfully sold smaller vehicles in this century yet. For the most part, the brand's most memorable and profitable products have been larger ones, usually with a massive Hemi V8 stuffed into the engine compartment. But the upcoming electrification wave is shaking things up, and launching an all-new vehicle in the fast-growing compact SUV segment is an excellent place for Dodge to start its transformation to its electric future.
But does the Hornet R/T's muscular styling write a check the small SUV's performance and dynamics can't cash? In my opinion, the new Dodge Hornet is sufficiently zippy to appeal to hot-hatch buyers thanks to its turbo-four powertrain and standard all-wheel drive. Moreover, once the official EPA numbers are available, the Hornet R/T's plug-in hybrid system will likely offer a compelling fuel-economy story. Still, a Hornet R/T is no quicker than a Ford Escape ST with a 2.0-liter turbo-four, and a Toyota RAV4 Prime smokes it in a zero-to-60-mph drag race while traveling farther on electricity. And at an as-tested price north of $50,000, the Hornet's value equation is questionable.
Instead of outright performance, what makes the new Hornet R/T appealing is its sporty style, electric-only driving range, attractively equipped cabin, flexible cargo space, and competitive safety and infotainment technologies. A pedigree shared with Alfa Romeo might also attract some people to this new Dodge.