Take a look at the new 2023 Dodge Hornet, the first compact SUV from the Dodge brand since the late, unloved Caliber left the showroom a decade ago. If it looks familiar, that’s because you might have already seen the new 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale, a compact SUV from Dodge’s sibling brand under the big Stellantis umbrella shown to the world a few months ago.
The Hornet is unabashedly based on the Tonale and is even made in the same Italian factory, according to Dodge brand head Tim Kuniskis, who spoke to the media at a private unveiling of the Hornet before it was shown to the public. “We started with what was already a really good car and injected it with Dodge DNA,” he said. “Why reinvent something, or add cost and complexity just to add something like a crease in the sheet metal to make it look different?”
Dodge is looking to go to areas of the super-hot, super-crowded compact crossover class that aren’t currently being played in by competitor brands. Dodge executives lamented that the top three customer wants for this segment according to their research are apparently “value,” “reliability” and “selling price”; “fun to drive” is 15th on this list, and “power and acceleration” ranked way down at 38th.
But Dodge doesn’t do boring or ordinary — this is the brand making 700-plus-horsepower cars and SUVs.
“We’re not a ‘need’ brand,” said Kuniskis, “we’re a ‘want’ brand. Nobody needs a Dodge — we’re the brand our customers want.” Recognizing they had to come to play with something different (perhaps taking some lessons learned from the short-lived rebirth of the Dart), Dodge made a hot-hatch crossover that’s meant to be fun to drive from the base model up to the most modded-out version your mind can cook up using the company’s Direct Connection online aftermarket parts seller.