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While we wait for a Dodge EV, the Hornet R/T plug-in is the next best thing

Dodge Hornet R/T Three Quarter View
Dodge Hornet R/T
MSRP $31,000.00
“The Dodge Hornet R/T proves that Dodge has a lot to offer without the Challenger.”
Pros
  • Quick acceleration
  • Comfortable interior
  • Nice overall design
  • Plug-in hybrid option
Cons
  • Not very roomy
  • Low electric range
  • PHEV powertrain adds cost

Dodge is going through some changes. Once known for the Dodge Charger, the brand is now on the hunt for an all-new hero car that can prove that it can survive in an increasingly electrified world. It has yet to introduce a fully electric car to the world. Rumors point to the possibility of a fully electric Charger, but in the meantime, some hope the plug-in hybrid Dodge Hornet can pave the way for Dodge’s future.

Starting at $31,400 in its basic, gas-only form, the Hornet is built to sell. It’s a small crossover like many of the best-selling cars in the U.S. It has some of those much-loved Dodge design cues and even has a little muscle to it. The R/T model, which adds the plug-in drivetrain, is new for this year and brings the price up to $41,400.

But there’s a little more to it than that, too. The car does a lot of things right, but not everything. It’s fun to drive but perhaps not the most practical to own. The base model Hornet GT doesn’t necessarily break the bank, but it ends up in the same territory as competitors like the $43,440 Toyota RAV4 Prime, $39,490 Kia Sportage Plug-in, and $41,995 Ford Escape Plug-in.

Design and interior

The Dodge Hornet R/T is a compact crossover and a good-looking car. I find the overall look of it to be slightly awkward, but it’s far from ugly.

A frontal view of a Dodge Hornet R/T.
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

A large bottom grille sits below slim, angled headlights on the front, with that dual-line Dodge emblem in the center. The entire car looks a little angled towards the front there, which I quite like — it helps make it feel a little sportier.

Apart from that, there’s not a whole lot to note about the exterior design of the Hornet R/T.

The interior, however, is very nice. Our review is the so-called Dodge Hornet R/T Plus, which, among other things, gives it an option for Red Leather Seats, which came on ours. The red leather is very nice, and I really like the splash of color. That’s not to mention the fact that they’re quite comfortable, too.

The rear seats of a Dodge Hornet R/T in red leather.
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

Despite being labeled a crossover, the Dodge Hornet is smaller than you might expect. The second-row seats don’t have much room, and taller people will have trouble remaining comfortable back there for extended periods. In the trunk, you’ll get 27 cubic feet of storage space, which, again, is fine but not huge. Don’t take the label of “crossover” to mean that there’s a lot of space here. There isn’t.

Tech, infotainment, and driver assist

The infotainment system on offer here isn’t much to write home about, but it’s still fine. The car comes with a 10.3-inch infotainment screen, which is a decent size, though a little below average in 2023. Thankfully, the car supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so you won’t have to use Dodge’s software if you don’t want to. The car comes with Amazon Alexa connectivity standard, too.

That’s good news because the software is fine at best. The software is the Uconnect 5 system, which is used in other Stellantis cars from the likes of Chrysler and Ram. It looks a little dated and can be a little confusing to navigate, not to mention the fact that it’s very slow. Even switching drive modes took a second or two to show on the screen, leading me to cycle past the mode I was trying to select and press the button a few more times.

The front seats and foot wells of a Dodge Hornet R/T.
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

Slow screen aside, the Hornet has a broad selection of physical controls at the front of the cabin, and they felt premium and tactile overall. You’ll be able to see the set temperature on the display at all times, which is nice, and there are dual climate zones to allow the passenger to control their own climate. Rear passengers do not get their own climate zone.

Our review model came with the “Tech package,” which includes a range of driver-assist features. Standard, you’ll get things like automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and parking sensors. The Tech package adds adaptive cruise control with lane-centering, which seemed to work fine.

Driving experience

The Dodge Hornet R/T is the company’s first plug-in hybrid, and powering it is a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor that, together, delivers 288 horsepower. All-wheel drive is standard.

A rear three-quarter view of a blue Dodge Hornet R/T.
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

There are four drive modes on offer. There’s a Hybrid mode, which prioritizes efficiency between the gas and electric powertrains. There’s a fully electric mode, though you’ll only get an electric range of around 30 miles or so. And there’s an “e-Save” button that prioritizes recharging the battery. The fourth mode is the “Sport” mode, which prioritizes performance. Unfortunately, you have to access Sport mode through a separate button, which is a little confusing. Dodge should have simply allowed drivers to cycle between all modes with one button.

Dodge also has a special “PowerShot” feature, which can be accessed in Sport mode by pulling both paddle shifters. The system will then boost performance by 30 horsepower for 30 seconds when you push down on the accelerator. The feature actually wasn’t all that exciting — the boost isn’t really that impressive, and I never used it beyond a few times to test it out. If I owned this car, I can’t imagine I’d use it, ever.

Dodge Hornet R/T Side View
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

Generally, however, the Dodge Hornet R/T was reasonably quick and handled well. The car certainly won’t accelerate off the starting line like an EV, but it can get from 0 to 60 miles per hour in around 5.6 seconds, which certainly isn’t slow. The car handled corners relatively easily, though it did feel a little heavy at times. The brakes were strong when they needed to be.

Range and charging

The Dodge Hornet R/T is a plug-in hybrid, and you can use it in a completely electric driving mode. However, you can only do so for around 30 miles, which isn’t really impressive. Plenty of plug-in hybrids offer a range of 50 miles, which is much more reasonable for day-to-day electric driving.

Dodge Hornet R/T Front Wheel
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

At a Level 2 charger, the Hornet can fully charge in around 2.5 hours, which is on the slow side for only packing on 30 miles. Most drivers will want to charge the car at their home overnight, if possible — and if your workplace is within 10 or 15 miles, you may be able to get away with mostly driving in electric mode.

For the most part, the electric powertrain is less about energy savings, and more about a slight performance boost, at least in this car. You’ll want to look elsewhere if you’re looking for a more practical plug-in hybrid implementation.

How DT would configure this car

The Dodge Hornet generally has a lot going for it, but if you’re interested in a plug-in hybrid, you’ll need to upgrade to either the Hornet R/T or the Hornet R/T Plus. The R/T, for most, will be perfectly fine — and you won’t get any performance boosts by upgrading to the “Plus” model. Instead, you’ll get a powered sunroof, access to the red leather seats if you want them, heated and ventilated seating, and a Harman Kardon speaker system.

Dodge Hornet R/T Rear Three Quarter View
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

Of course, if you’re looking for a plug-in hybrid for the sake of efficiency, it’s probably worth going for a different option. For example, the comparably-priced Toyota RAV4 Prime offers 42-mile range.

But, if you like the idea of a Dodge, like the look of this car, and want a bit of a performance boost, then you’ll appreciate the hybrid powertrain on offer here. It proves that Dodge has much to offer without the Challenger — though we’re still waiting for a truly electric Dodge to set the stage for the future.

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Christian de Looper
Christian’s interest in technology began as a child in Australia, when he stumbled upon a computer at a garage sale that he…
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