An Alfa Romeo bar the badge? We drive the 2024 Dodge Hornet RT plug-in.

An Alfa Romeo bar the badge? We drive the 2024 Dodge Hornet RT plug-in.
Mar 2023

ASHEVILLE, N.C.--A day after Dodge revealed the last of its Hemi V8-powered muscle cars, the company also lifted the embargo on driving impressions for its next car, the Hornet crossover. It's a far cry from the 1,025-hp Challenger--a much more sensible compact crossover that includes a plug-in hybrid version starting at a competitive $40,000. Ars spent a day driving the Hornet around the outskirts of Asheville and found a lot to like about this handsome crossover.

But first, a few words on its origin story.

Last February, the world got its first look at an attractive new crossover from Alfa Romeo. It was given the unfortunate name of Tonale, and more than a few of us raised an eyebrow thanks to the news that the car would include an NFT that acted as a permanent record for the car, from production through lifetime maintenance.

An Alfa Romeo bar the badge? We drive the 2024 Dodge Hornet RT plug-in.

The Tonale was meant to arrive in the US by the end of March, but it was delayed until May. The reason I bring this up is that as far as sheet metal is concerned, you don't need to wait for the Alfa to reach showrooms to drive it. That's because the Hornet is an example of the practice known as badge engineering.

Dodge needed something smaller and more fuel-efficient to counteract all those V8s it pushes, and the little Alfa fit the bill. It's a practice the auto industry has turned to time and again; the Saab 9-2x, Fiat 124 Spyder, Buick Regal, and even Audi e-tron GT are all examples. In this case, because budgets were tight, the Hornet wears a Dodge front grille and the badging all says Dodge, but everything is otherwise mechanically identical to the Tonale, as is the bodywork.

The Hornet GT is the base model, which should be available within the next few weeks. It starts at $29,995 and is powered by a turbocharged 2.0 L inline four-cylinder engine that outputs 268 hp (200 kW) and 295 lb-ft (400 Nm), sending that to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. Alfa Romeo should not have too much of a headache with the Hornet GT since the company is not importing its version using this powertrain to the US.

An Alfa Romeo bar the badge? We drive the 2024 Dodge Hornet RT plug-in.

Although I drove the Hornet GT briefly, I spent most of my time in the Hornet R/T plug-in hybrid. Set to arrive as a model year 2024 vehicle at the end of spring, the R/T will start at just under $40,000, undercutting the Alfa by a few thousand dollars in the process. And no, there's no associated NFT for the Dodge.

That has reportedly hurt feelings at Alfa Romeo, but enough about intra-Stellantis corporate politics. Under the Hornet R/T's hood--and yes, those air vents are functional--you'll find a turbocharged 1.3 L four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. This generates a maximum of 180 hp (134 kW) and 199 lb-ft (270 Nm), and the 44-hp (33 kW) starter motor can also send its power to the front wheels when necessary.