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Automakers are learning how to make crossovers fun – and Dodge is the latest to figure it out. After spending some time in the new 2023 Hornet GT, we can confirm that Dodge has delivered on its promise to make a small SUV that appeals to enthusiasts. Better yet, the cheapest Hornet is still a riot to drive. We had a chance to take one for a spin during the 2023 Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Spring Rally at Road America, and we walked away grinning. 

What comes standard on the base Dodge Hornet?

A blue 2023 Dodge Hornet GT drives quickly with green trees in the background.
2023 Dodge Hornet GT | Dodge, Stellantis

The base Dodge Hornet GT comes standard with a slew of performance features that help it live up to car enthusiasts’ demands. According to Stellantis, this is what you’ll find in even the most sparsely equipped Hornet SUVs:

  • A turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 268 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque
  • Nine-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode
  • Rear-bias all-wheel drive 
  • Electronic limited-slip differential 
  • Shared platform with the Alfa Romeo Tonale 

At first blush, the Dodge Hornet looks like just another basic crossover. But it’s clear from behind the wheel that Dodge put real effort and thought into making the Hornet an exciting sports SUV – even in its base form. The designers gave it the right features to give drivers memorable experiences. 

Dodge made its cheapest SUV fun to drive 

The 2023 Dodge Hornet GT parked in an urban setting at night.
2023 Dodge Hornet GT | Dodge, Stellantis

The Dodge Hornet GT is a crossover that creates smiles.  

We didn’t know what to expect when hopping into the base Hornet GT at the 2023 MAMA Spring Rally. We first attempted to take out the Hornet R/T with its plug-in hybrid powertrain – but, ironically, it was nearly out of gas. 

So, we jumped in the GT and took off on the street test route around the perimeter of Road America. What we found in the driver’s seat was surprising and hilariously fun. 

Punch the throttle in the Hornet GT, and you’ll experience about a one-second delay before hitting boost. The turbocharger hits like a hammer, seeming to dump its full power in a single heap. The Hornet GT jumps out, pushing you into the driver’s seat and triggering some torque steer for a moment. Some might find that torque steer off-putting – I found it an entertaining part of the SUV’s dramatic personality. 

The nine-speed auto box responds enthusiastically to aggressive driving. It’ll happily go straight up to redline before shifting under hard acceleration.

Stay in the throttle around the corner, and the Hornet GT’s Italian DNA comes through with planted, engaging handling. It stays flat and grippy through each curve while doling out a satisfying helping of body roll. 

I pushed the shifter (no rotary dial here) into manual-shift mode on the straights. The slap shift function works flawlessly. 

It all came together to make one of the day’s most memorable and surprising drives. 

Is the base Dodge Hornet GT worth it?

Close up shot of the 2023 Dodge Hornet GT's badging.
2023 Dodge Hornet GT Badging | Dodge, Stellantis

The Dodge Hornet R/T will naturally draw attention from automotive enthusiasts with its more powerful PHEV powertrain. However, the base Hornet GT proves itself to be an exciting crossover in its own right. 

At just $30,000, the Hornet GT is an outstanding value. It’s miles more fun to drive than most models in its segment, while its cabin and seating position are more comfortable than most smaller hot hatchbacks. 

Sure – the Dodge crossover may not be as technically sound as some sport crossovers. But its flair for the dramatic, potent powertrain and impressive list of standard performance features is a recipe for fun. 


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