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Prior to the Hornet’s debut for the 2023 model year, Dodge had been waiting a long time to apply the Hornet nameplate to something after acquiring it, along with the entire American Motors Corporation, in 1987. After a soft launch in 2023, Hornet buyers finally get the plug-in electric hybrid (PHEV) variant for 2024, but with a plethora of competition in the crossover space, what are the pros and cons of the only modern American car named after an insect?

Italian lineage at a Detroit price is a big win for the Dodge Hornet

According to the Dodge website, the 2024 Hornet in base GT trim holds its price from the prior year: $32,370, That MSRP includes a mandatory $1,595 destination charge, as do all of the prices discussed over the course of this article. That’s a downright bargain compared to the Alfa Romeo Tonale with which the Hornet shares the vast majority of its styling and components.

Though the GT is the Hornet’s most modest variant, buyers get a long list of standard features including rain-sensing windshield wipers, dual-zone climate control, and a 10.3-inch infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Hornet GT also sports a black interior with liberal splashes of red throughout, which is quite handsome, even if the materials are sometimes less than premium.

For an extra $5,000 you can upgrade to the GT Plus, which adds such luxuries as genuine leather front seats that are heated/ventilated, a power sunroof, 14-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, a hands-free power liftgate, and an integrated navigation system of questionable value compared to your favorite mapping app. 

The big news this year is that a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variant is finally available, called the R/T, for $40,935. Back in the golden age of muscle cars, R/T was Dodge speak for Road and Track but those old-time hot rodders probably never could have imagined that the extra performance in 2024 comes from an electric motor.

In the R/T, a 1.3 liter turbocharged four-cylinder combined with said electric motor makes 288 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque compared to 268 horsepower and 295 383 lb-ft of torque for the GT powertrain. Those specs don’t tell the whole story though, because the R/T also has “PowerShot” mode that’s accessed by squeezing both steering wheel-mounted shifter paddles at the same time. With PowerShot engaged, drivers get an additional 30 horsepower of oomph for a period of up to 15 seconds.

Finally, the R/T can travel up to 32 miles in electric battery-only mode without the engine running. Like its GT sibling an R/T Plus trim is also available with similar luxuries to the GT Plus for $45,935.

The PHEV and cabin space both trade at a premium

On paper, the Hornet seems like an attractive option for enthusiasts who need practicality in their lives, but also want something a little spicier than your typical compact crossover SUV. A spiritual successor to Dodge’s Omni GLH, if you will. Mostly, the 2024 Hornet fills that role well, but there a couple of caveats to consider, especially if hauling a large volume of people and/or cargo are high on your list of priorities.

To begin, the Hornet’s cargo area is tight compared to its competitors. The GT model has 27 cu-ft of storage behind the rear seats or 54.7 cu-ft with the back seats folded down. For comparison, the Ford Escape boasts 37.5 (rear seat intact) and 65.4 cu-ft (rear seats folded), while Honda’s CR-V packs a whopping 39.3/76.5 cu-ft. The storage capacity of the Hornet R/T is even worse at 22.9/50.5, owing to some of the electric propulsion gear eating into the cargo space.

The rear seat space is similarly thrifty with 38 inches of legroom and 38.2 inches of headroom. Once again, compare that to the Ford Escape with 40.7 inches of legroom and 39.3 headroom or Honda’s CR-V with 41 inches of legroom and 38.2 inches headroom.

Finally, while the Hornet GT is an affordable cure for the typical boring crossover SUV with bona fide Italian DNA to boot, the R/T plug-in hybrid variant increases the ante by nearly 25%. It’s too bad that massive pricing delta is going to spook some buyers away who could very well benefit from the battery-only range for short trips around town running errands. Still, it’s going take a long time to recoup $8,500 via gasoline savings.

It’s a good choice if you prefer to buy American

If you can live with a slightly snug cabin behind the rear seats, the 2024 Dodge Hornet has a lot going for it. Like how about a zero to 60 MPH time of 6.5 seconds for the GT and a mere 5.5 seconds for the R/T as recorded by Car and Driver?

Also, we haven’t belabored this point, but every single Hornet comes with all-wheel drive. While buyers might not be as likely to bash it off-road like a Subaru, it’s still nice to know the AWD is there for inclement weather, if nothing else.

Dodge was also generous with providing ample technology, even at its most basic trim level. That includes a suite of active driver safety systems like emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning and keeping assist.

The Hornet might not be the best in a very large, very competitive class, but it has sharp styling and performance chops to back it up. If you’re looking for a side helping of punch or flair with your practicality, the Hornet could well be your soulmate, especially among the purely domestic alternatives.