Dodge may be best-known for its large, V8-powered vehicles, but it’s getting ready to launch something quite different: a small plug-in hybrid crossover.

    The Detroit Free Press reports word from the brand’s CEO, Tim Kuniskis, that the Hornet is coming this year.

    “I think we’ve actually even said when we get back into the small compact space this summer when we launch the Hornet, we will have a PHEV or variant of that,” Kuniskis told reporters.

    He said he’s targeting a launch or debut for August, coinciding with a couple of major automotive events in the Detroit area.

    Kuniskis flagged, however, the grim spectre hovering over automakers’ launch plans: supply chain shortages.

    “This gray hair that I’m getting? It’s not COVID, it’s not lockdowns, it’s supply chain,” Kuniskis said.

    “Every single thing we’re doing is like in Jell-O right now because it’s so hard to plan anything.”

    The Hornet is expected to be based closely on the Alfa Romeo Tonale, and reports have indicated it’ll be built alongside it at Stellantis’ Pomigliano d’Arco plant outside Naples.

    As to how closely it’ll be related to the Tonale, a video of what appeared to be a pre-production vehicle, taken at the Italian factory, was uploaded to Facebook earlier this year and then taken down.

    The shots taken from the video don’t show the full vehicle, but they appear to reveal a vehicle with similar proportions to the Tonale.

    The slim headlight openings resemble those of the Alfa, but they don’t flank a triangular grille.

    Instead, there’s a slim horizontal opening like that of a Charger or Challenger, while there’s also a different-looking front bumper and a unique bonnet with vents.

    The wheels appear identical to those of the Tonale, however this is likely a prototype – seeing a Dodge with Alfa’s famous “telephone dial” wheels would be like seeing an Alfa with Dodge’s crosshair grille.

    Inside, the dashboard and centre console appear identical to the Tonale, which features a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system running Uconnect 5.

    Even the steering wheel of this prototype is identical to that of the Tonale, apart from a Dodge badge.

    The Tonale’s available plug-in hybrid powertrain consists of a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels, an electric motor driving the rear wheels, and a 15.5kWh battery pack.

    System output is a claimed 205kW and electric range is a claimed 60km on the combined cycle. The 0-100km/h claim is 6.2 seconds.

    Mopar Insiders reports the Hornet will also be offered with the Tonale’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four, which produces 191kW and 400Nm in the Alfa and could be bumped up to 201kW. This engine is offered only with all-wheel drive in the Tonale.

    The Australian-spec Tonale won’t offer either of these powertrains when it arrives in the first half of 2023.

    Instead, it’ll use a turbocharged 1.5-litre Miller Cycle engine with a 48V mild-hybrid system. Total system output is 120kW of power, and it’ll be available exclusively with front-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

    The Tonale is understood to use a modified version of the Jeep Compass’ platform.

    Alfa Romeo claims the Tonale has the most direct steering ratio in the class, comes with Brembo braking, available multi-stage dampers, targeted automatic wheel braking in corners, and MacPherson strut suspension front and rear.

    While the leaked Hornet photos reveal an unusually close resemblance to the Tonale, it’s possible this was an early prototype and the production model will be better differentiated.

    That would make sense as Alfa Romeo will introduce the Tonale to the US market, and the Italian brand has a more premium positioning there than the more mainstream Dodge marque.

    Alfa Romeo was outsold by Dodge by more than 10-to-1 in the US market in 2021, so the odds are good the Hornet will sell in greater volumes than the Tonale.

    The Tonale would be the brand’s first all-new model launch since the now-discontinued Dart was introduced for the 2013 model year. However, Dodge’s current three-model line-up – the large Durango SUV, Charger sedan and Challenger coupe – have all received updates since then.

    The Hornet name was last used by Dodge on a 2006 concept car, previewing a light hatch/MPV that would have slotted under the Caliber.

    The name has more heritage than that, however.

    The Hudson Hornet was introduced in 1951 and proved extremely successful in NASCAR. That’s why racecar Lightning McQueen’s mentor in the Cars film franchise is a Hudson Hornet by the name of Doc Hudson.

    Shortly after Nash and Hudson merged to form American Motors Corporation in 1954, the name was retired, only to reappear in 1970 on the AMC Hornet. This was assembled locally by Australian Motor Industries (AMI) and sold as the Rambler Hornet.

    The name was used until 1978 when the Hornet was restyled and renamed the Concord. The Chrysler Corporation bought out AMC in 1987, and the Hornet name has therefore sat in the American automaker’s back catalogue through subsequent mergers and acquisitions.

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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