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It’s been some years since the Moto Guzzi National Owners Club (MGNOC) hosted a regional get-together in Italy, Texas. As you’d guess, Italy, Texas will be confused with Italy, Italy only when your correspondent is mistaken for Al Pacino. I reference this because the newest Dodge, dubbed for our purposes ‘Hornet’, is produced in Cassino, Italy, alongside the Alfa Romeo Tonale, and is not a platform shared with Alfa’s midsize crossover, the Stelvio. As noted in our review of the Tonale, this Stellantis product is an artful dodger – this time flying under the Dodge banner.

For those wondering why-in-God’s-name we’d need another compact crossover, especially one sold by what we used to know as the Dodge Brothers, they have a point. Whether it’s Honda’s CR-V or Hyundai’s Tucson, the compact crossover seems to have established a solid beachhead in the skirmish for the hearts, minds and budgets of car shoppers. If there’s one element lacking, however, in the vast inventory that comprises the segment, it’s the fun-to-drive element. And in recalling a significant portfolio of fun-to-drive platforms, the folks at Dodge grab a discarded nameplate from AMC(!), what we’ll guess is excess capacity in Cassino and elect to bring it to Dodge showrooms in America. 

Is this a great country…or what?

The differences between Alfa and Dodge are minimal. From the outside the Hornet is absent the Tonale’s signature front fascia, replaced by a relatively non-descript representation that – frankly – doesn’t say much. And notably, it doesn’t say ‘Dodge’. What apparently represents today’s Dodge logo – two red lines arranged diagonally – is it, along with a Hornet graphic and Hornet script used sparingly on the crossover’s front fenders and rear hatch. It’s all a bit anonymous, as is the Hornet’s sheetmetal. There’s nothing here to offend, but then, little here to delight.

And as mentioned in the first look at the Tonale, the Hornet needs more aggressive rubber, real running shoes – if you will – and not girly slippers. Even as a compact crossover, the vibe should be more running back and not Simone Biles; Simone’s vibe works better, I think, on Mazda’s Miata. If giving the rubber a slightly taller profile and the suspension a slightly lower ride height, I think you’d have a look appropriate to the Hornet’s athleticism.

Inside there’s even less differentiation between the Alfa and Dodge. For those of us holding onto our last analog breath, you can adjust ventilation using switches located beneath the 10.25 inch infotainment screen. Audio – as you’d guess – is in that screen, but changing stations and volume remains relatively straightforward. One difference: The Hornet’s stop/start button is on the dash, to the right of the steering wheel – and no longer on the steering wheel itself. That wheel location is given to the Hornet’s Sport mode, if you’re feeling sporty. Sport.

The most notable differentiation, and one we bemoaned when reviewing the Tonale, is the Hornet’s drivetrain. Alfa’s brain trust decided the Alfa showroom needed only a plug-in variant, leaving the more conventional 2.0 liter turbo at home…or, as you’ll see, in Dodge showrooms. The Dodge brand team decided that having a plug-in’s efficiency would be good, but having it in conjunction with the more conventional 2.0 liter – here hooked up to a 9-speed automatic and standard all-wheel drive – would be even better. A twofer, if you will, which also makes the Hornet far more accessible, with a starting point just north of $30K.

The 2.0 turbo’s output is 268 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which delivers 60 from a standing start in 6.5 seconds, and will reportedly reach a top speed of 140; that’s if, of course, you want to go to jail in the shortest possible time. What it means behind the wheel, in combination with connected steering and a surprisingly taut suspension, is the semblance of a hot hatch in its driving dynamic, while still allowing room for a young family and that young family’s stuff. And although the 2.0 liter doesn’t deliver the efficiency of the plug-in hybrid, the EPA estimate of 21 City/29 Hwy/24 Combined is acceptable – and you can buy a lot of gas (some 2500 gallons at $4/gallon) for the $10K premium asked of the plug-in. 

Parked at a Cars and Coffee on a Sunday morning, the Hornet received quite a bit of attention – and from at least one Alfa owner (his wife drove a Stelvio) knowing attention. Although our well-equipped GT Plus stickered for almost $43K, you could easily build the base GT for under $35,000. That’s what I’d do…and what I may do. The Hornet is genuine fun, combined with credible value. 

I’d still enjoy living as an Alfa male, but could just as easily be a Dodge Brother.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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