Also see 2013 Dodge Hornet • Past Hornet cars: Hudson Hornet • AMC Hornet
The first Dodge Hornet was the 2006 Dodge Hornet concept car, a subcompact with a turbocharged 1.6 liter engine, functional hood scoop, and manual transmission; company officials said it was to be a Nissan Cube variant "based on a unique Chrysler concept and design." Production was to be in Japan. The concept had frameless windows; seats were thinner to provide more interior space and make folding easier.
"We wanted the Hornet to be dynamic, nimble, fun to drive, and have an adaptable space-efficient interior," said Mark Moushegian, principal exterior designer. "At the same time we set out to create a vehicle with a uniquely American character to expand the image and presence of the Dodge brand in Europe and international markets, especially in the entry-level market. We went for a rallye-inspired look-robust, capable, and most definitely not 'cutesy.' We wanted a distinct 'edge' to the design. We especially wanted to push the envelope of interior volume. That's why the Hornet is almost as wide as a C-segment vehicle."
The Dodge crossbar grille set above an exposed engine intercooler flanked by front brake air ducts and fog lamps. The raised plateau on the hood had a recessed scoop on to funnel air to the engine air box.
Large 19-inch diameter open-section aluminum wheels were designed to show off gold-colored brake calipers. Arching wheel flares and notched sill were complemented by curving body surfaces that "spear out" into the full front and rear opposed half-doors which, in section, were quite shallow to maximize interior space. Framed doors open to reveal the absence of a B-pillar, while three-window side glass terminated in a dynamic wedge-shaped quarter window. Inspired by the look of fashion sunglasses, all the glass, including the oversize sunroof, was rendered in a deep blue tint.
"The idea is that the car would be available in a limited number of colors," Moushegian said. "The customer selects the contrasting glass color of his or her choice as an accent." Inspired by the legendary Dodge Viper, dual "skunk stripes" in Beryllium Gray boldly traverse the hood, roof, overhanging rear defuser wing and the liftgate, including the "sky view" sunroof.
Set in matte metallic gray tiered bezels and grouped under clear covers, all exterior lamps share prominent circular elements and "triple orange slice" front and rear turn signals. Similar repeater lamps are set into the side mirrors which also incorporate auxiliary rallye lamps. The circular theme is reprised by three-inch diameter dual exhaust tips propelled through the rear chin spoiler.
"Like the exterior, the interior is geared around young rallye enthusiasts," said John Sodano, principal interior designer. "I studied images of space capsule interiors, since they are designed for high efficiency in a limited space. I wanted the Hornet inside to have a functional, 'engineered' look, but with pleasing surfaces and materials."
Space-saving foam seats were exceptionally slim, with the striking satin-silver finished aluminum framing deliberately exposed. Seat bolsters were covered in a smooth, black urethane-coated fabric while a black, fine-woven textured Pique cloth was used on the cushion and back inserts. Both the passenger front bucket seat and the 40-60 three-passenger rear seats folded forward to provide a flat load bed.
The rear seats also flip rearward to stow in back, flush with the liftgate sill, for the highest possible vertical storage behind the front seats. When upright, the rear seats tracked rearwards to provide an additional 225 mm of legroom for rear seat passengers. Overlong grab bars are mounted high on each rear quarter and also served as clothes hangar racks.
The driver's door trim panel contained a first aid kit, open storage bin, and a closed case with carrying handle that can be removed from the car. The passenger door had both open and closed bins and a longer open bin with bungee cords to retain stowed items. All bins were removable and could be easily rearranged to suit each customer's requirements.
The driver's side rear door contained a handy beverage cooler while the door opposite had a fold-out table module. On all doors, cloth-covered armrests with integral pull cups were underlined by narrow satin silver moldings while side air bags were concealed in the Pique cloth bolsters.
Designed to accommodate both left- and right-hand drive, the modular instrument panel had twin cloth wrapover pads divided by a satin silver center stack topped by a fixed navigation screen with non-glare glass.
The three-circle, six-gauge delta-shaped instrument binnacle with attached hood moved with the steering column while the steering wheel itself had a textured, molded rubber rim and three "tuning fork" spokes that echo the exterior wheels. A freestanding cantilevered center armrest floated over the front floor console, pivoting downward to permit unfettered access to the six-speed manual shift lever during spirited driving.
The Dodge Hornet was powered by a 1.6 liter supercharged engine with 170 hp and 165 lb-ft (224 Nm) of torque (both at 4,000 rpm) driving the wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. The “Tritec” engine, also used in the Mini, was jointly developed by Chrysler and Rover. While engines from this plant were once used in the export Neon and PT Cruiser, Chrysler ended up selling its share (about half of the plant’s production) to Chinese auto companies, and the New York Times reported that the entire plant might be sold and moved to China. The supercharged 1.6 produces more power in less space than the World Engine, but costs more to produce. (Thanks, my.IS, for bringing our attention to information.)
The Hornet was heavy, at 3,100 pounds, but 0-60 times were estimated at 6.7 seconds (the 1995 Neon was considered very quick at 7.8).
Following the original Nissan Cube-based concept, there were numerous moves onto different architectures. Rumors started floating that the final Hornet would be sharing the basic chassis of the new Mercedes A-Class, with joint engineering by Chrysler and Mercedes. Then Automotive News claimed that the Hornet would be engineered in China by Chery, an assertion bolstered by independent sources who claimed that Chrysler engineers had been sent to China to work on it.
When Fiat joined with Chrysler, connections with Chery and Nissan were dropped; Fiat’s small cars were world-class and available to Chrysler with no need for licensing. The next step for the Hornet was, rumor has it, American engineering based on Fiat dimensions.
Estimated 0-60 (0-97 km/h)
130 mph (209 km/h)
1.6 liters 16V, OHC, turbocharged
170 hp @ 4000
165 lb-foot (224 Nm) @ 4000 rpm
6-speed manual; front wheel drive
130 mph / 209 km/h
Independent, McPherson type
35.1 feet / 10.7 m
Wheels and tires
19 x 6.5”; P185/50 R19
3846 (151 inches)
2534 (100 inches)
Width x Height
1932 (76”) x 1566 (62”)
1409 kg (3,106 lb)
Approach and departure angles
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Concept cars are often made so a car’s feel can be evaluated, problems can be foreseen, and reactions of the public can be judged. Some concepts test specific ideas, colors, controls, or materials — either subtle or out of proportion, to hide what’s being tested. Some are created to help designers think “out of the box.” The Challenger, Prowler, PT Cruiser, and Viper were all tested as production-based concepts dressed up to hide the production intent.
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