The 2006 Dodge Hornet concept car was a front-wheel-drive subcompact with a turbocharged 1.6 liter engine, functional hood scoop, and manual transmission; company officials said it was to be a Japanese-made Nissan Cube variant “based on a unique Chrysler concept and design.”
The concept had frameless windows; seats were thinner to provide more interior space and make folding easier. The goal was to give the Nissan an American appearance for sale mainly in Europe and Asia. Mark Moushegian strove 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.”
The exposed intercooler was flanked by brake air ducts and fog lamps, while the hood’s raised plateau on was there to feed a recessed scoop connected to the engine air box. 19-inch aluminum wheels showed off gold-colored brake calipers. Framed doors opened to reveal the absence of a B-pillar. Inspired by sunglasses, the glass, including the sunroof, was rendered in a deep blue tint; in production, the car would be sold in a small number of colors, with contrasting glass colors.
Exterior lamps and the exhaust shared circular elements, with “triple orange slice” turn signals. John Sodano, principal interior designer, said, “I studied images of space capsule interiors, since they are designed for high efficiency in a limited space.”
Space-saving foam seats were quite slim, with exposed aluminum framing. Seat bolsters were covered in a smooth, black urethane-coated fabric; inserts had a fine-woven textured cloth. The rear seats flipped forward for a flat load floor, or rearward to stow in back, flush with the liftgate sill, for the highest possible vertical storage. Grab bars on each rear quarter also served as clothes hangar racks.
The driver’s door trim panel contained a first aid kit, open storage bin, and a case with carrying handle. 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. The driver’s side door had a beverage cooler; the passenger side, a fold-out table.
Designed to accommodate both left- and right-hand drive, the modular instrument panel had twin cloth wrapover pads divided by a center stack and navigation screen. The hooded instrument binnacle moved with the steering column.
The Dodge Hornet was powered by a Chrysler-engineered 1.6 liter supercharged engine with 170 hp and 165 lb-ft 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. The Hornet was heavy, at 3,100 pounds, but the company claimed it was a full second faster, 0-60, than the Neon had been.
Following the original Nissan Cube-based concept, rumors started floating that the real Hornet would share the basic chassis of the new Mercedes A-Class. Automotive News then claimed that the Hornet would be engineered in China by Chery, an assertion bolstered by independent sources. When Fiat joined with Chrysler, connections with Chery and Nissan were dropped; and the Hornet gave way to the Dart..
Est. 0-60 (claimed)
Top speed (claimed)
130 mph (209 km/h)
Top speed (claimed)
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)
Also see 2013 Dodge Hornet • Past Hornet cars: Hudson Hornet • AMC Hornet
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.
Concept cars • popular: Firepower • Tomahawk • ME412 • Mighty FC • Gladiator
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