Rate It: When Dodge Tried To Take on Mini

Way back in the early 2000s, Dodge was working 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." What they came up with is this, the 2006 Dodge Hornet Concept.

Measuring in at just 151 inches long, the upright-styled Hornet is was designed to have a “rallye-inspired look–robust, capable, and most definitely not 'cutesy.'” Whether or not you agree with that statement, the powerplant did offer some promising numbers: 170 horsepower and 165 lb.-ft. of torque from a supercharged four-cylinder engine. Perhaps better yet was that the power was sent to front wheels through a genuine six-speed manual transmission.

Unfortunately, like a few other promising concepts produced around this time that were destined for production, the Hornet was scrapped following the 2007-’08 financial crisis.

However, after Fiat acquired Chrysler group in 2010, word began spreading that the Italian company was planning on repurposing at least a few parts of concept for an upcoming small car. As fate would have it, though, that small car would be revealed as the very un-Hornet-like Dodge Dart in 2011.

Were it not for the financial crisis, would the Hornet have had a chance in Europe–and potentially North America–or was it better that this micro MPV was left as a concept?

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Comments
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wae
wae UltraDork
10/14/20 2:05 p.m.

Was the Soul already out at the time or did the design team leave Chrysler and move to Korea?  If you took the badges off of that, I would totally believe that it was a Kia. 

I actually kinda like it.  Especially in a theoretical SRT4 way.

fanfoy
fanfoy SuperDork
10/14/20 2:42 p.m.

1.6 supercharged engine making 170hp? So the Tritec engine that was used in the first gen MINI...but installed in a Mopar product.  That's not a great recipe for reliability.

I think it looks like a mix of the MINI and the Kia Soul. But I like it. And the rear suicide doors.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt PowerDork
10/14/20 2:52 p.m.

I think this one predates the Soul, but I can definitely see the resemblance. I hadn't realized it was so small; somehow I thought it was more Caliber sized (not that a Caliber is particularly large!). It does look like an interesting might-have-been.

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
10/14/20 3:30 p.m.

About 4 inches shorter than my wife's Scion xB. That's the size of vehicle I prefer, or even smaller. This concept still looks better than most of the current offerings from all the OEMs.

malibuguy
malibuguy Reader
10/14/20 4:35 p.m.

Kinda cool...but probably wouldn't have done well in murica because we have a size complex 

RadBarchetta
RadBarchetta New Reader
10/14/20 7:00 p.m.

Trying to take on the Mini by building a pint-size Scion xB.  Interesting strategy. I dig it, though.

Error404
Error404 Reader
10/14/20 7:05 p.m.

I see the resemblance to a Soul but my first thought was an aggressive Sonic. If they gave it SRT treatment and priced it entry level those could have been a neat option like the SRT4 Neon. 

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
10/14/20 7:48 p.m.

Remember how the original Scion Xb was this kind of funky box that was almost understyled and still looked very unique and interesting?  This is like the opposite; not boring but not really interesting per se and with a ton of ginger bread to try and keep it unique.  Like, the exterior mirrors alone, what's going on there? 

As a general concept it's not bad but I think other companies did this sort of thing better (Toyota and Suzuki both come to mind).

kevinatfms
kevinatfms Reader
10/15/20 6:27 a.m.

Id bet that this chassis ended up being the Fiat 500 Abarth....look at the shifter tower, steering wheel position and seating position. Chop the rear two doors out of it and extend the doors a bit.

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/15/20 6:50 a.m.
fanfoy said:

1.6 supercharged engine making 170hp? So the Tritec engine that was used in the first gen MINI...but installed in a Mopar product.  That's not a great recipe for reliability.

I think it looks like a mix of the MINI and the Kia Soul. But I like it. And the rear suicide doors.

 I was thinking the same thing. One reason the Tritec engine petered out was because Chrysler never really bought enough of them to make it viable. This car might have helped with that. 

Amusingly, in the MINI community, the Tritec is considered the most reliable of all MINI engines, although I'll admit the bar isn't very high... 

Otherwise, I agree - The Hornet was an interesting concept that could have helped Chrysler break into the Euro market.  Too bad the timing didn't work out.

The Fiat 500 is substantially smaller and I'm certain had absolutely zero input from the Chrysler side of FCA.

Rjs2005
Rjs2005 New Reader
10/15/20 3:16 p.m.

Chrysler produced quite a few really interesting concepts that never made it to production- this was one of the best IMO.  Given Dodge's current focus, I'm positive it would flop in today's market.  Maybe it would have fared better had it been produced in 2006- except that I'm sure the interior would have ended up with the same "style" as it's DCX contemporaries- that is, no style at all.  It's probably best left as an interesting concept.

mad_machine (Forum Supporter)
mad_machine (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/15/20 4:13 p.m.
kevinatfms said:

Id bet that this chassis ended up being the Fiat 500 Abarth....look at the shifter tower, steering wheel position and seating position. Chop the rear two doors out of it and extend the doors a bit.

and you would lose.  The current Fiat 500 came out in 2007 in Europe.  Fiat did not go into negotiations to buy Chrysler until 2009

Advan046
Advan046 UltraDork
10/18/20 2:01 p.m.

I worked at Chrysler at the time. This could have simply been Chrysler market testing if they would trade engines for restyled mini's to be made by Mini for Chrysler Europe. Also. Chrysler was still friendly with Mitsu even though Mitsu was being crushed by the Fuso controversy around then.

There was also a very strong hint of Hyundai and Daimler merging into a mega car company splitting Mercedes all of Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth/Jeep into Kia/Hyundai. So this could have been a market test of what Dodge did/does still do in Mexico selling rebadged Hyundai small cars. 

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
10/18/20 8:53 p.m.

I have those doors on my Sierra Denali and they are a monumental PITA. No thanks with those doors. Otherwise it looks like a cool little hot hatch. 

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/19/20 2:40 p.m.

 So the Tritec engine that was used in the first gen MINI...but installed in a Mopar product.  That's not a great recipe for reliability.

Funny you should say that. The Tritec borrowed heavily from the very reliable SOHC Neon 2.0L, and with Rover involvement managed to make it worse. In fact, i remember racing one of my SOHC neons against an early Cooper S  ~80-110ish and being about even. Good thing my Neon didn't break down during that race or it would have been cheaper and easier to fix! For shame...  I want to like MINI more than i do, but it would help a lot if it were a Dodge and not a MINI. In that sense, i think this concept car would have worked on me as far as appeal. I don't like the exterior styling that shares a lot with a lot of other Mopar stuff of the era im not fond of, but the interior looks great and the basic size and shape is great. 

keithedwards
keithedwards Reader
10/20/20 10:43 a.m.
Vigo (Forum Supporter) said:

 So the Tritec engine that was used in the first gen MINI...but installed in a Mopar product.  That's not a great recipe for reliability.

Funny you should say that. The Tritec borrowed heavily from the very reliable SOHC Neon 2.0L, and with Rover involvement managed to make it worse. In fact, i remember racing one of my SOHC neons against an early Cooper S  ~80-110ish and being about even. Good thing my Neon didn't break down during that race or it would have been cheaper and easier to fix! For shame...  I want to like MINI more than i do, but it would help a lot if it were a Dodge and not a MINI. In that sense, i think this concept car would have worked on me as far as appeal. I don't like the exterior styling that shares a lot with a lot of other Mopar stuff of the era im not fond of, but the interior looks great and the basic size and shape is great. 

Interesting info.  According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritec_engine the same engine used in the 1st gen MINI (non-S) was also used in Neons and PT Cruisers in some non-US markets.

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/20/20 12:33 p.m.

Well, i have to partially retract the part about Rover screwing it up, because the NA version of the engine was done before Rover got involved according to this info: https://www.northamericanmotoring.com/forums/r50-r53-hatch-talk-2002-2006/297715-the-tritec-engine-part-2-early-design-efforts-and-building-the-team.html

I still blame Rover/BMW for the ancillaries problems and difficulty in servicing the thing in the car. cheeky But then Chrysler put their 2.0 in the PT Cruiser engine bay so screw them too. I only have one serious visible burn on my body and it's from trying to hook the high side AC fitting onto a PT Cruiser. angry

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