Dodge Hornet Concept

Dodge's Hornet concept is aptly named. Every trend that has created a buzz on the automotive scene in the past few years can be seen on this little stinger. The Mini Cooper remains the huge success everyone expected it to be, and since Dodge loaned out the Neon 1.6-liter engine for that car, it makes sense that it would want a share of the B-segment spotlight. Thus, the Hornet borrows the Mini's basic shape (although it is nine inches longer and ten inches wider) and cool full-glass roof. Dodge then added a touch of Scion xB boxyness because interior space is hip these days. And what is trendy if not the Mazda RX-8's rear half-doors? Throw in a kink of the rear side window and proportionally huge 19-inch wheels, and voil, you have one fashionable little car. And while street racers have been using colorful window tints for years, Dodge can at least take credit for being the first manufacturer to consider offering the option. The concept is shown with blue glass, but if the Hornet goes into production, Dodge would offer a variety of colors. "The idea is that the car would be available in a limited number of colors," said Mark Moushegian, principal exterior designer. "The customer selects the contrasting glass color of his or her choice as an accent."

Internet culture must have inspired the interior design team too, where there's enough automotive design file sharing to make Limewire.com seem angelically honest. The minimalist design and center stack toggle switches are pure Mini, and the dash design looks curiously close to the Scion xB. There's a removable carrying case in the driver's door, borrowed from the otherwise uninspiring and extinct Pontiac Aztek, and right next to it is a first aid kit, adorned with a large Red Cross logo, just like in the Nissan Xterra. But borrowing isn't a bad thing when it involves good ideas. Recent concepts from Ford, Mazda, Toyota, and Renault have featured flexible interior configurations and space saving seat materials similar to the Hornet's, and we would like to see someone put these ideas into actual production. Small cars deserve cargo space, too.

We applaud Dodge for putting together an automotive innovation yearbook. It isn't the first time most of the Hornet's features have been seen, but it is the first time we've seen so many clever features on one car. In Dodge's quest to find international success, they've created a fun and functional small hatch that Pabst-drinking, t-bone-eating, truck-driving Americans won't sneer at on highways. We think that is buzzworthy.

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