DodgeOpinionWhat If

Dodge Needs A More Affordable Entry-Level Performance Vehicle

Hornet Doesn't Cut It, Dodge Needs Some Cheaper And More Back-To-Basics...

In the ever-evolving landscape of the automotive industry, Dodge stands as an emblem of American muscle and performance. Yet, amidst its illustrious history, a glaring gap has emerged in its lineup – the absence of an affordable performance vehicle priced under $35,000. As competitors surge ahead with enticing options, Dodge finds itself at a crossroads, yearning to reclaim its throne as the champion of value and horsepower.

Enter the 2024 Jeep® Compass Sport 4×4, the current cheapest offering in the Stellantis (formerly FCA US) lineup, starting at $27,495. Positioned as a formidable contender in the compact SUV segment, the Compass exudes versatility and practicality. However, its role as the budget-friendly option highlights a stark reality – Dodge’s struggle to cater to the demands of cost-conscious enthusiasts.

Turbocharged Dodge Neon Design. (MoparInsiders).

The ill-fated Dodge Hornet, sharing its platform with the Compass, serves as a cautionary tale. Despite boasting comparable performance credentials, it faltered in the North American market, primarily due to its premium price tag starting at $32,995 (including destination charge). This departure from Dodge’s ethos of delivering unrivaled horsepower for the money left enthusiasts disenchanted. Compounded by its production in Italy, the Hornet failed to resonate with consumers seeking the quintessential Dodge experience – one synonymous with affordability and performance.

In response to this void, Dodge must heed the call for a smaller, compact vehicle priced competitively below $35,000. Drawing inspiration from the successes of rivals like the Chevrolet Trax and Ford Maverick, Dodge has an opportunity to redefine the segment. By leveraging the STLA Medium architecture and adopting the turbocharged 1.3-liter GSE-T4 inline-four-cylinder engine from the Jeep® Renegade, Dodge can engineer a compact sedan or crossover that embodies the brand’s core principles.

Turbocharged Dodge Neon Design. (MoparInsiders).

A performance variant, propelled by the turbocharged 2.0-liter GME-T4 inline-four-cylinder engine boasting 268 horsepower from the Hornet GT, promises to ignite enthusiasts’ passions. This amalgamation of power and affordability encapsulates the essence of Dodge, offering a compelling proposition in a market hungry for excitement.

Moreover, aligning production with the forthcoming 2026 Jeep® Compass at the Brampton Assembly Plant signifies a strategic move, maximizing synergies while minimizing costs. By eschewing plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or battery-electric vehicle (BEV) options in favor of traditional powertrains, Dodge maintains its commitment to affordability without compromising performance.

Turbocharged Dodge Neon Design. (MoparInsiders).

Furthermore, the introduction of a small FWD Dodge sedan could pave the way for enthusiasts to unleash their creativity through affordable customization. Leveraging the Dodge// Mopar Direct Connection parts and accessories program, drivers can personalize their vehicles to suit their unique preferences, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie.

In essence, Dodge’s quest for an affordable performance vehicle under $35,000 is not merely about filling a gap in its portfolio; it’s about reaffirming its identity as the epitome of “bang for the buck” performance. By embracing its heritage while embracing innovation, Dodge charts a course towards a future where affordability and exhilaration converge, reigniting the flames of passion among enthusiasts worldwide.

Robert S. Miller

Robert S. Miller is a diehard Mopar enthusiast who lives and breathes all that is Mopar. The Michigander is not only the Editor for MoparInsiders.com, 5thGenRams.com, and HDRams.com but an automotive photographer. He is an avid fan of offshore powerboat racing, which he travels the country to take part in.

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The Dart really could have been that car. If it wasn’t under powered, it could have been the “small Charger”. If they put in the 3.6, this car would have screamed! My daughter had a 3.6 in her 2011 Chrysler 200 and the old car moved!!
The 3.6 with 300hp would have been sweet.
The car had the looks, if she had the power, I thinks it could have been different and would have fit that affordable muscle you are talking about.

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I agree they need one, but they killed it. Hello Dart, specifically Dart SRT. It was to be a turbo 4, AWD, rocket and many, including myself, waited. They said it was coming, Gilles said himself it was coming, and poof, like a fart in the wind, Marchionne did away with it. To this day one of the most foolish things he did, axe the Dart/200.

The article is a smorgasbord of nonsense. It cried about the lack of a budget performance car, and mentions the competitions offerings, yet there are none. The only competition mentioned is a small suv and a tiny “truck”. Neither of which are performance products in the least bit.

Do better

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The STLA small platform is there waiting to flesh out the Dodge lineup with small performance vehicles. I’d suggest a compact coupe, companion sedan or hatchback with a Hurricane four with a hybrid option in this segment. An obvious no brainer. Did it before, why not now?

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I feel the mistake they keep making in this segment is styling. They need a sporty car with raked look and sharp lines. This jelly bean stuff ( Dart, Hornet) screams dowdy economy car. And stop requiring thousands in options to get the car the way you want it. The options should be strictly for more tech and luxury items. I'd be fine without that stuff but I don't want ****ty looking wheels. The base car should look the same as the top of the line. This stuff should be obvious. Play your games and sell hardly any cars. Take my advice and sell them as fast as you can build them. Your choice.

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A 4dr sedan alongside a 2dr hatch coupe boasting the GME 1.3/2.0 turbos, 9spd auto or 7+ spd DDCT and folks will knock the doors down. A MISSED OPPORTUNITY with NEON/DART. It cannot come without a hybrid option!

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