I can’t say enough about how disappointed I was to see Chrysler’s sad display at the Detroit auto show in January. The company really did blow its chance to become a design leader.
But I have to give Chrysler’s stylists credit for the Dodge Hornet concept, which they will soon show at the Geneva Motor Show. Check it out at www.dodge-hornet.com. It’s sort of a Mini Cooper decked out with serious street racer spoilers and cladding. But it’s not a knock off of the successful Cooper. Where the Mini hearkens back to vintage Coopers, the Hornet is much edgier and truly modern. The design is bolder than the Scion xB, but still manages to be less quirky. The body looks like it was chiseled from one big hunk of stainless steel or aluminum.
And get this: It’s engineered to be a fun small car, charging down the Autobahn with a 170-horsepower supercharged four-cylinder engine that gets from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.7 seconds. That’s not your typical boring American econobox.
The Chrysler guys are onto something here. Mini proved that small cars can sell in the U.S. The Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback are selling well too, further making the case that if a car company invests time and creativity into small cars they can find buyers and make money. Even though Dodge is showing the car in Switzerland with an eye toward the compact-loving European market, it will probably end up in the U.S. as well. Let’s hope it does.