Geneva Auto ShowThe B-car segment is on Chrysler Group’s ‘A’ list for the 2006 Geneva Motor Show.

Next month, the auto maker will display a Dodge-branded B-car concept designed to blend “European sensibility” with “an American flair.”

The Hornet, a 2-box design that seats five, features a wide stance set off by 19-in. open-section aluminum wheels, along with Dodge’s trademark crosshairs grille that is positioned above an exposed intercooler.

The driver’s side of its well-proportioned hood also features a recessed scoop that serves a 1.6L supercharged 4-cyl. gasoline engine, which generates 170 hp and 165 lb.-ft. (224 Nm) of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Dodge Hornet concept

“We went for a rally-inspired look – robust, capable and most definitely not ‘cutesy,’” says Mark Moushegian, principle exterior designer. “We wanted a distinct edge to the design.”

For increased functionality, Hornet’s interior surfaces were pushed to the vehicle’s perimeter.

“We especially wanted to push the envelope of interior volume,” Moushegian adds. “That’s why the Hornet is almost as wide as a C-segment (car).”

The car is 76.1 ins. (193 cm) wide and has a track, front and rear, of 60 ins. (152 cm).

The Hornet is 99.8 ins. (253 cm) long, stands 61.6 in. (156 cm) tall and weighs 3,100 lbs. (1,409 kg).

Hornet seats five but also offers cargo room.

Designers also took a cue from the fashion world, crafting the Hornet’s ample windows to suggest the ‘cool’ look of sunglasses. The windows are tinted – blue in this case – to set off the car’s liquids-silver exterior.

“The idea is that the car would be available in a limited number of colors,” Moushegian says. “The customer selects the contrasting glass color of his or her choice as an accent.”

The Dodge brand’s flamboyance is reflected in dual “skunk stripes,” reminiscent of the Viper.

Other mechanicals include Macpherson struts in the front and a semi-independent rear suspension design.

Chrysler says the Hornet will go from 0-60 mph (97km/h) in 6.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 130 mph (209 km/h).

The auto maker maintains the Hornet is strictly a concept and it has no firm plans to build a B-car. Senior executives have said Chrysler could not develop such a product on its own and would seek a partner if it were to enter the segment.

The Hornet is the second B-car concept unveiled in recent months by Chrysler. The Akino bowed at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show.

Conceived for the Japanese market in the auto maker’s Pacifica studio in California, the Akino is a study in interior design, making dramatic use of materials to separate passengers from the driver.

Chrysler Akino B-car concept

For instance, the driver’s seat is affixed to a wood floor, while the passengers enjoy carpeting. And the front-row passenger seat faces rearward.

The idea, says designer Akino Tsuchiya, is to limit driver distraction.

The Hornet’s unveiling also follows a trend seen at this year’s Greater Los Angeles Auto Show where small cars were the focus of attention.

The Hornet concept also revives a nameplate from the 1970s. American Motors Corp. produced a Hornet midsize car from 1970 though 1977.

emayne@wardsauto.com