The Omni was the first in-house attempt by Dodge for a subcompact car. Before this, Dodge’s only small car was the Colt, which was a re-badged Mitsubishi. Introduced in 1978, two unusual base engines were offered— a Simca 1.6L (’83-up), and a 1.7L Volkswagen (through ’82).
Chrysler’s own 2.2L did eventually find its was into the engine bay as an option for 1981. Rumor has it that the car shares many design elements with the VW Rabbit of the era.