American brands always had problems to create compact sedans that consumers like, especially because the Japanese manufacturers had control of the market with high quality and advanced designs. All this changed when Dodge released the Dodge Neon back in 1995.
Created as a car to have fun while driving, was what made the Neon very successful. The suspension and steering were on the verge to give the best performance possible in curves and also had two engines to choose from, one of them had 150 horsepower, a number high enough for a family of economy cars at that time. If we also add a different design and a cheaper price than most competitors, the Neon had everything to take over the segment.
For obvious reasons, the car quickly became very popular among buyers looking for a cheap, but efficient car, as well as young buyers looking for a domestic alternative to the sport imported cars.
The first generation of the Neon was sold from 1995 to 1999 in sedan and coupe body-styles. The first generation was smaller with a more striking design than the second one and also offered a better combination of equipment and performance for its time. When it was equipped with dual overhead cam engine, the 5-speed manual gearbox and the sport packages or R/T, became a very fun car to drive.
Unfortunately Dodge decided to take another road when redesigned the car for the 2000 model. They created a car a little more refined but it was heavier, more expensive, but not more powerful. The arrival of the SRT-4 turbo version in 2003 returned to some buyers who had lost the affection to this model, but by then, buyers looking the car for its content and cheap price, had gone in search of another models offering what no longer the Neon did.
Less powerful engines
The second generation was sold from 2000 to 2005 and offered more interior room, smoother ride, better steering and good brakes. Unfortunately the engines that were offered were not powerful enough for the weight of the car, there was too much noise inside the cabin and the equipment was not better than the competition.
The Neon SRT-4 was one of the brightest in the history of Neon. Sold from 2003 to 2005, this car was the fastest you could buy for $20,000. It used a 2.4-liter turbo engine with 215-230 horsepower (the power increased slightly each year) and a completely redesigned suspension with the racetrack in mind.
The resale value of the Neon has always been low, so buying one will be pretty cheap. The downside is the reliability of this car, which is also somewhat low, so you better be sure you have some money to spend on its maintenance. It is recommended an exhaustive inspection by a mechanic before buying one of these Dodge, and it is important to move away from any unit that had presented any kind of problems, in both the engine or gearbox.
The Neon was discontinued after the 2005 model, its successor was the 4-door hatchback, Caliber.
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