Chrysler made quite an entrance in the North American compact market with its original 1995-1999 Neon, a car sold under both the Dodge and Plymouth brands, and one that loudly announced its presence with the simple greeting of “Hi.”.
Boasting expressive cab-forward styling, an expansive cabin, and favorable driving dynamics, Chrysler played upon the Neon’s youthful image with playful marketing, fun exterior colors, and numerous decor packages. The Neon proved popular and sold quite well, making it the first profitable compact American car of the 1990s. Youth and playfulness, however, only last so long. Much like its target clientele, the Neon matured quite a bit for its second generation, released as a 2000 model.
The Neon still shared significant visual lineage to its predecessor, retaining the basic cab-forward shape, hallmarked by short and low hood, arching greenhouse and roofline, high deck, and wheels pushed towards the corners of the body. The new Neon also retained its iconic round headlights.
Gone, however, were the pastel colors, whimsical upholstery patterns with names like “Rumba”, interesting wheel options, the coupe body style, and the fun marketing. Instead, the second generation, while still recognizable as the charming Neon, came in just one base and one deluxe sedan configuration, featuring far more sobering interiors and serious promotion. The greeting was much more “Hello”, than “Hi”.
The Neon grew up physically as well. Riding on an inch longer 105-inch wheelbase, though overall only about three inches longer and one inch taller, visually, it looked like a much larger car. The windshield’s base was moved three inches further than the original Neon, for a slicker appearance and a less confining front cabin. Ground clearance was also raised 0.3 inches, allowing for greater suspension travel for a smoother ride.
Probably the most noticeable visual change was the elimination of the rather odd for the class frame-less windows, in favor of more traditional fully-framed windows with “aircraft style” doors that blended into the roof. This move especially gave the second generation Neon a much quieter cabin, something that was a major negative of its predecessor.
Powertain was mostly carryover from the first generation with few changes apart from now only offering the base SOHC 2.0L inline-4 making 132 horsepower and 130 lb-ft torque. Dodge Neon R/Ts soon brought back the more powerful 150 horsepower 2.0L, but Plymouth made due with just the standard power plant. Regardless, the base engine was right on par with what competitors were offering for output and perfectly adequate for the Neon’s size and mission in life.
All Neons featured a 5-speed manual as standard equipment. An automatic was optional, though to save costs, it was in form of the archaic 3-speed, non-overdrive TorqueFlite dating back to the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon, something worth noting when competitors were using 4-speeds for smoother, quieter operation at higher speeds.
At least Daimler-Chrysler didn’t completely penny-pinch the Neon redesign. Heavy investment was put into the body to make it a more comfortable, better handling, and quieter car. Torsional stiffness of the body was increased by 37 percent, struts and sway bars were redesigned and improved, and brakes were boosted. Engineers also redesigned the exhaust manifold and engine mount system, and increased its cooling ability all around. The 2000 Neon made greater use of single-piece components, high-strength materials, and sound deadening, yielding a greater overall feel of refinement than the first generation Neon could ever provide.
Interior fabrics and surfaces were indeed upgraded over the original Neon, though they still trailed competitors like the Civic in their level of fit and finish. Lots of single-colored hard grainy plastic, a hallmark of the Daimler-Chrysler era, was found in abundance, along with some very wide panel gaps on the dash.
Still, for the money the Neon was a decent value. Offered in a base “highline” and better-equipped “LX” models, standard features included frontal “Next Generation” airbags, 14″ steel wheels, cloth seats, locking glovebox, center console compartment with nifty tissue dispenser, power steering, four cupholders, and six-speaker AM/FM stereo.
LX models added power front windows (though curiously not rear), power door locks, 15″ wheel covers, fog lamps, heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and plusher cloth upholstery. Four-wheel disc antilock brakes, traction control, and 15-inch alloy wheels were among the several extra-cost options.
With increased interior volume, higher H-point front seating for better visibility and increased comfort, the second generation Neon was one of the very first “tall compacts”, a favorable quality that would soon redefine the compact sedan class. Tasteful styling, a long list of standard features, and a reasonable price made the Neon a car, that on paper, was more competitive than ever. Then why is it that the second generation Neon failed to achieve the same success as the first?
In the Plymouth Neon’s case, the announcement that Plymouth would be discontinued and the subsequent wind-down of production clearly put the kibosh on sales figures. But even over at Dodge, the number of Neons sold just never matched the annual level of the original. Combined Neon sales for 2000 fell some 12 percent from 1999 and consistently fell each subsequent year after the redesign.
The market was fiercer, that’s for sure. For the first time in over a decade, Ford had a highly competitive North American compact with the Focus, a car that matched the Neon’s more favorable high seating position and roofline, while offering four bodystyles and somewhat better quality. Then of course there were the Neon’s weak points. While designers and engineers made significant efforts to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness, a major weakness of the previous generation, NVH in second generation cars was still greater than in many of the Neon’s competitors.
Although the Neon was decidedly more refined than its predecessor, it still was not at the top of its class in this respect. Furthermore, despite SUVs gaining more market share than ever, the market for compacts was not on the decline either. Brands such as Ford, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, and even Oldsmobile sold more compacts in 2000 and 2001 than they respectively did in 1999. In fact, inclusive of all manufacturers, more new cars (17.41 million) were sold in the U.S. during the year 2000 than ever before — a record not surpassed until 2015.
In spite of this, sales of most Chrysler products — including the Caravan, Grand Cherokee, and RAM pickup — declined significantly in 2000 over their 1999 volume, and continued to fall over the next several years. Could it have been that quality and reliability issues finally caught up with Chrysler, deterring new and repeat customers? My family’s own personal experience with Chrysler products from this era was certainly less than perfect on that level.
Let me present one final theory, and that involves the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Introduced early in 2000 as an ’01 model, the PT Cruiser, a car originally intended for sale as a Plymouth, proved an unlikely competitor to the Neon which sat across from it in Chrysler-Plymouth and the increasingly common Chrysler-Dodge showrooms across the United States.
While it only was offered in a hatchback bodystyle, the PT Cruiser offered a more powerful standard engine, a greater amount of comfort and convenience features, and decidedly more style for marginally more cost. PT Crusier sales actually eclipsed that of the Neon in 2001, the model’s first full year of sales.
Whether it be just one or multiple factors, the second generation Neon simply failed to match the impact and subsequent success of the original. Maybe “Hello” was just the wrong message? Whichever was the case, the Plymouth Neon said a prompt “Goodbye” in June 2001, when the last unit (the very last Plymouth badged vehicle) rolled off the assembly line.
Photographed: Middletown, Rhode Island – November 2017
2000 Chrysler Neon (COAL)
Love the title of this article! Great piece man.
These were sold here as Chryslers. They weren’t popular but I remember thinking they were quite attractive inside and out and they were sized between our compact and mid-size offerings here.
That 3-speed auto, though, copped a lot of flack. And rightfully so! The Neon was the only car left in Australia with a three-speed.
Interesting- I had completely forgotten about the Neon. I cannot remember when I last saw one, yet there was a time that there were quite a few here. They’re not so old that they should have complete vanished so I wonder why they have all gone?
They were also sold in Canada as a Chrysler.
I owned a 2000 Chrysler Neon LX for just over five years. Ours was a 5spd and a very good car.
Wrote it up a while back.
I’ve no direct experience of these cars but Chrysler have introduced a number of attractive and ‘niche’ models into the UK over the years but not had any real follow-through on the road. No successors I saw to the PT Cruiser, Neon or 300C – all of which grabbed the public imagination as something fresh with a lot seen on the road. The 300C particularly looked like a sucessor to the old Rover P5 – and as a big bruiser found a lot of buyers.
Similar in Australia too, Mark. The cars you name grabbed the public attention, but in the case of the Neon and the PT Cruiser, there was no obvious follow-through to the next model. The second-gen Neon was a rare sight, and there was no obvious product to replace it. Would-be customer shrugs shoulders and heads for a different dealer…..
Nowadays 300Cs are common-ish, and you still see enough PT Cruisers (usually customized in some way) on the road that you might mistakenly think they’re still in production, but the Neon might never have been sold here for all the lasting impact its had.
This car could have been used as the basis for the creation of M-B’s equivalent of Renault’s Dacia or VW’s Skoda here in the EU. But I suppose that was below M-B back then (well, thinking about it, the whole of Chrysler’s operation seemed to have been beneath M-B at the time).
Brendan, thanks for a great write-up on a car that was going pretty fuzzy in my memory bank. You also noted some details I don’t think I ever noticed, but were really bad: 3-speed auto for a new design in the year 2000? Power front windows only? Subpar to say the least. Of course, some historic Mopar demons were present and accounted for, with nvh and quality issues rearing their ugly heads.
But as you point out, one of the biggest challenges the Gen2 Neon faced was the PT Cruiser. People scoff at them today, but they were something of a phenomenon when introduced. So the PT Cruiser got all the showroom buzz as soon as it hit the market (and even before, as it had been teased as a concept). While the first Neon had been playful and interesting, the Gen2 refinements/improvements didn’t enhance the pizazz of the car and made it feel really dull. And if you’re going to go for “dull,” you’re damn well going to want reliable and well made, areas where the Neon trailed the competition.
No compact wagon would have led me to consider the PT Cruiser, if I’d been in the market for a new car in 2000. But I’d probably have chosen what I later on did, a Focus wagon. I like the looks of the Focus much more than either the Neon or Cruiser.
I always thought the pt cruiser was meant to take over for neon. Neons successor..
Had Plymouth not have been killed off, it likely would of for the Plymouth Neon at least.
I’ve no experience with the Gen II Neon. But a friend bought a new 4-door in ’96, with the twin-cam and a 5-speed.
I remember the critics griped about the body quality and frameless windows. But my friend and I drove his Neon up to Lime Rock for a race weekend, and it seemed reasonably pleasant and comfortable for a small car
6 years later, my friend had moved up to a small Lexus, and his wife had the Neon.
By 60,000 miles, the Neon didn’t seem so pleasant and then the head gasket blew.
Wife replaced it with a new Corolla.
At least the Neons were decent looking.
One thing I found incomprehensible was Chysler’s decision to replace the Neon with that ugly Dodge Caliber mini-SUV. So when gas prices ramped up, Chysler had no proper small car to sell!
Happy Motoring, Mark
I think caliber took over for the pt cruiser. Didnt caliber only have a two year run? I remember those selling very cheap when new. Come to think about it Chrysler did have overlap between outgoing and in coming cars.
I may be wrong but I believe that the Caliber was sold for 4 model years, maybe even 5? The first 2 years had very bad interiors, the dashboard was ugly and the whole interior was loaded with hard plastic. About half way into the 3rd model year, the outside got a mid facelift while the interior got a bit more of a redo.
There was even an SRT-4 high performance model during one of the model years.
The Caliber really took over for the Neon, as the PT Cruiser and Caliber were sold alongside each other from 2007-2010.
Like you, I was surprised to learn the Caliber was sold all the way through 2012. Based upon the numbers I’ve seen on the road I kind of assumed they only sold them for a few years then quietly discontinued it.
This even surprised me when looking it up, but the Caliber was sold from 2006 (as an ’07 model) all the way through the 2012 model year (production ending in late-2011)!
Certainly a forgettable car and an odd choice to replace the Neon with. It was always a “is it a CUV or a hatchback?” kind of car that never sold as well as the Neon. In fact, I see just as few Calibers on the roads today as I do older Neons.
The early and related Jeep Compass met a similar fate, but was given a somewhat new lease on life with its Grand Cherokee-inspired mid-cycle facelift. Of course, by that point it was a popular rental fleet queen.
DC was just 10 years to early in their thought that a small CUV would replace all the small sedans. Kind of like their early entry into 3 row CUVs with the pacfifica. Almost had it right but not quite.
The Caliber used the same chassis as the compass and patriot which both sold in relativity huge numbers so it ended up working out of for Mopar.
You still see these in my Mid-Atlantic area. This generation, as well as the first generation if you can believe that. Pretty common in rural areas, just like GM A-bodies. They were pretty crude when new, but they can go for many years with just minimum care.
RE: The 3 speed automatic transmission.
On paper, it does appear to be quite archaic and old fashioned.
In “The Real World”, it wasn’t all that bad!
The well chosen gear ratios provided plenty of “around town” pep with smooth part throttle downshifts when needed.
Although lacking a 4th gear overdrive; when the lock up torque converter kicked in at Interstate cruising speeds it almost felt like another gear shift, giving appx 5 to10% more gas mileage.
This 3 speed Torqueflite transmission, dating back to the 1978 Omni/Horizon, was a robust & reliable unit (unlike certain other make’s newer transmissions.)
Good write up, Brendan. I was a passenger in a Gen II Neon once and was surprised at how composed it felt on the road. Unfortunately, the car was hampered by a cheap interior and poor NVH, like you describe in your article. The featured CC definitely has a caring owner though. That car still looks brand new.
You’ve definitely got a good point about the Neon vs. the PT cruiser, and the modern counterpart to the Neon, the Dart, suffered a similar fate. Why buy a small car when a used or discounted Renegade or Cherokee could be had for the same price, and with all wheel drive? I imagine that line of thinking lead many customers toward the crossovers. I also think the Dart should have been called the Neon. Just look at the visual similarities between the two. Plus, the Neon had name recognition with Millenials, who were likely the ones in the market for compact cars in 2013.
I agree that the Dart should have been called the Neon. Not that it would have kept consumers from choosing the Renegade, Compass, etc. anyway. The Renegade is analogous to the Neon in its segment in a lot of ways – not the most reliable or rational choice, but it is different and quirky.
Perhaps today, with gas prices staying relatively reasonable, some would prefer a discounted Renegade or Cherokee SUV. But I remember around 2009, with gas prices high and the economy in a slump, people were stuck with SUVs bought during the ‘good-times’ and couldn’t give them away!
And not everyone wants an SUV. Maybe sales of mid size sedans are dropping. But sales of compacts like the Corolla and Civic have remained fairly stable during the past few years.
Happy Motoring, Mark
8 years ago “Why did Chrysler cancel the Neon, they need a small car stat!”
1 year ago, “get rid of the Dart, no one wants them!” “Chrysler is smart to drop the slow selling small cars”
Next few years? Who knows?
The Dart name has a lot of recognition for older people like me(have owned 3 Darts and one Valiant)but to the newer generations the Neon name would have been a better choice. Who wants to buy a car with a name their grandfather raves about?
I had actually forgotten any details of the 2nd generation Neon. And that might be part of the problem as well.
“Hi” was a very effective and memorable ad campaign, and one that really dominated how people viewed the car – in a cutesy, playful type of way. Not really my type of car, but the campaign worked well with the car’s style, aura, and (like you mentioned) frisky colors and trim.
Daimler-Chrysler might have wanted to change the message to “Hello,” with the 2nd generation Neon, but wasn’t bold enough to come up with a completely new design. So the car ended up looking like a mildly restyled ’95 Neon. As you mentioned, the original buyers moved on to something more mature by that point, and other buyers still had that 6-year-old ad campaign branded into their memories. Seems like it was a compromise that benefited no one.
By 2000, it was hard to take the Neon seriously. And being outclassed by many rivals, there was very little reason to buy one.
The 2000 Neon was still living in the original’s shadow – but that shadow wasn’t compelling enough to bring in new buyers. And the PT Cruiser situation is an interesting angle that I’d never considered before.
I think Eric703 hits it square on – the 2nd generation Neon lacked the personality of the earlier cars and failed to offer what the better cars in the class offered to make up for it. I have always had a soft spot for the original Neon. This version was “meh” right from the start.
The first Neon was sort of the Pikachu of compact cars (sorry, my kids were young during the Pokemon craze). It was cute and hip and fun. The 2nd generation was none of that. If it had been a genuine improvement in interior quality, build quality or performance, it might have worked out better. But it lost most of what the Neon had going for it.
Cute, fun and hip gets old, tedious and ugly quickly when the quality is mediocre. My older son’s GF had on of these, and it was essentially a disposable car, unlike much of the competition. Perpetual water leaks into the trunk and rear seat area (hi ’57 Plymouth!), cheap interior materials, and the engine started burning oil. They nigh-near destroyed the engine by not keeping up on its oil level. One time they joined us for a ski vacation in Central Oregon, and on a hunch I checked its oil level, and the dip stick was dry. it took some 3 quarts to get it back up.
Neon: the anti-Corolla. Boring, uncool, and reliable wins the race in the long haul.
You prove that actual experience beats general impressions every time. My only exposure to one of these was as an overnight rental when my car was not ready during a service appointment on my Club Wagon. It was a fun car for 24 hours around town, and remains the sum total of my actual Neon experience. What is maddening is that during that period of time Chrysler was maybe 75 or 80% of the way to being fabulously successful. Some quality and durability would have paid a lot of dividends.
I dunno, I got good service out of a 1995 Neon Sport Coupe purchased in 2001 for a measly $4300. It had 65,000 or so miles at the time, and as part of the purchase deal, the headgasket was preemptively replaced with the later part that solved the gasket issues. It handled well and had quite a bit of power and torque compared to the competition at the time. Mine was an early build coupe and so still had the SOHC 16-valve engine, but 132 hp and a five-speed was still quite good for a 2,400 lb car at the time.
I drove it about 40,000 miles until 2004, when I replaced it with a 2000 Honda Civic Si. That was certainly a superior car in both performance and refinement (though obviously the Neon had better low-end torque), but it also cost quite a bit more both new and used ($9500 for one with 92,000 miles). I sold it to my cousin and he got another 4 or 5 years’ use out of it.
It definitely lacked some refinement – the frameless windows were most of that issue – but with the updated headgasket, I never had any mechanical issues with it. It did blow fuel pump fuses with enough regularity that I carried a few in the glove box, which I’m sure would infuriate some people, but I’ll gladly take an issue that pops up every six months that I can fix in three minutes with a $1.50 part.
This is coming from someone who has mostly owned Japanese cars over the years, but I really liked the first-gen Neon.
I think that the Ford Focus ate the Neon’s lunch. The styling was cutting edge and it was available as a 2 or 4 door hatchback, 4 door sedan or a wagon. The PT Cruiser might have listed for slightly more than the Neon but dealers were marking them up big due to strong demand initially.
I liked the original Neon but never got to ride in or drive one. My best friend did buy a ‘loaded’ 2002 Neon SXT several years ago, and after some overheating issues asked that I help him unload it.
It did drive nice and feel very roomy, but there was not much that suggested it was better than the rival compacts (I was driving a 2002 Protege ES at the time, a car which I place as the benchmark for that era in terms of driving dynamics and quality.)
It was certainly the only car with the odd power front/manual rear windows which did it no favors, although I vaguely recall it being a 4 speed automatic. Were they upgraded at some point during the run on higher trim levels? The Corolla used a 3 speed on the VE trim level through 2002 as well. The upholstery was decidedly non-plush, with a very synthetic feel and no hint of ‘mouse fur’ anywhere.
That said, I still though it was a nicer looking car than the awful Caliber that replaced it.
Yes, some Neons received the 4-speed auto beginning in 2002.
IIRC, a 4-speed automatic was offered near the end of the life cycle of the NEON. My memory may be fuzzy, but the new 4-speed caused the EPA numbers to drop. This was adjusted in the final year (or two) to improve the numbers.
As alluded to above, the 4-speed should have been included in the Gen2 version from the very beginning. This would have made the car more competitive with the Corolla and Focus. Probably some Chrysler VP argued for the 3-speed to insure his bonus at the expense of the car.
I always found the “shield” grille badge awkward. It’s almost as if the design team ran out of ways to distinguish it from the previous model.
Wife bought 2 Gen 1 Neons in succession. We both liked the cars – so much so that we bought a Gen 2 Neon when we traded the last Gen 1 Neon.
The Gen 2 Neon was a better car in almost every respect, but driving it just wasn’t as much fun. Don’t know why. Maybe just fatigue with the Neon in general. The Gen 2 Neon eventually left Arkansas when my youngest son took it to college in Southern Utah.
One one of those long drives back home, he fell asleep crossing the desert and rolled the car multiple times. He walked away without a scratch.
While the Gen 2 Neon was never my favorite car – or even a fun car – I’m forever grateful for every bet of structural integrity that it had over the original.
Good write up on a car that was popular in its day as they seemed to be everywhere you looked. The second gen model not so much I think. Probably because of what was being offered by then from other manufacturers.
There are still a few first and second gen cars running around up here, mostly owned by young kids. Second gen cars especially R/T models can also be seen. Some in very good condition.
These do seem to be getting scarce. The first gen was fun, interesting, and had loads of personality and lots of good color options. Sort of as close as an American car could ever get to a first generation Renault Twingo, perhaps. Never drove one. Still, lots of positive press in the beginning, akin perhaps to Saturn’s early days.
Then it grew up. And got more somber and lost some of its appeal especially as reliability issue stories started to spread. I drove a few as rentals and they were quite good, the suspension felt buttoned down, it was quick enough and if it was in fact only a 3-speed automatic it didn’t seem a hindrance. Just not as fun “visibly”.
Overall, a win in Mopar’s column in my mind that could have been extended.
It’s unfortunate, but most car manufacturers have a bad habit of “improving” their products into an entirely different kind of vehicle. In this case, why couldn’t Chrysler have kept many (nearly all?) of the 1st generation Neon’s playful qualities as option packages? Kept some of the fun colors, upholstery patterns, and optional wheels. Clothing manufacturers don’t stop making clothing for young people when their customer base ages. And cereal manufacturers have long recognized that some adults still want “kids-type” /sugary breakfast cereals….they didn’t stop making Frosted Flakes or Capt Crunch when Boomers hit their teens and twenties.
If you bought a 1st generation Neon, why would you want the same thing, but more mature if you were a few years older?
BTW, i agree with the idea that the Neon name COULD have been used instead of Dart.
A co-worker picked up a used 2nd gen Neon when the trans expired in his 96 Escort, at a smidge over 200K. By the time I retired, he had topped 200K with the Neon, but, unlike the Escort, the Neon was more replacement parts in formation than the original car: salvage engine, salvage trans and who knows what else.
My theory on the more dour/cheap ambiance of the 2nd gen it that it was targeted for the fleet market.
The Neon lives south of the border, as a retrimmed Fiat Tipo. Doubt we will ever see it here as FCA management seems to think every passenger car they sell means a higher profit SUV was not sold.
I remember Automobile magazine on the debut of this second generation Neon said a similar thing to this headline – “Pleased to meet you.” Never thought of the PT Cruiser factor in hampering its sales. And now I mention the PT Cruiser, how did its Chevy knock-off, the HHR wagon based on the Cobalt, fare in the marketplace?
how did its Chevy knock-off, the HHR wagon based on the Cobalt, fare in the marketplace?
The HHR appears to have not impacted Cobalt sales one whit.
The Cobalt was introduced for MY05 and the HHR for MY06. Sales are reported for the calendar year. For calendar year 05, Chevy sold 212,667 Cobalts, while the HHR, only available late in 05, sold 41,011. In calendar year 06, when both models were available for the full year, they sold 211,451 Cobalts and 101,298 HHRs. That roughly 2 to 1 Cobalt/HHR ratio held up until 09 and 10 when Cobalt sales fell much faster than HHR sales.
In comparison, the year before the PT came out, Dodge sold 183.797 Neons. In the PT’s premier year, 2000, they sold 91.996, but Neon sales only fell to 163.332. In 01, they shifted 144.717 PTs vs 137.353 Neons. There is some erosion of Neon sales, but erosion had been happening before the PT came out, and continued through the Neon’s life.
Oh man. This one hit home for sure. My grandfather has one of these as his “work” car, he must’ve gotten it in like 2005 or so, a silver 2000. Abuse doesn’t begin to sum up the treatment this poor thing has been subjected to. I was 16 when he got it and by the time I was driving regularly at 17-18, I was often given the keys to this jalopy. It was constantly full of trash, greasy rags, pieces of wood and always had an inch of bilge water on the floor. Smelled great too.
Still, had a lot of fun in that car, I was the only guy with a set of wheels so we’d load up 6-7 goons and hit the town. Never stranded us, that three-speed was more capable than you’d think, never felt handicapped. Definitely not the most composed car at speed but I think that has a lot more to do with the fact that I think it had a bent rear axle than the car itself.
I’ve since moved onto bigger and better things, thankfully, but Papou still has the Neon, still full of garbage and bilge water, but it’s puttering along nevertheless.
As much as it pains this “Mopar Man” to admit it: I suspect Chrysler Co’s Bipolar quality control killed off some second generation Neon repeat buyers?
In the first year of Neon production, i recommended the car to 3 friends.
One friend got a fantastic car, no squeaks, rattles or water leaks, drove it over 140K before moving away. I still get Christmas cards from her!
The second friend’s Neon was just ok, some rattles and a blown head gasket (perhaps because he never changed the anti-freeze in 12 years of ownership?) Still somewhat distant friends with him.
The third friend’s car was horribly terrible. Paint runs, air & windshield water leaks, squeaks, rattles, jerky clutch and loose gear shifter from day one, the A/C kept stopping up and dumping water on my feet during hard turns.. He put 45K on his and traded it off on a Honda Civic. He no longer talks to me.
Got one of these as a rental long ago, and like many commenters I struggle to remember any details about it. It’s rare and somewhat depressing to find a car that has so little personality, especially compared to the first generation.
I test drove a 1st gen on a used car lot in Southfield, MI in late 2001. Agricultural was a good description, but roomy.
Freaking dealer wouldn’t throw in 4 new tires as part of the deal (the fronts and rears were mismatched and neither set had great tread.) I walked away.
Bought a 1997 Escort wagon with approx 20,000 miles on it instead.
PT is the chemical symbol for platinum. On the other hand, Neon is colorless, odorless and inert. How could Neon hope to compete with a PT Cruiser?
I remember these turning up in Australia the motoring scribes compared them to the then current Corolla and the Neon didnt stand up well, it came out appearing very average, they sold in NZ though I havent seen a live one in a long time and I spend my days in traffic, I was overtaken by a very rare Jowett Jupiter yesterday but no Neons in recent memory.
I liked the look of the 2nd gen over the first gen. In fact I bought a 2000 lease return ‘Chrysler’ Neon, as they were called in Canada. It was the best used car value for something 2-3 years old. Only complaint I had was road noise and rear visibility. Oh, and it was small and boring. Traded it after a year.
I remember that in some European markets, the Chrysler Neon got a small bright-rimmed eggcrate grille complete with the winged logo.
Yes! we had that in Canada, 2002 only. Then they renamed it Dodge SX for 2003.
No mention of the brutally fast SRT-4? Nothing for the price at the time could touch them in terms of performance. A very young co-worker bought one new, and after one ride in it with him I vowed never again; cheap enough for young dumb inexperienced kids to obtain and proceed to drive like absolute maniacs in. He rolled his trying to blast around a cloverleaf in less than a year of ownership.
Since the last 2005-06 Neon’s hit 10 years old, they’ve disappeared from Chicago streets. For beater buyers, if one can buy a newer car, they will pass on the older ‘orphans’, as parts dry up.
To add, just cancelled Dodge Darts and Chrysler 200’s will likely be gone from BHPH lots by 2026. Maybe Neon owners traded in for them recently?
only the second gen Neons were sold as Chryslers in Canada, for a couple of years the only Dodges sold here were Vipers and Trucks. When the Dodge name came back the Neon was called SX-2.0. My brother has a second gen model for a winter beater and the one time I travelled with him in the car on a highway I couldn’t believe how the engine was screaming with no overdrive. My in-law had a 1st gen coupe with 5 speed and DOHC–the passenger door glass would pop away from the weatherstrip at high speed.
One word says why the Neon (and the Dart and the wretched 200 both before and after it was renamed from Sebring and the Caliber and the Avenger) didn’t do so well on the new-car market: Uncompetitive.
One additional word says why all these disappear from the used-car market far more rapidly than, for example, the Spirits and Acclaims that went before: Unreliable (with side orders of “uneconomical to fix”, “impossible to keep up with repairs”, and other condiments)
No joke regarding the current Dart. My sister had two friends duped into buying these (because infotainment with a big screen YAY!), and both have already experienced ball joint failure, under warranty. Yeah it’s pothole laden Minnesota, but still. Sell before that warranty evaporates, I say.
” and both have already experienced ball joint failure, under warranty”
Ah, upholding the proud Chrysler tradition of weak front ends, glad to hear that some things never change! :p
I have friends with all of these cars and have helped them repair them. Most of the repairs are shockingly cheap but more frequent then you would want. For a DIY they are great but the low resale means a $500 repair is often not the best financial decision.
That reminds me of a Neon I saw in NY several years ago. I’d have liked to have seen just how they all fit.
The 2nd gen was a lot heavier then the first (about 300 lbs depending on trim) that cut into the fun factor. The first year manual tran models had the old ACR gearbox which made them quick but droned on the highway. A friend bought one new in 99 it was a quick car and fun to drive.
I’m pretty sure low resale is the death of many a american made compact. I have watched it myself, get a bill for $400 for new tires and a tire rod end and people often donate the car or sell for scrap. As a poster found out with his focus the market for american compact cars is not good. The first gen had the same issue. If you look you will still see these around. There are still 4-5 in my neighborhood here in New England.
i almost bought a RT version new in 2001. I had a long commute and was fresh out of Trade school. I went to the dealer and they had a loaded RT black sunroof leather etc. But it was damn close to 20k. The dealer offered to sell me an ACR stripped out for under 15K. In retrospect I should have gone for it as the 2nd gen ACR is a hugely under-rated car (grassroots motors sports ran it against a GTI SE-r Civic SI and a Focus SVT at the track and the handling they claimed was far any away from the others. Despite being down on power it was also faster around the track. ) but I decided to pickup another used car instead.
Hopefully I’m beyond the point of needing to scrounge up a $500 beater, but if the need arose, I wouldn’t be opposed to a 2nd gen Neon, especially a base model with 5 speed.
I thought the new Dart and 200 were attractive cars, but no way on earth would I spend money on a new, small MoPar when there’s a Honda dealer right up the street from the MoPar store. I kept hoping I’d see super-cheap leases on the 200, but given the atrocious residual value, that was never going to happen. I might have taken the chance on a lease if it was REALLY cheap.
An odd driving position, in that you had to be turning a constant corner or be sitting on your head for the steering wheel to be the right way up. At least in the latter position, your eyes could not be offended by the Early Korean-effect dash.
Completely uncompetitive dross.
I’ve had two of these-a lightly-customized-but-spartan 2000 base and-until mid last year-a loaded 2002 ES. Both were good cars.
FWIW, there was a four-speed auto added in 2002 (which mine had-thankfully new when I bought it) that had sub-optimal gearing and was prone to failure which was quickly reworked for the 2003 model year. Also, all Neons-first and second gen-with power windows had crank rear windows-the reason being a late engineering choice to make the cars compliant with impending ’97 side-impact-protection mandates.
Pictured is my $400 ’02 ES with mismatched rims (one chrome, one polished aluminum), obligatory rocker panel rust and the rare functional moonroof (which most owners don’t realize how easy they are to fix) and CD changer options.
Fun fact: the front clip on all ’02s-regardless of trim-were based on the one used on the R/T and were only used for that one year.