In my opinion the 1996 Neon is a hands-down winner. After knowing people who had this car and loved it, experiencing the great driving myself, and finding a great deal, I decided to go for it and have not been disappointed. The car definitely has some minor flaws, including crappy paint jobs, but the truth is I've never had to get my car serviced at a mechanic...ever. The things that require service are always minor, and are simple to fix. This car makes several 500+ mile trips per year and I have never been stranded or needed roadside assistance. I had a back-up light problem early on that I thought would be an expensive fix. Turned out it just needed a switch. That's been my biggest issue.
I love driving this car. I don't see how some people have had such bad mileage and horsepower. I have dusted the competition (not that I race) and I certainly get up quicker than other drivers. It handles really well at high speeds too. I still see many other 96 Neons on the road, which says a lot!
I love my car's color, but the paint job is peeling now. I will probably get a paint job soon, but it's in spots that you can't see well, so I've let it go. Other than that, the way the "drive" belts are situated, and that it has two, can be a headache to change them. Make sure you check its recalls