I've had my 98 almost 5 years. As much as I've heard about the Neon back then, I was reluctant. Before buying I did a lot of research and drove at least 3 from each year. Now I've driven them all. I couldn't afford a new 2000 then, but I was aiming for a 98 because I noticed a huge difference in price. Once I drove mine, I was hooked. The head gasket was replaced before I bought it, so no issue there. Tranny died this year but the warranty covered it. EGR valve went in 2002. Other than that, only VERY minimal maintenance. I'm considering a new car because of age and trade-in value. If the new Neons are still out in a year or 2, I'm likely to buy a Neon again. I love my baby. I will cry when I trade her in.
Minimal view obstructions, storage space, fuel economy, comfort, ice cold a/c and warm heat right after start- up, bright dash light-up, trunk to backseat link without pulling down the whole seat. Better in snow than I expected. A real bang for the buck in general if you research and have a warranty.
Runs a bit louder than the newer models. Would have preferred a 4-speed automatic but the 3 has still done well with pep. No halogen lamps. Slight shimmy at 75+ MPH. Can be problematic without research. When abused without care, they *can* be lemons for the next owner and thus some bad rep.