I've had my Neon for a long time now, and I've had to do some substantial work to it. It is pushing it's 200,000th mile and is still going good. Personally, i think the older Neon's are a great beginner car for a young driver because they are easy to handle and have lots of safety features. I love my Neon and wish I could keep it much longer.
Very roomy and amazing fuel mileage. Comfortable to drive and all switches (for AC, radio, wipers, etc.) are easily accessible from the drivers seat.
Tires wear quickly. Head gaskets and transmissions are infamous for breaking down. It would be nice if there were frames around the door windows as well.