This was my second car ever. Went in, had a fun drive with it, and bought it. Only major issue was the head gasket leak which was caused by a poor design. Replaced the old head gasket with a new MLS one, no problem since. A minor issue was a new valve cover gasket replaced after 75k miles. $30 and 30 minutes in your driveway will take care of this, no big deal. This was my first Neon of two and I plan on buying another. They're fairly common part cars and easy to fix. I love the DOHC engine but the 3-speed automatic can be a slouch at times. Keep up with your oil changes and a Neon will last you a long time.
Great engine, gas mileage, and comfortable. I'm not a big person so the car fits me perfect. Can be made a pretty nice tuner car (with the manual transmission) if wanted.