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While fun to drive, the Neon lacks the polish and refinement found in other cars in the economy car segment.
Large interior, competent handling, attractive interior and exterior styling.
Noisy engine, archaic three-speed automatic transmission, lack of feature content.
Available Neon Models
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Side-impact airbags and leather seats are now available in Plymouth's economy car. A center shoulder belt for the rear seat and an internal emergency trunk release further improve this Plymouth's safety consciousness. Both a Sun and Sound or a Value/Fun option group is available this year, each of which includes a sunroof. New interior and exterior options for the Neon pump some life in this fading brand, but if you've got a hankering for the Plymouth nameplate, act fast; as of 2002 Plymouth will be closing shop and subsuming its identity to the gods of DaimlerChrysler.
DaimlerChrysler is billing the current-generation Neon as "quiet, sophisticated and still a lot of fun." Fun seems to be the catchword for the Neon. It's used repeatedly by the manufacturer including, "fun-to-drive handling and steering" and "fun-to-drive attributes." Its maker obviously wants people to know that while the Neon has grown up, it hasn't grown old.
While a fun factor still exists when piloting the Plymouth Neon, the "quiet, sophisticated" aspects are nowhere to be found. The standard 132-horsepower 2.0-liter inline four received refinements to the air induction and intake manifold systems last year to provide torque over a broader rpm range while simultaneously quelling engine noise, but the powerplant still makes too much racket at high rpms.
A word of advice: make sure you stick with the standard equipment five-speed manual transmission. Plymouth has the cojones to charge $600 for its lame-oid and out-of-date three-speed automatic while the cheaper Hyundai Elantra and Daewoo Nubira utilize four-speed autos. Whatever.
With a refined suspension that offers plenty of wheel travel, the Neon's ride is smooth, and it's further enhanced with premium shock absorbers and rear sway bars. The power rack-and-pinion steering and precisely tuned suspension also contribute to the Neon's cruising quality while making it an absolute blast when canyon carving. Stopping power comes from a front disc/rear drum combo, but buyers may want to opt for four-wheel discs with ABS and traction control.
We genuinely like the Neon's exterior features that include jewel-like headlamps, a sleek roofline, and large tail lamps. Utilizing a long wheelbase and wide track, the Neon also offers exceptional interior room and a stable ride.
Plymouth's version of the Neon comes in two models. Base Neons are simply called "Sedan" while upscale models benefit from "LX" badging. Standard items like a radio/cassette combo and four Big Gulp-sized cupholders are much appreciated, yet overall feature content is still lacking. You don't even get power rear windows, a tachometer, or cruise control as standard equipment on the "upscale" LX model. New options for 2001, including side-impact airbags and leather seats, have somewhat expanded the Neon's feature list. You can also get a sunroof as part of the Sun and Sound or Value/Fun option packages. We give Plymouth credit for creating an attractive cabin that appears very upscale and for offering a standard 132-horsepower engine, even in the base Neon.
Unfortunately, competitors like the Ford Focus, Mazda Protege and Nissan Sentra offer more bang for the buck in terms of both refinement and content while still providing enthusiasts with a fun-to-drive car. We bid a fond adieu to Plymouth.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.