Used 1996 Dodge Neon

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1996 Dodge Neon
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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

Welcome to the new model year. The hype is over and the dust has settled. The cutesy advertising no longer saturates the media, and focus has shifted to newer Chrysler products. Nasty production glitches and early recalls are fading from memory. It is time to examine the Neon for what it is and how well it stacks up to the competition..

The Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer are flat outdated next to this Plymouth. The Toyota Tercel is forty horsepower and a personality off the mark. Nissan's new Sentra is bland in comparison. Chevy's Cavalier feels heavy and ponderous; ditto the Pontiac Sunfire. The Toyota Corolla is a fine car, but can't compete with the sheer value offered by the Neon. Neither can the Geo Prizm. Mazda Protege and Honda Civic suffer the same problem.

What about reliability, though? Well, if the surveys conducted by several independent firms around the country are any indication, the Neon suffers from hit-and-miss quality. Edmund's has received mail from folks who think it's the greatest car they've ever owned, and from others who wanted to know if their problems qualified for any lemon law protection. Overall, the impression we've gained is a favorable one, though we are hesitant to recommend this scrappy compact to those who've traditionally driven imports with Japanese badging.

The Neon combines practicality, performance and personality into one very affordable package. For 1996, the Neon gains standard equipment and revisions to the options list, as well as a new transparently-named Expresso package aimed at so-called Generation X buyers who supposedly spend all their time slacking off at the Coffee Plantation sipping java. Base models get 14-inch wheels, body-color bumpers, tinted glass and intermittent wipers. Sport models used to have antilock brakes and alloy wheels as standard equipment; this year they are optional. Also optional is a power sunroof and a gutsy twin-cam 2.0-liter engine for the Sport sedan.

Expresso models include a decklid spoiler, power bulge hood, white wheelcovers and graphics, along with interior trim from the Sport, air conditioning, tachometer and rear defroster. Sold for less than $12,000, including destination charges, the Expresso will be tempting to first-time buyers on a budget. We think they should go for our favorite, which is the base sedan or coupe equipped with the Competition package. Add air conditioning, and you've got a livable version of the car that Chrysler sponsors in amateur racing events nationwide. Also available is a bona fide GT coupe. Called the nineties version of the original Volkswagen GTI by the automotive press, the Neon Sport Coupe is the most fun you can have for $15,000, aside from a used Mazda Miata.

Supposedly, the Neon is quieter this year. Other news includes the addition of a base coupe to the model mix, increased fuel tank capacity, a remote keyless entry system with panic mode, and a four-spoke steering wheel which replaces last year's frumpy two-spoke unit. Power windows are now optional on the coupe, and two new colors join the palette. Sadly, Nitro Yellow is canceled.

If Chrysler Corporation can quell consumer fears about the reliability of this little car and keep prices in line, there really won't be any point in shopping around. Just drop in to any Plymouth dealer and drive off in one of the best small cars available today.

Top consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1996 Dodge Neon.

Neons are cute, but beware!
Carolyn, 3/29/2005
Bought my Neon in 2000 with only 24,000 mi on it. The dealership had already replaced a head gasket. Since then, I have had to replace the radiator, an O2 sensor, and the dash circuit board (my speedometer stopped working!) The brakes squeak constantly, it slips in the rain even with good tires (I won't even mention in the snow), and the doors/handles freeze solid in the cold. Rear speakers are blown, tape deck quit working. So many problems, and it only JUST passed 56,000 mi. AC isn't very cold, and sucks the life out the acceleration. When I first got the car, I loved how cute it was, but now I look at it and I can't wait to buy my Honda CR-V. No more Dodge products for me!
don't get one even if it's given to you!
jetta lover, 2/1/2004
We were happy at first- the style, cabin capacity, and mileage are all good. That was the honeymoon period. Then, the head gasket had to be replaced and the air conditioner repeatedly recharged. At 50,000 miles the engine started crapping out- consuming oil and the engine needed to be replaced- the cost would have "totaled" the car. Had to fill it with a quart of oil once a week. Speedometer worked only when it felt like it... wiring in stereo was bad and the right-passenger-side speaker set on fire. Needed new tires at only about 30,000 miles. Charged A/C a week and a half before we traded it in, and was out of fluid the day we turned it in.
Never buy a Neon!
ever, 7/14/2004
Paint peeled, speedometer went, guages worked intermittently, had gauge transplant, oil warning still failed, CONSTANT problems w/ breakdowns -- oil leaks, gaskets, have poured money into fixing it -- don't want to add it up. Noisy, hard to get out of, cup holders impossible, no clock, no oil gauge, overhead light went on while driving & couldn't be fixed, same with radio; hence no interior light (had to take out bulb) -- a PAIN!!!!!!
Buyer Beware
NeonPOOR, 6/28/2003
This car is a money pit. I used to love it...before two head gaskets, The latest todat to the tune of 1,000 dollars. Two weeks ago I put in $400. As I bought this as a year old rental...I have to wonder what they di to it. AC has been repaired. New brake system (FYI the breaks squeal on all models for this year) Can't get the dome light to turn off. Just found out that the uneven tire wear is a problem many others have had. A new set of tires every year because of inside wear. Ticking sound in dash. Stopping in intersections (Had to put in a new cable from the battery to alternator to solve that problem.)
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Features & Specs

MPG
24 city / 35 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
132 hp @ 6000 rpm
MPG
24 city / 35 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
123 hp @ 6000 rpm
MPG
24 city / 35 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
132 hp @ 6000 rpm
See all Used 1996 Dodge Neon features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Poor

More about the 1996 Dodge Neon
Used 1996 Dodge Neon Overview

The Used 1996 Dodge Neon is offered in the following submodels: , . Available styles include Sport 2dr Coupe, 4dr Sedan, 2dr Coupe, Sport 4dr Sedan, Highline 2dr Coupe, and Highline 4dr Sedan.

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