2002 Dodge Neon Review

Pros & Cons

  • Competent handling, large interior, affordable price.
  • Engine lacks refinement, weak frontal offset crash-test scores.
Other years
List Price Estimate
$608 - $1,390

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Edmunds' Expert Review

While fun to drive, the 2002 Dodge Neon lacks the polish and refinement found in other cars in the economy car segment.

Vehicle overview

The spunky Neon's handling has always made it a fun car to bop around in. But up until recently, savvy shoppers would note that the car was lacking in features, such as side airbags and a fourth gear for the automatic transmission, that its rivals had.

For '02, Dodge wakes up and fits the Neon with a long-overdue four-speed automatic, something that the Corolla's had for two decades now. And optional side airbags debuted last year.

This year also sees the shuffling of trim levels, which now total six. A new base Neon debuts -- essentially last year's SE without the badges. The former strippo SE gets more standard features such as power windows, locks and mirrors; a CD player; and keyless entry. The ES adds air conditioning and fog lamps. Both SE and ES will no longer be available to the general public, as they will only be sold to fleets, such as rental car agencies. To fill this void, the SXT debuts, essentially an ES with different badges.

The two sporting Neons, the ACR (American Club Racer -- a favorite of SCCA racers on a budget) and the R/T, carry on as before.

A 2.0-liter 132-horsepower engine continues to power all but the ACR and R/T models, which have their horsepower bumped to 150. The Dodge engines produce respectable power, but they're not the most refined engines, as they get buzzy when you stretch 'em out. Enthusiasts will still prefer a manual gearbox, but be forewarned that the Neon's stick shift is a bit vague and is coupled to a clutch that is heavy for a four-cylinder application.

Thankfully, with a refined suspension that offers plenty of wheel travel, the Neon's ride is smooth. 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.

The previous-generation Neon was a car favored by those who delved into recreational racing events (such as SCCA autocross), due chiefly to its nimble handling. The current version should please those folks, as well. Handling is about as good as it gets for this class, as the Neon demonstrates an eagerness for the twisties through its well-weighted steering, balanced chassis and flat cornering attitude.

Items like a radio/cassette combo and four Big Gulp-sized cupholders are much appreciated, yet overall feature content is still lacking. We do give Dodge credit for creating an attractive and roomy cabin with available white-faced gauges and a swoopy dash that appears very upscale and Intrepid-like.

Unfortunately for Dodge, 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 a fun-to-drive car.

2002 Highlights

A four-speed automatic gearbox replaces the archaic three-speed unit, a new base model is introduced, as is a value-packed SXT. Both SE and ES trims are relegated to fleet-only sales, and all 2002 Dodge Neons get a new "Dodge-signature" (crosshair-style) front end.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2002 Dodge Neon.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Great Car! I recommend highly!
roodieb,03/27/2012
I bought this car with 24K miles on it and have put almost 120K on it since then. I commute 60 miles round trip each day and spend alot of time on the road. While the ride is not as smooth as some would like, the handling of the car is good and the reliability has been terrific. I have not had any major repairs that have needed to be done, but have replaced the normal wear parts like tires, brakes and battery. The car handles great in the snow and also on wet roads. The body style is attractive and the lines are clean. The blind spot view is a little limited by the fast back style as well as by the rear spoiler. Once you are used to this and compensate for it, it is not a problem.
Unfortunate purchase
rostropovich,06/04/2014
I've had this car for almost 2 years, and have had problem after problem, regret upon regret. I have treated it like my firstborn, always hoping that after /this/ repair it will run well for a good long time, but no, not a chance. Got it for $2800 at 81000 miles, but put $4000 in repairs in the first year, including rotors, e-brake, sway bar links and bushings, control arm bushings, muffler, transmission mount, shifter cables, steering tie rod and lights. It never quite felt like it was driving nicely even after repairs. The story ends with the transmission failing. UNCLE!
Since 2002
menifee3,07/30/2012
I have owned this car since 2002. It runs incredibly fantastic. No problems since ownership. I have nearly 90K miles on it and take it into L.A. every day. Runs smooth, 35 mpg Hwy (Higher than officially rated), and an unbelievable air conditioner which I can only run on low, even on hot days, because it get's so cold in the car. The AC is better than the one in my Mercedes! While far from being a chick magnet, this car is the most reliable car I've ever owned. And I'm keeping it!
I love my little neon
jackie,01/31/2016
4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M)
This car is very reliable an comfortable to ride in,i bought mine new an now after 13 years still driving it.

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
    Driver3 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    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
    Poor
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Marginal

More about the 2002 Dodge Neon

Used 2002 Dodge Neon Overview

The Used 2002 Dodge Neon is offered in the following submodels: Neon Sedan. Available styles include 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M), ES 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M), R/T 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M), SXT 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M), SE 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M), and ACR 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M).

What's a good price on a Used 2002 Dodge Neon?

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Which used 2002 Dodge Neons are available in my area?

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Should I lease or buy a 2002 Dodge Neon?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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Check out Dodge Neon lease specials