Used 1996 Plymouth Neon Sedan

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1996 Plymouth Neon
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1996 Plymouth 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The Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer are flat outdated next to this Plymouth.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 40 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.

1996 Highlights

Antilock brakes are optional across the line, and base models get more standard equipment for 1996. A value-packed Expresso package is aimed at 20-something first-time buyers. A base coupe is newly available, and all Neons are supposedly quieter than last year. A power moonroof joins the options list, and a remote keyless entry system with panic alarm is available.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1996 Plymouth Neon.

Overall Consumer Rating

Most helpful consumer reviews

I love my car!
Kendra,07/10/2002
I love my car. The one and ONLY time it didn't start was when the battery died. I've never had any other problems than that. I love everything about the car. I love the color, the look of the car, the handling, smooth ride, etc.
I'm thinking about another one
slopbox,07/15/2008
I deliver newspapers in this thing 7 days a week for 7 months at least 120 miles a day 2-4 straight hours or more plus the running I do during the day. I've put one turn signal, and one a/c pump in it (which still doesnt help how weak it is) the light switch kept burning out and my speedometer rarely moved, but those problems are under conrol now. I pay close attention to my gas 28+ which for how I drive is great it does need oil every 3-4 days but its never left me stranded on my route after speeding 3 hours straight. Trans getting shoddy and the braking system getting weak I have a feeling im the one to blame for that. Definitely a bang for your buck but be careful not all Neons are made the same
Cheap unreliable car
don't buy a neon,10/09/2008
I bought this car and it was a clean looking car and at the time, it seemed reliable. But two months later, the air conditoner stopped working and the car started dying, not to mention the speedometer also went out. Fixed the problem with the car dying, but not the speedometer or air conditoner. I've also had to replace a motor mount recently, but that still has not completely fixed the car. Altogether, I've spent over $400 in repairs but it hasn't really repaired much. I would recommend if you want a good, dependable car to stay away from a Neon.
Disappointment
Bill A.,11/08/2008
Bought this car brand new, ordered from the factory back in '95. Thought it would be a fun and reliable car to own for a family of three. Fun, yes. Reliable? Uh, no. Here's a brief list of problems: -Numerous battery replacements -Leaking seal in trunk -Water accumulates in tail light lens -Speed sensor shorting out left me and family stranded during Christmas vacation -ABS gave out -Head gasket replaced twice, still leaks -Instrument panel works intermittently -Water pump and AC compressor needed replacing...And on, and on...and on. Finally giving up and trading it in (if they'll even take it) on a new 2009 Honda CR-V.
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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
132 hp @ 6000 rpm
MPG
24 city / 35 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
132 hp @ 6000 rpm
See all Used 1996 Plymouth Neon Sedan 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 Plymouth Neon
Used 1996 Plymouth Neon Sedan Overview

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Find a used Plymouth Neon for sale - 4 great deals out of 9 listings starting at $10,075.

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Should I lease or buy a 1996 Plymouth 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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