Pros: Good Interior Room, Cheap and Has 4 Doors
Cons: Small Engien, 3 Speed and Ugly as Sin
Well not really, but I'm renting it anyway. My Eclipse is in the shop and I needed something to drive to work in, so enter Neon stage right. I never really liked Neons, but it was what I got. It has wheels, a seat and a stearing wheel, all I really need for a few days.
Lets get to the root of why I do not like Neons to begin with. They are made by Dodge, aside from the Viper, Dodge makes no cars I am even remotely interested in. I don't like cheap Sedans that have no power under the hood. The base Neon has no power. I'm not sure what the specs are, but I'm guessing around 120HP, and it is mostly highend. That means that you get good gas mileage, except when you want to drive fast(which for me is often). The Neons are ugly. That is compeltely subjective, but the only uglier car I can think of is the Focus.
After driving the Neon I have to admit it isn't that bad. I would never buy one, but I can see why someone might. It has four doors, a surprising amount of head room and a good amount of trunk space. It wouldn't be a bad car for a family with very young kids. It is very cheap, according to Epinions here, around $12k. I paid ten for my Eclipse and she is 5 years old. For what you pay, you do get your moneys worth.
If you are a fast driver, but for some reason like the Neon you do have options. They are offering a super-charged Neon. I haven't driven it, but it is supposed to be pretty nice. Comperable with the Ford Focus ZX3, both are designed to compete with sport compact cars, like my Eclipse, that are imports. The supsenion is tighter, the engine stronger and it looks sportier. The suspension is probably the best improvement. I have never driven a cars that holds the road worse then the Neon. It has a suprising amount of body roll, and very soft suspsension. This is good for going over bumps, but not for taking hard turns. If you are looking at an older Neon, there is the RT, which I believe isn't made anymore, because of the supercharged version.
I would recomend a standard to anyone who knows how to drive stick. The automatic is a 3 speed. This hurts the gas mileage, but makes the car cheaper. A four speed would be so much better, but the car doesn't have a tachometer, so if running at high RPMs doesn't bother you the car won't remind you. The standard will help your gas mileage, acceleration and can be a life saver in poor weather conditions.
The turning radious is actually better then on my Eclipse. This is good for parking and turning. However the help in turning is comprimised by the poor suspension. The brakes are good enough for how fast the car is supposed to go. If you slam the brakes at 90 don't expect the brakes to stop you. Something all together more solid will bring you to a swift deceleration.
The interior is all together blah. But then again so is the car. You aren't buying this car for sex appeal though. Everything is functional. It does come with a built-in CD player, and the stereo isn't too bad. There is a decent amount of leg room. Four people can fit relatively comfortably. The base model doesn't have power windows or door locks. If you want luxury you are going to have to pay extra.
There are plenty of cars I could think of buying before the Dodge Neon, but the Neon isn't at the bottom of my list. If you are looking for something good on gas, with a fair amount of interior room, for a good price well then the Neon isn't at all bad. You might want to look at the Focus to see which you like better. Or for imports the Honda Civic is hard to beat, bang for the buck.