From the Might 1999 subject of Automotive and Driver.
The Neon’s alternative, which arrives as a 2000 mannequin, is named the Neon. Pause to soak up this electrifying information, then observe that that is the primary time in additional than three a long time that the Dodge and Plymouth compacts have been redesigned with out their names being modified. It is a signal of an automaker’s confidence in its present product when it elects to hold over a nameplate for that product’s substitutement.
Within the Neon’s case, we perceive this determination. The cutesy Neon drew 1000’s of sought-after Gen X customers into Dodge and Plymouth presentrooms for the primary time ever. In recent times, DaimlerChrysler says the Neon has been one of many firm’s best-built and most dependable home vehicles, too.
So it is no shock that the brand new Neon is not a radical change from the unique mannequin. It is simply 2.6 inches longer, 0.2 inch wider, and an inch longer in wheelbase than the 1999 mannequin. The DOHC 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produced 150 horsepower is gone, nonetheless, leaving solely the 132-horsepower single-cam model, mated to the identical five-speed handbook or three-speed automated transmission. (An R/T model arrives for 2001 with a 150-hp SOHC engine.) The 2-door has been dropped (it accounted for simply 23 % of Neon gross sales final yr anyway), because the four-door has handed by means of a type of design puberty. The happy-face entrance fascia has grown a extra distinguished chin, and a brand new chrome mustache has sprouted on the grille.
Child fats has disappeared from the all-new physique, which stretches tightly across the wheel wells, giving the Neon a household resemblance to the remainder of DaimlerChrysler’s domestic-car lineup. It displays a extra grown-up and critical picture for the Neon.
Our first have a look at the 2000 (C/D, February 1999) documented these adjustments intimately. Since then, we have spent a variety of time behind the wheel, on the highway in addition to on the observe. What we have realized suggests a glowing future for the Neon.
A scarcity of refinement was an issue with the primary design. And that is the realm the place the brand new mannequin has made essentially the most important strides. Wind whispers relatively than whistles across the home windows now. Bumps cross beneath extra quietly, and the four-cylinder hums extra distantly. The decibel-level drops measured by our sound meter are 5 at idle, 4 at full-throttle, and two whereas cruising at 70 mph, compared with our final SOHC Neon (C/D, December 1995). Many components are at work right here—a stiffer physique, a redesigned four-strut suspension, and full-frame doorways with triple seals that substitute the frameless-glass door design of earlier than. On the engine, revised covers, manifolds, and a brand new mounting system scale back the hole, whiny noises that plagued final yr’s four-cylinder. Observe that we mentioned scale back, not remove. Bury the throttle all the best way to the 6500-rpm redline, and a well-known booming sound greets the ear—it is simply much less annoying now.
The inside has taken a big step ahead. It is barely roomier entrance and rear. Even higher is the execution of its elements. The onerous inside plastic remains to be there, however it’s higher hidden behind soft-to-the-touch and faux-metal surfaces. Chrome latch handles with beefy-looking lock buttons gown up the doorways. The LX fashions (and ES fashions at Dodge) have adjustable headrests for outboard rear-seat passengers, and the trunk carpeting extends beneath the spare tire. After we spent a while in it, this Neon felt a half-class above rivals such because the Ford Escort and Chevy Cavalier.
With its stiffer physique, revised shock valving, and elevated suspension journey, the 2000 Neon is much more enjoyable to throw round curves than the earlier mannequin. The steering is sharp and correct. Controllable four-wheel drifts are a flick of the steering wheel away, and gross physique motions are tightly managed. The experience is noticeably agency—that is no Hyundai cushcellular—however it by no means felt harsh.
The brakes, although, have actually been improved. Tromp on the pedal at 70 mph, and our four-wheel-disc and ABS-geared up take a look at automobile clawed itself to a cease in 175 toes. That is 5 lower than it took the Ford SVT Contour we examined, and it is inside a few toes of the ceaseping distances of a Mazda Miata or Chevy Corvette. The non-obligatory anti-lock system has been granted digital brake proportioning and traction management, and enhancements had been made to fade resistance and pedal really feel, however we did not count on this. Some credit score goes to the non-obligatory Goodyear Eagle LS tires, which may summon 0.82 g of grip in curves, matching the skidpad variety of a BMW 328i. That is exceptional cornering and braking for a $15,000 econocar. The chances of the upcoming R/T and ACR racing fashions make us itchy with anticipation.
At 2644 kilos, the 2000 Neon is 148 kilos heavier than the final four-door Neon we examined. That automobile may run to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds; the brand new one wants 8.7. That is merely common for this class—a Mazda Protege ES requires 8.4 seconds, and a Saturn SL2 wants 7.6-but our take a look at automobile was fairly inexperienced, with simply 400 miles on the odometer. We expect a broken-in Neon can be 0.3 to 0.4 second faster.
Slower acceleration is about the one letdown in an in any other case comprehensively improved automobile. Surprisingly, the value hasn’t modified a lot in any respect—base costs keep beneath $13,000, with the LX and ES variations coming in at lower than $15,000. If reliability is respectable on early-production vehicles, that can mark one other welcome change from the earlier mannequin. If we are able to snag a long-term Neon quickly, we’ll be the primary to let you recognize if that is the case.
The unique Neon jogged my memory of Opie Taylor. Now Opie’s deep into puberty and has apparently attended a ending college: The brassy, buzzy engine observe has been largely subdued. Inside surfaces are extra tasteful and upscale. This new Neon rides like an even bigger automobile. And its clutch is mild, with Honda-smooth takeup. (Too dangerous the shift linkage stays as clunky as Barney’s cruiser’s.) I certain hope this Neon is healthier constructed than our long-termer (December 1995), which was awash in unfastened trim bits, failed latches, and mysterious squeaks. What’s extra, I had a girlfriend whose ’95 Neon shed mechanical particles across the planet quicker than the Mir house station. —John Philips
The Neon and I took some 15-mph “pace tables” in a close-by subdivision at 30 mph, and the Neon’s buttoned-up-for-’00 suspension was barely challenged. Had the roads not been so twisty and the pace tables so shut collectively, my Neon good friend and I’d have pushed that little envelope. You’ll be able to really feel and see the refinement on this second-generation Neon: The match and end is effectively executed within the new taupe inside. Nonetheless, the shifter is notchy; attempting to interact reverse is a joke. The turn-signal noise is loud and agricultural. And why the key-release button? Have we no religion in our Gen Xers’ intelligence? —Patti Maki
From its vastly richer-looking dashboard to its softer, quieter experience to the soft surfaces that my elbows contact on the door panels, this Neon has moved up the automotive meals chain. But whereas dropping the outdated automobile’s go-kart experience, the brand new Neon maintains the fast reflexes and sharp dealing with that made the outdated one so charismatic and entertaining. After all, the multifariously massaged engine nonetheless emits some 4000-rpm boominess, the rear seat is just too low, and automated transmissions with solely three cogs haven’t any place within the Western world, however on steadiness, the brand new Neon stays one of many extra attention-grabbing small sedans in the marketplace. —Csaba Csere
2000 Plymouth Neon LX
Automobile Sort: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Base/As Examined: $14,650/$15,955
Choices: Anti-Lock Brake Group (consists of traction management), $595; alloy wheels, $355; cruise management, $225; Mild Group, $130
DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, port gas injection
Displacement: 122 in3, 1996 cm3
Energy: 132 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 130 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Suspension, F/R: struts/struts
Brakes, F/R: 10.1-in vented disc/10.6-in disc
Tires: Goodyear Eagle LS
Wheelbase: 105.0 in
Size: 174.4 in
Width: 67.4 in
Peak: 56.0 in
Passenger Quantity, F/R: 51/39 ft3
Trunk Quantity: 13 ft3
Curb Weight: 2644 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 8.7 sec
1/4-Mile: 16.6 sec @ 83 mph
100 mph: 28.7 sec
Rolling Begin, 5–60 mph: 9.0 sec
Prime Gear, 30–50 mph: 13.1 sec
Prime Gear, 50–70 mph: 12.4 sec
Prime Pace (gov ltd): 119 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 175 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.82 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Noticed: 24 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Metropolis/Freeway: 28/35 mpg