Dodge's small car is larger for 2000, both in exterior dimensions and interior space. The redesigned Neon went on sale last spring as an early 2000 model and, like the previous generation, is available in identical form and prices at Dodge and Plymouth dealers. In addition to being larger, the new Neon has more standard equipment and is presented as a sporty yet more mature successor to the original, which was sold during the 1995-99 model years.
Marketing executives describe the 2000 model this way: Whereas the old Neon said, "Hi," the new one says, "Hello, how are you." Low-speed traction control is among the new features, teamed with anti-lock brakes as an option. Dodge is DaimlerChrysler's performance-oriented division, and in late 1999 Dodge added a high-performance 2000 Neon R/T model that isn't shared with Plymouth. The R/T has a 150-horsepower engine, sport suspension and tires and racy exterior trim.
Passengers have more room in the new Neon, with Dodge claiming increases in all interior measurements. Neon has a pair of front buckets and a three-place rear seat. Cargo volume increases from 11.8 cubic feet to 13.1, and a 60/40 split folding rear seat is a new standard feature. A cassette player, rear defogger, four cupholders and floormats are other new items on the standard equipment list. A dashboard-mounted, four-disc CD changer is a new option.
The original Neon came in two- and four-door styling, but the 2000 model comes only as a four-door. The wheelbase (distance between the front and rear wheels) increases an inch to 105 and overall length grows nearly 3 inches to 174.4. Styling evokes a kinship to the original Neon, but DaimlerChrysler designers say they tried to give the new model a more substantial appearance.
Under the Hood
A 132-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder is the only engine (until the R/T model arrives), and it comes with a choice of five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmissions.
The new Neon is more substantial than the original, feeling impressively solid over bumpy pavement. It is slightly roomier and just as fun to drive as the original. Unfortunately, it is just as loud, too, and the engine makes quite a ruckus in hard acceleration.