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2000 Dodge & Plymouth Neon

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SAN FRANCISCO:  In my opinion, Chrysler stylists are the best in the business. They keep turning out great looking cars and trucks. The 2000 Neon is the latest example. While the previous Neon, around since 1994, was "cute", the completely restyled Neon is handsome. The Y2K model is not only better looking; it is improved in many ways. Incidentally, more than 1.5 million 1995-99 Neons were sold worldwide, a commendable feat considering the Neon had to go up against some pretty stiff competition in the compact car class.

The Neon comes in Dodge and Plymouth versions, but these identical twins differ only in trim and badges. Unlike the previous model, the new Neon comes only as a four-door sedan. The two-door sedan was dropped as well as the base model. Also gone are the better performing and handling R/T and hot ACR racecar models.

Likewise, only one engine is now available, a 2.0L four-cylinder with a single-overhead-camshaft (SOHC) and 16-valves. The engine produces 132-horsepower at 5600 rpm and 130 ft-lb of torque at 4600 rpm. The high performance 150-horsepower version is no longer offered, but DaimlerChrysler will bring back a new edition for the 2001 model year.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a three-speed automatic optional. Power disc brakes are used up front, but you will still find drums in the rear. Anti-lock brakes are available as a $595 option, which also includes traction control. The fuel tank holds 12.5 gallons. On the plus side, the automatic adds only $600 to the bottom line, which is an important consideration. Most buyers opt for the automatic and find it adequate for day-to-day driving.

You immediately notice that the new model is significantly more refined than the previous Neon. For example, much higher quality materials are used and the dashboard and instrument panel look like the ones used in higher priced DaimlerChrysler products. In addition, the 2000 Neon has a more substantial feel, starting with the replacement of the previous frame-less windows with full-frame, triple-sealed doors.

Like its predecessor, the new Neon's interior is as spacious as many larger cars. There is copious amounts of headroom and plenty of legroom even for six-footers. While three slim adults can squeeze onto the rear seat; this is really a four-passenger car. The trunk is also very spacious, but like many cars today, the opening is on the smallish side. The rear seat folds down, for even greater carrying capacity.

Neons have always been fun to drive; you might even call them a "poor man's" sports sedan. The 2000 version is still fun to drive, but I would prefer the larger engine. While the power steering is on the light side, control is very good. Handling and ride quality is excellent considering the car's price, a tribute to the fully independent suspension system. You will have to order the bigger wheels and tires for best handling. Alone they are a $355 option. Braking is very good. The black-on-white instrumentation is quite easy to read, controls are user-friendly and there are several cup holders.

Prices for the Neon start at $12,390, plus a $500 destination fee. It comes with a 6-speaker AM/FM/cassette sound system, rear window defroster, power steering & brakes, and intermittent windshield wipers. Air conditioning is a $1000 option and cruise control is $225. Order the full option package (about $1800), if you want creature comforts like keyless entry system, security alarm, 15-inch tires, fog lights, leather-wrap steering wheel, tilt steering column, power windows, door locks and mirrors. You can easily reach the $15,000 mark, even $16,000, if you order Neon like most people equip cars these days. Even then, the Neon represents a great value and a fun ride. By Bill Siuru AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

DaimlerChrysler Home Page

Byline:  By Bill Siuru AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name:  DaimlerChrysler's Smallest Car Gets A Big Car Look
Topic:  2000 Dodge & Plymouth Neon
Word Count:  675
Photo Caption:  2000 Dodge Neon and 2000 Plymouth Neon
Photo Credits:  DaimlerChrysler PR
Series #:   1999 - 26

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