Neons

Chrysler - Plymouth - Dodge Neon 2000-2005

Neon SRT-4 | In-depth Neon 2000 reviews and competitive comparisons | 1995-99 Neon

2001 dodge neon
The last Plymouth was a Neon (this isn’t it).
Neon SRT-4 Neon racing successes
Performance Neon owners' forum
2000 review SRT-4 review
2002 review Neon repairs
First gen Neon Comparisons
Engines: 2.4 | 2.0 | 1.6 | 1.8

The original Neon hit the ground running, with waiting lines at dealers, Japanese automakers dissecting the first cars to come off the line, and magazines (other than Consumer Reports) praising its class-leading handling, space, and acceleration — as the second fastest Chrysler car of time, after Viper. However, cost-cutting measures, according to one insider caused by CEO Robert Eaton, gave the car a reputation for poor quality, and a combination of rattly windows (easily fixed by glass shops, but beyond many dealerships) and bad head gaskets made the cars undesirable within two years.

2000 Neon engine mountWith the second generation Plymouth and Dodge Neon, Chrysler sought to address the car’s shortcomings without its character of the car — an effort handicapped by the unexpected death of the project leader. They made the car larger, expanding both the cabin and trunk; and cut noise, vibration, and harshness. Two major problems of the Neon, frameless windows and the noisy exhaust donut, were eliminated, and engine mounts were sturdier to smooth the idle, quiet the engine, and last longer.

The added size and weight hurt performance, so the company used the aggressive ACR gear ratios in the manual-transmission model (for 2000 and 2001). This cut gas mileage and added highway noise, but kept performance parallel to the lighter 1995-99 models without adding variable valve timing or a dual-length intake, and eliminated the need to downshift for 60-mph passes. After 2001, more reasonable gear ratios were resumed.

2000 plymouth neon

Updating the Neon cost $703 million and took 28 months. It was now built in a single American plant; the Mexican factory which had made coupes (around one third of sales for the first generation) was retooled to make PT Cruisers. The Neon used waterborne paint, molded-in color fascias, asbestos-free brakes, and door water shields made from recycled plastic.

The body structure was tighter, with 37% better bending stiffness and 26% better torsional stiffness. One-piece body-side aperture panels had better fit/finish; the sill and center pillar reinforcements were improved, the engine compartment strengthened, and the floor pan and instrument panel stiffening beads were revised. Sound insulation included additional bake-on mastic and expandable foam baffles. The steering column was isolated to cut noise.

2005 dodge neon carsThe suspension was redesigned to improve ride quality; front and rear jounce travel was increased by 15% and 30% for a smoother ride and less chance of bottoming. The ride height was raised slightly, with lower-rate springs and better shock absorbers to increase comfort. A more effective front sway bar and a now-standard rear sway bar kept handling and balance close to the original.

Brakes got a better pedal feel; front discs were universal, with rear drums on base models and disc brakes with ABS (which also included electronic brake proportioning and traction control, both contributed nearly free by the SCORE program.) The new Teves ABS system had less brake pulsation.

dodge neon 2.0 liter engineIn the May 2002 issue of Grassroots Motorsports, seven cars under $20,000 were tested; each was autocrossed, timed from 0-60, and put onto a chassis dynometer (the Neon ACR, Mazda MP3, Volkswagen Golf GTI turbo, Nissan Sentra SE-R, Focus SVT, Civic Si, and the Hyundai Tiburon V6). The Neon ACR finished mid-pack for 0-60 (7.9 seconds), but finished the road course ahead of every other vehicle.

The magazine wrote that they loved the handling, saying that with the car dialed in right (the ACR has adjustable suspension components), the Dodge Neon had as close to perfect handling as it gets in this class; they found some handling complaints with every other car in the test. The Neon ACR was also the cheapest car in the test, by a good margin. (Thanks, Tommy Boy)

2000-2004 Neon: Changes from 1995-99

Power on the base engine (for the United States) remained at 132-133 hp (98 kW) at 5600 rpm, torque increased slightly to 130 ft-lb (177 Nm) at 4600 rpm. (66.2 bhp per liter). A 1.8 liter engine based on the 2.0 was available in numerous export markets; less common was a 1.6 liter engine designed jointly with Rover, which ended up in the Mini (in 2008, the factory that made those engines was sold to Fiat).

srt-4 concept

Engine differences beyond those mentioned earlier, were:

  • New air induction systems increased peak torque slightly while quieting the engine
  • New exhaust manifold, cylinder head cover, and timing belt cover all reduced noise
  • Double Start Override disengaged the starter to prevent double starting
  • A four-point engine mount system reduced vibration at idle and increased the engine mount lifespan
  • A lower idle speed increased better fuel economy
  • Increased cooling capacity for engine, transaxle and power steering
  • New, dual cycloidal automatic transaxle pump for quieter operation (early 1999 introduction)

plymouth neon engine

Body changes were:

  • Rear floor pan lowered 1.0 inch for increased trunk space (13.1 cubic feet vs.11.8)
  • Base of windshield moved forward three inches
  • Overall length increased 2.6 inches to 174.4; wheelbase increased by 1.0 inch to 105.0; overall width increased by 0.2 inches to 67.4. Track increased 0.6 inch to 58.0. Ground clearance raised by 0.3 inches to 6.1 to accommodate longer suspension travel
  • Full-frame doors for reduced wind noise and water leaks, improved door fit and window function. Triple-sealed doors with heavy-gauge silencers provide highly protective barrier against door cavity and wind noise

2000 interior

A 60/40 split rear folding seat with head restraints allowed use of an aftermarket child seat, or keeping two rear passengers, without losing trunk access. Rear-seat access was easier, and a little more width was added (0.9 inches front, 1.5 inches rear), hip room (1.6 inches front, 2.3 inches rear) and rear head room (0.3 inches). Oddly, Chrysler kept the old climate controls, which were also used in the PT Cruiser, though many owners mistakenly kept the fan in air conditioning mode (the blue zone) when they just wanted regular air (white zone).

A summary of other changes:

  • Increased interior volume (103.4 cu. ft. vs.101.7) for more usable space throughout
  • Revised front seat position (0.5 inch higher, track rearward by 0.4 inch)
  • New instrument panel with circular gauges
  • Hydroformed steel cross-car beam with magnesium steering column support
  • PC ABS base panel, self centering passenger air bag module
  • Safety features:
    • Next-generation air bags with less forceful inflators
    • Seat belts with constant force retractors and adjustable turning loops
    • Standard adjustable, locking front head restraints
    • Adjustable, locking rear head restraints (optional)
    • Head impact countermeasures in hard and soft trim

plymouth neon engine

Standard equipment was upgraded to include a six-speaker cassette player, self-dimming interior lamps that faded out, a locking glove box with molded-in pen and tire gauges, a chime replacing the buzzer, and a battery saver that shut the dome light automatically.

European and other export Neons

The Neon was sold at a price premium outside the United States, competing against cars which Americans would never consider alongside the humble Neon. While it did have some competitive advantages, including space and air conditioning, 2.0 fuel economy and small-engine acceleration worked against it.

Christopher Krisocki provided some information from a German 2002 car guide. The 1.6-liter engine in the Neon was listed as making 115hp (85kW) @ 5500 rpm, and 157 Nm torque @ 4550. A 2.0-liter Neon cost only 608 Euros more than a 1.6 but was subject to higher engine taxes in some regions.

Chrysler Neon (UK)
European version of the Chrysler Neon,
with leather and wood interior.
inside British Chrysler Neon

In the UK, Chrysler wrote, “The five speed manual transmission version returns 44.8 mpg on the extra urban cycle and 35.3 mpg on the combined cycle, due in part to the lower idle speed (30.7 mpg combined cycle and 39.8 mpg extra urban for the automatic). Performance is lively, with a top speed of 124 mph and a 0-62 mph time of 10.8 seconds for the five speed manual, and 114 mph top speed and 0-62 mph in 12 seconds for the automatic.” (These are Imperial gallons, in US terms this is 35 mpg highway, 28 combined - at the cost of 2 seconds, zero to sixty. The US version was rated at 0-60 times in 8 seconds, with 28 city, 34 highway mileage).

2001 Dodge Neon changes

The last Plymouth Neon — and the last Plymouth — was built on June 28, 2001.

last Plymouth made - a Plymouth Neon

For 2001, the Neon R/T and ACR (ACR hadn’t been made in 2000) came with a new single-cam Magnum engine — with 150 hp and 135 lb-ft of torque, roughly matching the old DOHC engine. EPA fuel economy ratings were 28 city, 35 highway (manual transmission), the same as the standard engine; the differences were a new camshaft, electronically controlled dual-plenum intake, and dual exhaust/mufflers which include a 2.25 inch diameter exhaust pipe and stainless steel header. Both the Neon R/T and ACR were powered by the Magnum engine and had a trunk lid-mounted spoiler. The R/T had fog lights and black headlamp bezels, as well as a color-keyed instrument panel, and low-back bucket seats. The ES model also had a Sport version, with a rear spoiler, 16-inch aluminum wheels, and performance suspension. Leather and side airbags were optional on the Neon ES and Neon R/T.

Dodge Neon instrument panelNeon models were now SE, ES, R/T, and ACR. The SE had Goodyear Eagle GA tires (P185/65R14), with optional (standard on ES) P185/60R15 Eagle LS tires. The R/T came with P195/50R16H Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires, an excellent combination (note the 16" wheels and low aspect ratio). The ACR came with P185/60R15 Goodyear NCT3 tires. All models except the SE came with ABS brakes.

Running changes from July 2000 include a modified manual transaxle with new second-and fourth-gear ratios, and child seat anchors. For 2001 rear center passengers got a shoulder harness, and people locked in the trunk got an emergency trunk lid release.

2002-2003 Dodge Neon updates

2002 saw a four-speed automatic with gearing which was not tuned for the car, a problem resolved in the 2003 models. [2002 Dodge Neon SXT review] The Plymouth Neon was no longer produced.

For 2003, Dodge said 83% of first-time buyers would buy another Neon. Changes were:

  • The astounding Neon SRT-4 was unleashed with a turbocharger and over 200 horsepower.
  • The new Caravan-style front end styling arrived, with a lowered hood; and new tail lamps and a new license plate surround in back.
  • The dodge neon ornamentautomatic transmission was retuned, with a new engine/transmission computer and quieter engine mounts. The new four-speed ratios had less hesitation, better acceleration, and better mileage.
  • The manual transmission returned to the original gear ratios, increasing gas mileage and lowering highway noise, but lowering acceleration somewhat.
  • The SXT replaced the ES, and the SRT-4 replaced the ACR.
  • New steering wheel with a Dodge medallion, new wheels and covers, six-disc in-dash CD player optional on SXT and R/T.
  • Sentry Key to avoid theft (it included a radio-based security device).
  • R/T got new fog lamps, 16-inch aluminum wheels, non-gathered optional leather seat and door trim, body color center stack bezel.

2003 Dodge Neon R/T

2004 Neon updates

For 2004, the Dodge Neon family included the base SE model, SXT, R/T, and the Dodge SRT-4, whose 2.4 liter turbo-charged engine produced 230 horsepower (172 kW) at 5300 rpm and 250 lb-ft (339 N.m) of torque from 2200 to 4400 rpm. SRT4 changes included a new engine control module to widen the torque range, a standard torque-sensing limited-slip differential, BF Goodrich KDW2 three-season tires, bright pedal pads, and an optional sun roof package.

The 2004 Dodge Neon SE had 14-inch wheel covers, bright grille highlights, and AM/FM stereo with cassette and four speakers standard. The Dodge Neon SXT added power mirrors, power front windows, air conditioning, CD/six-speaker stereo, remote entry, power trunk lid release, and better tires with aluminum 15-inch wheels. A sport appearance group included a spoiler, different wheels, fog lamps, and a body-colored instrument panel and automatic shifter bezel.

The 2004 Neon R/T had the Magnum engine, five-speed transaxle, four-wheel disc brakes, dual exhaust, performance-tuned steering and suspension, 16-inch aluminum wheels, and rear spoiler. A power sun roof and a leather interior group were optional.

2004 dodge neon sxt

2000-2004 Plymouth, Chrysler, and Dodge Neon Specifications

More specifications and comparisons to the Civic and Corolla

Engine 2.0 liter SOHC 16-valve in-line four cylinder
Construction Cast iron block and bedplate,
aluminum alloy head, structural aluminum oil pan
Power (SAE net) 132 bhp (98 kW) @ 5600 rpm (66.2 bhp/liter)
Torque (SAE net) 130 lb.-ft. (177 N-m) @ 4600 rpm
Maximum Engine Speed 6750 rpm manual trans., 6720 automatic, electronically limited
Fuel Unleaded regular gasoline, 87 octane, 12.5 gallons
Wheelbase 105.0 inches (2667 mm)
Track (Rear) 58.1 inches (1476 mm)
Overall Length 174.4 (4430) (2000-04)
Overall Width 67.4 (1711) (2000-04)
Overall Height (a) 56.0 (1421) (2000-04)
Curb Weight, lbs. (kg) 2567 (1164) (for 2004, SE was 2,581; SXT, 2,626; R/T, 2,712)
SAE Interior Volume 90.3 cu. ft. (2.56 cu. m.)
Cargo Volume 13.1 cu. ft. (371 L)
EPA Interior Volume Index 103.4 cu. ft. (2.93 cu. m.)
Drag coefficient(2004) 0.342, SE/SXT; 0.350, R/T and SRT4
Ground clearance6.1 inches (except SRT4)
We make no guarantees regarding validity, accuracy, or applicability of information, predictions, or advice. Please read the terms of use and privacy policy. Copyright © 1994-2000, David Zatz; copyright © 2001-2016, Allpar LLC (except as noted, and press/publicity materials); all rights reserved. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, and Mopar are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.


Wagoneer on hold — “oops” again?
us-sales
What’s in the driver’s seat?

Ram rodeo recap

Dodge returning to NASCAR?

All Mopar Car and Truck News



The always-future Dodge Dakota pickup High torque, long life: Jeep 4.0 LED third brake lights for classic cars Honey, we screwed up the truck

Will the Wagoneer be Grand? Shelby Dakota: hot or not? Washer fluid bags! Chrysler Crossfire: fauxpar?