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Could the Neon fit in the US? (Updated)

by David Zatz on

The Mexican 2017 Dodge Neon seems, at first sight, to be a good Dart replacement. Powered by a descendent of the 1995 Neon engine, the restyled Fiat Tipo looks like a Dodge.

The Neon is around five and a half inches shorter than the Dart; its about as long as, and a little narrower than, a Ford Focus sedan.

Critics praised the 2017 Dodge Neon’s ride and handling, but the engines produce too little power — 95 hp with a manual, or 110 hp with an automatic. If sold in the US, it would need an upgrade at least to the 160-hp Fiat 1.4 turbo engine, but the ideal would be the  Chrysler 2.0. The last thing Dodge needs, as it builds its muscle credentials, is an underpowered car.

The interior is nicely equipped for the price, and air-conditioning is standard, unlike the base Dart. However, reviewers in Great Britain and France were critical of the rough plastics, and the Tipo may have to be upgraded to meet American tastes and desires, not to mention American rules. Even so, the car would likely end up cheaper than the Dart but pricier than the Versa.

The Tipo, at least, is already available as a sedan, hatchback, or station wagon. The wagon might not be a big seller in the U.S., but the hatchback would give the Tipo an edge the Dart has never had in North America.

FCA might be able to transform the Neon into a USA player, faster and more cheaply than with any other solution. While demand for small cars keeps dropping, the Tipo could be a stop-gap hedge against a jump in fuel prices, and a way to bring in (or keep) entry-level buyers who could trade up in future years. With its current engine, though, it doesn’t really fit with Dodge or Chrysler. Full 2017 Dodge Neon coverage.

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