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New Neon for US? Oh, the irony!

by David Zatz on

The Neon was sold as a Plymouth, Dodge, and Chrysler from  1995 to 2004. Its engine was powerful and efficient enough that Rover  and Chrysler created a smaller version; that ended up in the BMW Mini, until Fiat bought the engine, modified it, and called it the Fiat e.torQ.

Chrysler 100

When the Fiat Tipo was launched, FCA de México got FCA to modify the front end and sell it as the Dodge Neon. Though the Tipo was made in Turkey and engineered by Fiat, it does have a Neon engine.

Sources told us months ago that the Neon was being considered for U.S. sale, since Dodge and Chrysler dealers are without a single midsize or compact sedan, for the first time in history.

Ironically, since the 110-horsepower four-cylinder isn’t powerful enough for Americans in the 2,500 pounds car, the one Neon part, the engine, is reportedly to be replaced by a 1.4 liter Fiat turbo, made by Chrysler in Dundee, Michigan. (The same engine was used in the recent Dart.) Update: the 1.4 Fiat engines are apparently now sourced from Italy, rather than Dundee.

The whole move is somewhat ironic, since the original Neon was Chrysler’s way of telling the world that it could design and build world-class small cars. While cost-cutting brought in some flaws, the Neon racked up an impressive racing record, was the only domestic small car to make a profit, and had class-leading space, power, ride, and handling.

The new Chrysler Neon will probably be very similar to the Mexican version, outside the engine, front appearance, and higher trim.  Critics have been positive in their reviews of the Tipo, with their main issue being the lack of power.

As a premium small car, the Neon could fill in the gap until a Chrysler 100, based on the Tipo but not just a Fiat-engined rebadge job, shows up. We don’t suspect FCA will try to make it into a segment-busting hit; a few tens of thousands of sales per year would keep some customers from leaving, and buy some time for more US/Canada-tailored cars.   Deeper into the Mexican Dodge Neon

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304

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