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2000 Dodge 1052 Neon 874 4993
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Expert Reviews

Mitch McCullough, Editor-in-Chief
powered by New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Neon offers a solid value among compact sedans. Roomy and fun to drive, it delivers style and performance.

The Neon was completely redesigned for model year 2000. This second-generation Neon is far more refined than the first. It's more pleasant to live with than early models, which were initially Spartan, unrefined and noisy. This new, second-generation model moves the Neon up a rung on the compact car food chain. Compared with the previous model, the new Neon is solid, serious and sophisticated.

Model Lineup
For 2000, the Dodge Neon is initially available as one model, the four-door ES. It starts at $12,460. That sounds like an attractive price, but surely you'll want air conditioning and it's a $1,000 option.

Dodge Neon comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission. A 3-speed automatic transmission is optional ($600).

Dodge will soon introduce a high-performance Neon R/T as a 2001 model

Chrysler first introduced the Neon in January 1994. Back then, it was the roomiest car in its class. It was quick and fun to drive. And it was inexpensive. After listening to consumers, Chrysler believed the original Neon was the perfect answer. Those consumers had told Chrysler that they were tired of paying high prices: Americans now wanted a good five-cent cigar. So Chrysler designed the Neon to be a low-priced car. But the company quickly discovered that people really wanted more than that. They may have said they wanted a cheap car, but they also wanted refinement, quality and comfort. It was a hard lesson. Though more than 1.5 million Neons have been sold during the past five years, other manufacturers introduced larger, more refined and more feature-laden cars. Chrysler continually refined and improved the Neon throughout its life cycle and the later models are much nicer than the earlier models. But it came time to redesign the car. And that brings us to the 2000 Neon.

The 2000 Neon looks similar to the old one, but all the bodywork is new. Those ovoid headlamps continue to be a key styling cue, but they've been redesigned with jewel-like reflectors that add sophistication. The design of the front fascia is more integrated. A new tail lamp design along with more pronounced wheel arches offer a crisp, less rounded look. Most noticeable is the change in profile. The base of the front windshield has been moved forward 3 inches. This major design change gives the car a more raked, cab-forward appearance that's in keeping with the Dodge Intrepid and other Chrysler sedans. The more aerodynamic windshield shape improves the car's ability to deflect water away and it helps reduce wind noise.

Overall, the new Neon is longer and wider than before. It rides on a longer wheelbase with a slightly wider track (the distance between the front wheels). These changes make for a roomier interior, but they also smooth out the ride quality and increase stability at high speeds. The ground clearance has been raised slightly to accommodate longer suspension travel, which further improves ride quality. Yet the floor pan has been lowered, which significantly increases trunk space. The new Neon provides more cargo space than the Ford Escort or Saturn SL sedans.

The new body structure is much more rigid, which ultimately results in a smoother, quieter, more controlled ride. Full frame doors reduce wind noise and create a tighter seat of door to body. The latest sound-deadening technology helps isolate the cabin from engine and road noise.

Though Chrysler had continually improved the interior of the last generation Neon, the interior of the new Neon was completely redesigned and is much nicer than before. For starters, there's more of it. The bigger cabin offers more front hip room and more space for nicer seats. The driver sits a little higher than before for improved visibility.

Back-seat passengers benefit the most from the larger interior with more head, shoulder and hip room. The trunk is significantly deeper than before. The rear seats split and fold down for carrying additional cargo.

Sporty new gauges grace a redesigned instrument panel with a wide dashboard brow. Premium door trim and materials that are soft to the touch provide a richer appearance and feel. The interior comes standard with four cupholders and AM/FM/cassette with six speakers. Everything is easy to use and works well except the stereo: It sounds mediocre at best and the buttons small and hard to operate while driving.

Driving Impressions
The new Neon rides smoother and quieter than before. There's less wind noise, less engine noise, less road noise and less vibration. The Neon seems quieter and more refined than Chevy's Cavalier does. The new Neon seems to ride better than a Honda Civic - high praise.

Chrysler redesigned the Neon's fully independent MacPherson-strut front and rear suspensions. The ground clearance was raised slightly to provide significantly more suspension travel. (Jounce travel was improved by 15 percent in the front and by 30 percent in the rear.) This greatly improves overall ride quality while decreasing the chance of bottoming under heavy loads. Softer springs and premium shocks give the Neon a smoother ride than before.

Neon's redesigned single overhead-cam 2.0-liter engine feels more powerful than its predecessor. A new air induction system broadens the torque curve, which makes the car feel more powerful around town. A new exhaust manifold, cylinder head cover and timing belt cover, and attention to a myriad of details reduce noise.

The brake pedal feels firmer. The brake system was redesigned for improved pedal feel. The thickness of the front brake rotors was increased and low-metallic linings were used to keep them from squealing. We recommend the optional four-wheel disc brakes with antilock brakes ($595). Whether slippery or dry, the antilock brake system helps drivers to maintain steering control in panic braking situations. Disc brakes are in theory less likely to fade out on mountain roads than the standard rear drum brakes. The ABS option also includes traction control, which helps the driver maintain control when accelerating on slippery surfaces.

We drove the Neon back to back with the Honda Civic, Chevy Cavalier and other cars in its class at Chrysler's proving grounds at Chelsea, Michigan. We drove them over different types of pavement and on a short road course designed to test handling. There, the Neon seemed better than its competition, both in terms of handling and ride quality. It rides nicely, handles well and is fun to drive. It's more stable than the old Neon and its manners are much more refined. A week on Maryland's roads showed the Neon to be quite stable at high speeds. It soaks up road vibrations well and offers good acceleration and very capable handling.

While last year's Neon was quick and fun to drive, the all-new 2000 is a much more pleasant companion. It has been improved in every way. It's roomier, smoother, quieter, and more comfortable. The Neon offers a good value, but be sure to look past the base price. Air conditioning, antilock brakes, remote keyless entry, power windows and other conveniences we're beginning to take for granted are all extra-cost options.

In short, the Dodge Neon is a top contender among compact cars. It's practical and fun to drive and should be on the shopping list.

Model as tested
Neon ES ($12,460)
Basic Warranty
5 years/60,000 miles
Assembled in
Belvidere, Illinois
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
Customer Preferred Package 21G ($2,510) includes air conditioning, power front windows, power door locks, power heated mirrors, remote keyless entry with anti-theft alarm, P185/60R15 touring tires, 15-inch wheel covers, tachometer, fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, passenger-assist handles; smoker's group ($20)
Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Neon ES ($12,460)
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual front airbags, child-seat anchors, side-impact door beams
Safety equipment (optional)
2.0-liter sohc 16v inline-4
5-speed manual
Specifications as Tested
AM/FM/cassette stereo with six speakers, split folding rear seats, intermittent wipers, rear defroster, visor vanity mirror, floor mats, trunk light, tilt steering column
Engine & Transmission
2.0-liter sohc 16v inline-4
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
132 @ 5600
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear
Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear
Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight
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2000 Dodge Neon
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