1998 Plymouth Neon (192)

Chrysler has come a long way and their products are a testimony to the American will to survive and succeed. First impressions are lasting, someone said, and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped into this Plymouth Neon. Surely “basic” came to mind and I suspect you’ll agree. In fact, many features that are optional on Ford Escort, for example, are not even available on the Neon. Not necessarily a bad thing, because when you’re looking for inexpensive transportation great mileage is more important than a few frills.

This car was introduced in 1994 and is available in a 4-door sedan or 2-door coupe. Like the new “high in demand – high priced” VW Bug, both are manufactured in Mexico. I can’t imagine why more American imports don’t take advantage of the great labor resource of Mexico. If you’ve seen these two cars you’ll know that the place of manufacture is the only thing they have in common. This Neon and the competition listed below are true economy cars. And it’s interesting to note that just about half are from American automakers. That would appear to indicate the U.S. is back in the race to provide affordable cars to American consumers.

I have to tell you this car really grows on you. A lot of cars are “forgettable”, but I’m real impressed with the overall feel of this car. I predict it will be a real winner for Chrysler, and that means it will be a winner for those who buy one. At prices like this everyone can own a new well-built reliable car. Henry Ford probably said something like that a hundred years ago.

Good news: 
Very affordable. Roomy inside and lots of trunk space. Great gas mileage.

Bad news:
Several features, like cruise control, tilt wheel and power rear windows are not available options. Low horsepower (150 hp engine is an option).

The competition: 
Chevrolet Cavalier $11,610 – $19,410, Ford Escort $11,330 – $13,080, Honda Civic $10,650 – $16,480, Hyundai Elantra $11,499 – $12,549, Kia Sephia $9,995 – $10,995, Mazda Protege $12,145 – $15,295, Nissan Sentra $11,499 – $16,749, Pontiac Sunfire $12,495 – $19,495, Saturn SL $10,595 – $12,755, Toyota Corolla $11,908 – $14,798

Standard Equipment:
2.0 liter 4-cylinder 132 horsepower engine, 5-speed manual transmission, dual airbags, rear door child safety locks, power front disc with rear drum brakes, power rack & pinion steering, 4-wheel independent suspension, 4-speaker AM/FM radio, remote trunk release.

Gas Stats:
29 City and 41 Highway MPG.

MSRP is $ 11,555. The model I drove included air conditioning, power sunroof, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power front windows, power locks and mirrors, cassette & CD changer with 6-speakers and special candy apple red paint. The total as equipped came to $14,445.

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