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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Dodge Neon Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Dodge Neon Overview

Just Think of it as a Little Intrepid

The Neon is so well laid out and so accommodating to tall passengers, the competition still has a tough time keeping up. Thats because the Neon was built around the same cab-forward concept as the full-size LH cars (Chrysler Concorde and Dodge Intrepid.) Beyond its roomy interior, modest base price, standout styling and exceptional fuel economy, the little Neon offers something else that is lacking in most compacts: power.

Last year, the Neon received a fresh new face, with a smoothed-out front nose that flows seamlessly into the trademark Dodge crosshair grille. The Neon continues to be offered in three trim levels: the SE, SXT and sporty R/T. There is one other Neon—the turbo-charged SRT-4—but given the cars vast mechanical and visual differences, we chose to give it an article all its own.

The Neon SE is the entry-level trim, offering such standard features as rear window defroster, dual side-view mirrors, full wheel covers, cloth bucket seats, tilt-steering wheel and an AM/FM stereo with cassette and CD changer controls. One step up is the SXT that is basically an SE with such added niceties as power windows, power doorlocks, aluminum wheels, air conditioning and an AM/FM stereo with CD player. The SE and SXT are powered by a 2.0-liter engine that develops a healthy 132 horsepower and gives the little Neon quite a zippy attitude. The standard transmission is a 5-speed manual that, although somewhat rubbery in its shift feel, manages to get the job done. If you'd rather not shift your own gears, Dodge offers a really fine four-speed automatic that almost equals the manual's EPA city/highway fuel mileage figures.

The Neon has been blessed with a remarkably well-balanced chassis. Its taut suspension and long wheelbase provide that rare combination of dynamic handling and smooth ride. The Neon seems to absorb small bumps and uneven road surfaces with all the gusto of a full-size sedan, yet it also keeps the driver connected with the road via its firm shocks, linear steering and well-controlled braking. Dollar for dollar, the Neon delivers an excellent performance to price ratio.

Taking a good thing one step further is the Neon R/T model. For just a bit more cash, you get the added security of four-wheel disc brakes and 16-inch performance tires on racy five-spoke alloy wheels. Other R/T features include a rear spoiler, dual exhaust, front fog lights and the option of a leather interior. But the best part of the R/T package is its engine: a high-output version of the 2.0-liter engine that bumps output up to a very fun 150 horsepower.

No matter which model you choose, you'll find a roomy and comfortable sedan that can easily hold four adults. The Neon's tall profile provides good headroom both front and rear and its cab-forward design pushes the wheels out to the furthest corners of the car, freeing up additional room in the front foot wells for long legs to stretch out. You'll find the seating is comfortable and supportive, and that the instrumentation and switchgear are all clearly visible and easy to reach. The R/T gets a nice thick-grip three-spoke steering wheel that enhances the car's sporty feel in tight turns; the Neon's short hood and large windshield make maneuvering through tight spots as easy as 1-2-3. Your luggage will find a welcome home in the deep trunk, though you will find that the trunk lid's old-fashioned hinges do infringe on the luggage area when closed.

A fully-loaded Neon leaves little to be desired, with such options as cruise control, 6-disc CD in-dash CD player, leather seating, alloy wheels and remote keyless entry. One odd feature you may want to take note of is the power window setup; only the front windows are power operated, the rear must be lowered manually. This makes it difficult if not impossible for the driver to crack open the rear windows for better airflow when driving alone. Other than this one oddity, you'll find there is very little else to dislike about the Neon, including the price. Base Neons start at just $13,500 and top out around $18K for a loaded R/T.

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