The Dodge Neon was a compact car with a front-wheel drive that was first released in 1995. It was popular among consumers who wanted an affordable vehicle. The Neon slowly transformed from a budget car to a more expensive and refined one though it still lacked a little in performance. The change drove away its original customer base, people looking for more value for their money, and eventually led to the Neon being discontinued.
1995: First generation
The first Dodge Neon was available as a four-door sedan and a two-door coupe. It was equipped with 2.0 liter gasoline engine and a three-speed automatic transmission, making it a very slow vehicle. Dodge later upgraded the vehicle by giving it a more powerful engine and a five-speed manual transmission that vastly improved the handling of the car. Reliability was a glaring weakness of the first Dodge. In 1998, a host of head gasket failures prompted Dodge to have it replaced with a Multi Layer Steel design. The paint was also problematic, eventually becoming brittle and peeling off, exposing the body underneath to moisture and other corrosive elements.
2000: Second generation
The second generation Neon, sold only as a Sedan, was a vast improvement over the previous one. Everything from the body and interiors to the suspension and brakes were upgraded. The vehicle handled a lot better while its over-all appearance was definitely classier. The car was equipped with a 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine and came with either a three-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. The engine was improved in 2001, increasing power from 132 to 150 horsepower, while a four-speed automatic transmission replaced the old three-speed variety in 2002.
2003: The Neon SRT-4
The Neon SRT-4 was a high performance sedan and Dodge's answer to all the past issues with regards to the Neon's poor performance and reliability. It was equipped with a turbocharged 2.4 liter engine with greatly improved suspension and braking. A limited slip differential was added in 2004, further improving the handling of the SRT-4.
2005: Final Year
The last few Neons were assembled in September 23, 2005. Though a lot has been done to radically improve all aspects of the Neon, the resulting price increase from such changes drove away its existing customer base. The Neon was unable to attract additional buyers, leading to poor sales figures and, ultimately, to DaimlerChrylser's decision to discontinue production of the vehicle. The Neon's place was eventually filled by the Dodge Caliber.