The 1996 Dodge Neon provides an American-made alternative to the compact imports that have ruled the market segment for the last few decades. While the Neon offers a roomy interior, decent handling, and good fuel economy for a low price, the reliability of the Neon remains questionable. It has more personality than its competitors and finally catches up in terms of safety measures.
Body Styles: coupe, sedan
Engines: 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder single overhead camshaft, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder double overhead camshaft
Transmissions: three-speed manual, five-speed automatic
Models: Dodge Neon, Dodge Neon Highline, Dodge Neon Sport
The 1996 Dodge Neon gets a bunch of updates. The major one provides the option of four-wheel anti-lock brakes across the entire model range, although this comes at the cost of the Sport version losing them as standard equipment. The interior and materials have been redesigned to supposedly provide a quieter ride, although that seems debatable. The fuel tank capacity increases. The strange, ugly two-spoke steering wheel gets replaced by a sportier, more user-friendly, four-spoke wheel. A remote keyless entry system provides a new option. Power windows start as an option on coupe, and it comes in two new colors, although one old color has been discontinued. The ugly gray bumpers thankfully leave as well.
The 1996 Dodge Neon’s exterior has personality. The high roofline and round headlights evoke the VW Beatle, but the Neon stretches out quite a bit. The front looks thin with mostly rounded lines. The Expresso package allows for much modification to the exterior, adding a deck lid spoiler, graphics, white wheel covers, and a tacky bulged hood.
The interior of the Dodge Neon looks simple and well laid-out. The materials used seem fairly cheap, and some of the available designs for the seats look just plain cartoonish. The 1996 Dodge Neon offers plenty of headroom thanks to the high greenhouse, but the rear lacks in legroom and width. The high roof coupled with high door sill lines makes it feel like sitting in a bathtub. The weather strips around the doors and windows still have a tendency to leak during heavy rains and high-pressure car washes. Visibility looks good for the driver thanks to the high greenhouse and slim pillars.
Performance & Handling
With the 150-horsepower, dual overhead camshaft engine and five-speed manual transmission, the 1996Dodge Neon can be a peppy little car. It has enough acceleration to get up to speed in short order. The top-end speed can be reached faster, and it cruises nicely at highway speeds. Conversely, the stock 132-horsepower, single overhead camshaft engine coupled with the outdated three-speed automatic causes the Neon to move slower off the line. This configuration also causes issues when drivers need power, as running components such as the air-conditioning can cause the Neon to lag while going up steep hills or not allow for enough power to pass at high speeds. The very basic suspension and short wheelbase allows for a maneuverable vehicle but causes a slightly rough ride.
The 1996 Dodge Neon comes standard with driver and passenger front airbags. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes remain optional. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration awards the Neon four out of five stars for driver and passenger protection in frontal crash tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Neon a “Poor? rating overall, but good ratings for head, neck, and chest safety measures.
EPA Fuel Economy
Dodge Neon 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, three-speed automatic: 22/30 mpg city/highway
Dodge Neon 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, five-speed manual: 24/35 mpg city/highway
- Roomy interior
- Good fuel economy
- Relatively inexpensive
You Won't Like
- Reliability issues
- Cheap interior
A decent effort, but plagued by reliability issues.
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