The 2003 Dodge Neon economy sedan is a solid entry-level vehicle on its own. It has some good points: the audio system, the SRT-4 trim gives great performance at a budget price, the ride proves decent for this segment, and the handling makes for fun driving. But compared to the many rivals in this class, the Neon doesn’t lead the segment in any particular area and falls behind other vehicles in the economy sedan group, especially the well-built Asian competition. The 2003 Dodge Neon SRT-4 deserves a look, but it shouldn’t be the only economy sedan a buyer considers.
Body Styles: sedan
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 2.4-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: four-speed automatic, five-speed manual
Models: Dodge Neon SE, Dodge Neon SXT, Dodge Neon R/T, Dodge Neon SRT-4
For 2003, the Neon adds another trim, the high-performance, budget 2003 Dodge Neon SRT-4 with a 215-horsepower turbocharged engine, a tweaked suspension, and Viper-inspired sport seats. It accelerates from zero to 60 mph in about six seconds. All trims of the Neon get minor exterior alterations, including a new front and rear end as well as interior changes that include a new steering wheel.
The 2003 Dodge Neon small economy sedan comes in four trims: SE, SXT, R/T, and the performance-based SRT-4. The SE has 15-inch steel wheels, intermittent wipers, rear defrost, and four-wheel independent suspension. The SXT adds 15-inch alloy wheels and power door mirrors. The R/T has four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock brake system, dual-outlet exhaust, a rear spoiler, fog lamps, a sport suspension, and 16-inch alloy wheels. The SRT-4 adds 17-inch alloy wheels fitted with 205/50R17 performance tires. A power sunroof provides an option for the SXT and R/T only.
The base SE starts off with a cassette player, a split-folding rear seat, and a tilt steering wheel. Air-conditioning and a CD player remain optional. Moving up to the SXT adds an air-conditioner, power front windows and locks, and a CD player replaces the cassette deck. The R/T adds speed control and leather trim on the steering wheel and shift knob, as well as the option for leather upholstery.
The cabin of the 2003 Dodge Neon SRT-4 is respectable for an economy vehicle. The ergonomics seem decent, but space feels too cramped and the higher trims can add features. The audio system gets good marks and things all seem to work well enough. As an economy car, it makes some compromises, resulting in the use of some low-grade interior materials.
Performance & Handling
The 2003 Dodge Neon uses a two-liter, 132-horsepower, inline-four engine that makes 130 lb-ft of torque to power the SE and SXT, while the R/T uses a high-output version of that engine developing 150 horsepower and 135 lb-ft of torque. The 2004 Dodge SRT-4 draws power from a turbocharged, 215-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-four, making 245 lb-ft of torque. It reaches a top speed of more than 140 mph. Transmission choices for all trims include a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual. All Neons use front drive. Most of the trims offer basic performance that seems good for most traffic situations. The SRT-4 offers some real performance for enthusiasts on a budget.
As far as handling goes, the Neon lags behind its rivals in this category and has for some time now. The R/T and SRT-4 actually fare better with a solid grip, decent responsiveness, and a well-weighted body performing mostly flat and level in conjunction with fairly responsive steering. It remains rather unrefined and noisy. The ride is acceptable for an economy machine, but nothing worth congratulating.
Standard safety gear for the 2003 Neon includes dual front-impact airbags, child seat anchors, electronic brakeforce distribution, and rear-door child safety locks. Anti-lock brakes come standard on the R/T and 2004 Dodge SRT-4 but only as an option on the base and SXT. Side airbags remain optional for all trims. In NHTSA testing the Neon scores four out of five stars for driver, passenger, and rollover safety and three stars for front and rear side impacts. In IIHS gives the Neon the second lowest score of “Marginal"" for frontal-offset crashes and the lowest rating of “Poor"" for side-impact and rear crash protection/head restraint.
EPA Fuel Economy
Dodge Neon SE: 25/32 mpg city/highway
Dodge Neon SXT: 25/32 mpg city/highway
Dodge Neon R/T: 25/32 mpg city/highway
Dodge Neon SRT-4: 19/27 mpg city/highway
- Fun handling
- Respectable ride
- Sound system
You Won't Like
- Low-quality interior materials
High performance on a budget.
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