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THIS IS NOW MY "END OF TERM REPORT" ON THE NEON AFTER ALMOST TWO YEARS USE.
I bought my (new model) Neon LX in December 1999 from new. I have to date covered 18,000 miles in it during which time it has been utterly reliable with no defects on delivery either.
It was always on the cards that I would sell this to my uncle after two years, but circumstances, in the guise of some doddering old twit reversing into his car, thereby writing it off, have brought this forward.
This will now be replaced by the Smart that I have written about elsewhere - an odd choice I know, but as I say, it's all down to circumstances and the fact that every time I have a "domestic" function to perform - the dump to you - our Micra proves to be by far the more useful.
Servicing, although annoyingly frequent by modern standards (6-months or 7.5k miles), is also reasonably priced - the first two being £98 and £128. At least this way, you get a frequent oil change, which some purists still maintain is the key to engine longevity.
Price-wise it represented excellent value for money at £13K, with an extras list that includes leather, alloys, air-con, traction-control, ABS, electrically-retracting mirrors, halfway decent 6-speaker stereo which now includes a CD player of some kind - mine didn't at the time and Chrysler's outrageous price of £528 for the CD-changer upgrade led me to install my own Sony 10-discer for £150!
On the usefulness front, it should be remembered that this is a saloon, and although the back seat folds in a 60/40 split, it is not a bulky load carrier, unless it's only long and thin. In fact, folding the seats down lessens the headroom and I spent a fraught 30 minutes in Norfolk trying to get an antique piece of furniture in through the rear passenger doors onto the folded-down seat, until I realised that with a blanket to protect the seat, folding it back up again gave me about another 4 inches of room!
The 3 year/60K miles warranty is reassuring and easily transferrable.
I opted for the 5-speed manual, despite the auto costing no extra - the latter is only a basic 3-speed box and as such makes the car somewhat heavier on fuel. By driving gently, the manual can easily achieve 40+ mpg, not bad for a 2.0ltr 130+ BHP engine. The gear shift is reasonably positive but a bit clunky. Removal of the central console for fitting the CD player revealed this to be a cable operated link - remember the Austin Maxi?
The driving experience is not all bad, just not the best. Handling is taut, possibly to the point of being hard-riding, but the engine is not the world's sweetest, sounding almost diesel-like when cold. I can't help feeling that the Americans felt the need to "Europeanise" the car, but on the suspension side, they may have overdone it, giving it a GTI-like feel.
However, at least they'll never be ten-a-penny like a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra. If a degree of exclusivity is important to you, and you don't mind a car this size not being a hatchback, then the Neon could be just the job.
If you don't opt for the smoker's kit i.e lighter and ash-tray, you get 3 BEVERAGE holders for the front seats. What more proof do you need that it's American?
One feature which takes a bit of getting used to is having to fully depress the clutch before operating the starter - a safety precaution against kangaroo-ing into some poor pedestrian if you have forgotten to take it out of gear. If you leave your car with an off-airport car park, better let them know this, or they'll flatten your battery in the attempt!
Oh yes, and on a subjective note, I love the curvaceous looks - not as quirky as a Focus, but sleeker than the rest.
My kind of car review that! Tells me what I want to know and not all of the ins and outs about how far the pistons travel etc. I am not really in the market for a new car at the moment, but this car is definitely on my shortlist for the future.
sarsons 03.11.2002 23:47
Not bad intro, but info on what the car has to offer would have resulted in a higher rating (eg comfort, ride, equipment, insurance costs etc.). If you ever redo this op, please let me know and I'll reread it and review my rating :)