2002 Neon New Car Test Drive
Dodge Neon has been restyled for 2002 with a stronger Dodge identity. The new look actually shortens Neon by about an inch. More significant is the upgraded automatic transmission option, now a four-speed instead of a three-speed, for quieter running on the highway, and better fuel economy.
In fact, the whole Neon lineup has been re-shuffled for better value. A lower-priced base model packs nearly as much equipment as last year's SE, while the SE and ES models move up in content. The high-performance R/T and competition ACR models still deliver some of the most driving fun you can have in a small, economical car.
Neons now start at $12,240, but air conditioning ($1,000), side-impact airbags ($350), and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes ($595) are all extra-cost options on the base model.
Neon comes standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 132 horsepower, connected to five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission ($825) is a new option for 2002, replacing the three-speed automatic that was offered previously.
Neon SE ($14,015) adds air conditioning, plus power front windows, mirrors, and door locks; larger tires and wheels; a CD changer and a security system.
Neon ES ($14,545) adds nicer seats, fog lights, a tachometer, aluminum wheels, and deck-lid spoiler.
But the Neon voted Most-Fun-to-Drive is the R/T. At $16,190, the R/T looks pricey, but it comes with the 150-horsepower High-Output Magnum version of the 2.0-liter engine, plus a sport suspension, P195/50R16 Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires, 16-inch aluminum wheels, firm-feel power steering, four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS and traction control, performance-tuned exhaust with bright dual tips, unique front and rear fascia, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The R/T package also includes all of the luxury and comfort items from the SE and ES.
For road racers, Autocrossers and just plain serious driving enthusiasts, there's the American Club Racer or ACR Neon. Listing for just $14,305, it also packs the 150-horsepower engine and most of the R/T's performance features, but passes on convenience items such as power windows.
(Plymouth is history, so there is no Plymouth Neon.).