2004 Neon New Car Test Drive
Dodge Neon is practical and fun to drive. Neon features a roomy interior and is available at an affordable price. The base model delivers extraordinarily good fuel economy; its EPA rating recently earned one of the top 10 spots in a survey of the most fuel-efficient vehicles you could buy.
The Neon SXT comes loaded with the features most buyers want in a compact car yet retails for just $15,435; incentives can knock $2,000 off that price.
Buyers looking for more fun can opt for the sportier R/T or the high-performance SRT-4. The latter boasts a turbocharged 2.4-liter engine, a sports suspension, a heavy-duty gearbox, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and 17-inch performance tires. The SRT-4 engine has been recalibrated for 2004, and is now rated at 230 horsepower and 250 pounds-feet of torque. In fact, the 2004 Neon SRT-4 continues to be the second-quickest car in the Dodge product line, accelerating from 0-60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. Only the Dodge Viper turns in a quicker time.
The 2004 Dodge Neon lineup consists of the SE, the sensibly equipped SXT, the sporty R/T, and the high-performance SRT-4. All are four-door sedans.
SE ($13,125) is the base Neon, and it is basic. SE has wind-up windows, manual door locks, and 14-inch tires on steel wheels. Power windows, mirrors and locks are not even available. Air conditioning costs extra ($1,000). There's no tachometer, and no keyless remote. Mirrors and bodyside moldings are black. However, SE is equipped with Millennium cloth front bucket seats, a 60/40 split folding back seat, AM/FM/cassette stereo with four speakers, and vanity mirrors. Floor mats ($50) are optional. AM/FM/CD stereo ($175) is available, as is cruise control ($250).
SXT ($15,435) adds air conditioning, AM/FM/CD with six speakers, power front windows, power door locks (with speed-sensitive automatic locking), keyless remote, power mirrors, power trunk lid release, tachometer, map lights, 15-inch aluminum wheels, and body-color door handles and bodyside molding, A trunk lid spoiler ($50) is offered with most exterior colors. A power sunroof ($695) is also optional, as is a six-disc in-dash CD changer ($300). A Sport Appearance group ($150) for the SXT includes the spoiler and adds fog lamps, a body-color or satin-silver instrument panel bezel, and differently styled 15-inch aluminum wheels.
SE and SXT come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated 132 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a four-speed automatic transmission is an extra-cost ($825) option on SE and a no-cost option on SXT. Power rack-and-pinion steering is standard on both models. Antilock four-wheel disc brakes (ABS) are optional ($595-$695) and come with electronic brake proportioning. We highly recommend opting for ABS as it allows the driver to maintain steering control in a panic-braking situation.
R/T ($17,275) is designed to be fun to drive. It comes with a 150-horsepower High-Output Magnum version of the 2.0-liter engine, plus a sports suspension, P195/50R16 all-season performance tires on 16-inch aluminum wheels, firm-feel power steering, four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS and EBD, performance-tuned exhaust with dual brushed stainless tips, unique front and rear fascia, fog lights, rear spoiler, premium cloth upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The six-disc in-dash CD is standard. Interior lighting is upgraded and a trunk light is provided. Leather-trimmed upholstery ($715) is optional and the package includes a compass and an outside temperature readout on the rearview mirror. The power sunroof is optional. The Neon R/T comes with a five-speed manual gearbox; an automatic transmission is not available.
SRT-4 ($20,450) features a turbocharged 2.4-liter engine, heavy-duty five-speed manual transmission, 17-inch aluminum wheels with 50-series ultra-high performance three-season tires, high-performance suspension, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, Viper-inspired sport seats, plus special trim inside and out, including new bright pedal pads. SRT-4 is available only with a manual transmission.
Safety features include optional seat-mounted side air bags ($390), which are a smart option but they don't provide the head protection of a curtain system. Three-point seat belts are provided for all three rear-seat positions. The LATCH child safety-seat anchor system, an emergency inside release for the trunk lid, and child-protection door locks are standard on all 2004 Neons.