Welcome back Chrysler.
Not since Chrysler abandoned Europe and sold its Roots arm to Peugeot have we seen so many Chryslers on the British market.
A grand total of three to be exact. The vicious Viper, the monster MPV and a cheap, mid range Yankee saloon.
Forget visions of V8-powered, buttoned dralon bench seat filled behemoths. The Neon is a Mondeo sized FWD 4 cylinder saloon of European proportions.
10,000 or so Chrysler Neon's already imported and sold into this country? Its got a big job to do too has it has to re-introduce Chrysler back into Britain. Dodgy Viper's, and Massive MPV's are all very well but as a volume manufacturer the popular saloon market is where Chrysler needs to see some sales success.
But who too sell it to ?
To people with an average age of 53, In good old blighty they are perceived as a decent well rounded package, strong on value and equipment, but dynamically a little limited
Current prices are
SE £10,995; LX: £13,495 (on 14.4.2000)
Note the reversal of European trends whereby the LX is the better equipped of the range.
Strangely enough, whilst Chrysler have been happy enough to market to the, shall we say, more mature end of the market, back home in the USA the Neon is marketed a little differently. There, it's a cheap, fun car aimed at mobile teenagers and price conscious youngsters.
The price Stateside is an even more competitive 8000-ish dollars or around five and a half K sterling (shipping costs from the States must be enormous).
Consider that you get a decent sized saloon car with a lumpy 2 litre motor, air conditioning is included as part of its standard equipment and an automatic box at no extra cost. It also offers twin airbags, power steering, remote control Thatcham-approved alarm and immobiliser and six-speaker radio/cassette player.
Move to the LX and you also get anti-lock brakes, alloys, leather upholstery, height-adjustable driver's seat, leather steering wheel, wood grain trim and cruise control.
Safe is one way to describe the styling. Chrysler have gone for a clean, modern, no-nonsense look but not taken any chances with anything wild and wacky. How that equates to young Americans is beyond me though, perhaps they are all prematurely aged. More likely it just highlights the aesthetic differences in taste across the Atlantic divide.
A smooth-rounded front with oval headlamps and a slightly-raised rear end give the car a certain odd balance. It's not obviously of American origin, in fact I personally think it has a certain Japanese quality to it.
The steering is by a power-assisted rack and pinion system and entirely predictable. It's not what we Europeans would term a drivers car though light at the helm, minimum feed back, with slightly squashy suspension which hints back to its US origins. It has the kind of ride and handling that is safe and predictable and instantly forgettable. Just right for an undemanding 53+ year old.
With the arrival of the current Neons last September, the earlier small bore motor was dropped and the 2.0 version becomes standard.
Not many British Neon buyers are going to expect to burn rubber at the traffic lights but the 2.0 four-cylinder DOHC will get them to their destination without too much boredom and gnashing of dentures.
The five-speed manual version gets to 60mph in a respectably average 10.8 seconds and maxs out around 124mph. It's nothing special but, at the price, it's fairly strong compared to the 1.6 things you may normally find.
There is something to be said for leather upholstery, especially when you are getting it on a £13,495 new car. The driver's seat is fully adjustable for height and tilt and the Neon offers vertical steering adjustment as well. The seats are saggy soft Americana but you can still get comfortable. Side support is limited but you're probably not going to be jockeying the Neon around so it's bearable.
Build and material quality isn't quite in the European super league yet, it's much more Daewoo than Audi. However, the price makes up for an awful lot of flaws.
The generosity of the £13,495 package available with the Neon LX, must make it (on paper) one of the best-value cars to be found on the road, competing directly with the Koreans on price. If you want a lot of car for a little money you can't really go wrong. It's just a shame we can't have them at US prices.
I can only imagine that the used values will probably be rather low as the Neon's image won't have buyers swarming all over it. But, second hand, a decent Neon with one careful pensioner owner could well be worth a closer look.
As a re-introduction of Chrysler cars to the British mainstream market, the Neon is a great success and I can only look forward to more exciting Chryslers in the future.
Engine: 2-litre our-cylinder petrol, 131bhp
Performance: 0-60mph, 10.7 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Economy: 26.4mpg (urban); 44.8mpg (extra urban); 35.8mpg (combined)
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