The 2006 Dodge Neon is actually a 2005, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The Neon is practical, inexpensive and roomy, and plenty fun to drive. It's quicker than most cars in its class and it feels sporty on winding roads, with a good balance of ride quality and handling agility. Relatively long suspension travel helps Neon avoid bottoming out on bad roads, and it gets good fuel mileage. Best of all, the models on the lots now promise better deals than ever.
That's because the Neons sold in 2006 will be straight carryover from 2005. Dodge will stop building the current Neon at its Belvedere, Illinois, factory to retool for an all-new small car for 2007. Yet before that new car hits showrooms, there will be plenty of the current Neon models left to sell. In any circumstances, the Neon is a solid car at a good price, typically with some heavy dealer incentives. In 2006, smart shoppers should be able to buy Neon at clearance prices.
The frugal Neon SE ($13,800) comes with the essentials and not much more. The SXT ($16,110) comes loaded with popular features, before the sales incentives, and it can be decked out with plenty of appearance items.
Driving enthusiasts love the Neon SRT4 ($20,700), which boasts a 230-horsepower turbocharged engine, sports suspension, heavy-duty gearbox, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and 17-inch performance tires. While it's much more expensive than the other Neons, the SRT4 delivers a lot of bang for the buck. It's the most powerful compact you can buy, and it's fast. Of course, those who don't appreciate the SRT4's improved handling may think its ride is too stiff, but this Neon has typically sold for full sticker. The 2006 sell-down may or may not change that.
The Dodge Neon is a compact, five-passenger, front-wheel-drive sedan available in three models: the basic SE, the well-equipped SXT and the high-performance SRT4. The SE and SXT are powered by a 2.0-liter, 132-horsepower four-cylinder engine.
The Neon SE ($13,800) is spartan, to be sure, with wind-up windows, manual door locks, and 14-inch steel wheels. Its mirrors and moldings are black, though it does come with tilt steering, a 60/40 split folding back seat, AM/FM/cassette stereo with four speakers and vanity mirrors. A five-speed manual transmission is standard. Options for the SE include air conditioning ($1,000), a four-speed automatic transmission ($825), AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers ($175), and cruise control ($250).
The sanely equipped Neon SXT ($16,110) adds the air conditioning and CD, 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 molding. SXT buyers can choose the manual or automatic transmission. Options inlude a power sunroof ($695), six-disc in-dash CD changer ($350) and a Kicker audio upgrade ($495).
There are also several appearance tweaks available for the SXT, starting with a trunk-lid spoiler ($100). The economical Sport Appearance group ($150) includes the spoiler, fog lamps, body-color or satin-silver bezels on the dash and unique 15-inch aluminum wheels. The SRT Design Package ($895) gives the SXT the look of the high-performance SRT4 by adding a power bulge on the hood, unique front fascia, and dual exhaust tips. Colors are limited to Blast Orange, Bright Silver, Flame Red, and Black. Finally, a Special Edition package ($945) includes chrome wheels, the Kicker audio with CD changer, and an alarm.
The Neon SRT4 ($20,700) comes with a turbocharged 2.4,-liter dual-overhead cam inline-4 rated at 230 horsepower. It also features a heavy-duty five-speed manual transmission, limited-slip differential, 17-inch aluminum wheels with 50-series ultra-high performance three-season tires, high-performance suspension, Viper-inspired sport seats and special trim inside and out, including bright pedal pads. The SRT4 is not offered with an automatic. The sunroof is optional, as is an even more powerful Kicker audio package ($795).
The ACR package ($1,195) for the SRT4 actually takes content out of the car to trim weight, and includes a true race suspension. We absolutely do not recommend ACR for anything other than track use.
Safety features on all Neons include front-impact airbags, three-point belts at all seating positions, the LATCH child safety-seat anchor system, an emergency inside release for the trunk lid and child-protection door locks.
Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) are standard on the SRT4 and optional ($695) on other Neons. Side-impact airbags are optional ($390) on all Neons. We highly recommend both options, but particularly the ABS, which allows a driver to maintain steering control in a panic-braking situation.