From the November 1995 challenge of Automotive and Driver.
You need to know that many people at Automotive and Driver look upon two-door sedans with the identical affection we now have for one-wing airplanes. Take two doorways off a wonderfully good four-door and what do you get? Two larger, heavier doorways, diminished rear-seat entry, and, uh…oh sure: you by no means, ever should undergo the indignity of anybody calling you “smart.”
Within the Dodge Neon‘s case, the door-ectomy even spoils the automotive’s endearing form. The ethereal greenhouse has been choked by fats C-pillars, and the physique seems to be one way or the other much less impressed and unique.
So we admit to feeling some philosophical bias towards the newest Neon Sport coupe even earlier than driving it. Not that we fault Chrysler for constructing the automotive: for a lot of Era Xers, having a two door is as important to lofty social standing as consuming Zima liquid and bobbing to Snoop Doggy Dogg movies. However for now a minimum of, if you would like the newest double-overhead-cam model of the Neon’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder, you may get it solely within the two-door Sport coupe.
The notion of a twin-cam Neon definitely has attraction. In any case, the single-cam, 132-hp Neon Sport four-door received our final econocar shootout (June 1994) and ranks as one in every of our favourite all-around small automobiles. With the twin-cam’s added energy, we figured the Neon would possibly turn out to be an actual scorcher for lovers on a finances—possibly even a successor to the discontinued Nissan Sentra SE-R.
In some methods, the coupe delivers on that potential. That is one muscular little automotive: the twin-cam 4 produce 18 hp greater than the single-cam model, for a complete of 150 horsepower from simply 2.0 liters. That is major-league particular output. Certainly, on that rating the Chrysler twin-cam betters even the Quad 4 within the coming Chevy Cavalier Z24/Pontiac Sunfire GT, which itself is not any slouch with 150 hp from 2.3 liters.
Within the Sport coupe’s 2524-pound package deal, 150 horsepower produces front-of-the-class efficiency. Fitted with the usual guide five-speed, the Neon coupe nails the 0-to-60-mph run in a mere 7.6 seconds, in contrast with 8.9 seconds for the Sunfire GT (at the moment provided solely with an computerized). Certainly, the Neon Sport coupe is simply two-tenths shy of our outdated benchmark, the Sentra SE-R.
But the twin-cam Neon is barely a step forward of its single-cam sibling, which even with its energy deficit nonetheless reaches 60 mph in simply 7.9 seconds. Within the quarter-mile, the distinction is even smaller: the twin-cam Neon journeys the lights in 16.0 seconds at 89 mph, and the single-cammer does it in 16.2 seconds at 86. Frankly, given the DOHC automotive’s 18-hp benefit over the SOHC version (with solely a 32-pound weight acquire) and its shorter (3.94:1) final-drive ratio, we anticipated an even bigger efficiency increase.
Usually we would not harp on this—in spite of everything, any efficiency hike is normally an enchancment—however the Sport coupe’s minor features in swiftness include some not-so-minor penalties.
As an illustration, as a result of the twin-cam’s energy peak is increased than the one cam’s—6800 rpm versus 6000—Sport coupe drivers will spend much more time gunning the engine towards the highest of the tach. And extra revs imply much more engine noise than the already loud single-cam Neon makes. Full-throttle acceleration within the twin-cammer produces 83 dBA of cockpit din (the Sunfire GT, in distinction, registers a comparatively unobtrusive 77 dBA beneath full boot).
An outspoken engine shouldn’t be essentially a flaw in a sporty automotive—we truly applauded the 83-dBA shriek from the Acura Integra GS-R. However within the Sport coupe’s case, the engine screams not “attractive sports activities sedan,” however “Worldwide Harvester.” It is a coarse, undistinguished tone that daunts runs to the 7000-rpm redline. On lengthy freeway cruises, the dual-cam’s drone can rankle the nerves greater than a full two hours of “Good Morning America.”
Round city, the single-cam engine truly has an edge. Its torque peak of 129 pound-feet is simply 2 pound-feet shy of the twin-cam’s, however it comes at 5000 rpm—extra relaxed than 5600 with the twin-cam engine. With the single-cam engine, you get about the identical response for much less noise.
There’s most likely a gasoline penalty with the twin-cam, too. The EPA lists the identical mileage figures for each engines, however throughout our check drive we measured 27 mpg with the twin-cam automotive, versus 29 mpg with our final Neon four-door.
In different respects, the coupe is the rewarding enthusiast-mobile we had hoped it could be. The stiffer shocks and comes fitted to the Sport coupe agency up the journey to the purpose that non-enthusiasts would possibly object, however those that place a precedence on dealing with response will just like the setup. The Sport coupe whirls across the skidpad at as much as 0.82 g, and the chassis has a “can-do” really feel that encourages charging into turns. You by no means fear that you just’re beating up a small automotive that wasn’t supposed for brisk driving.
To tame its added power, the Sport coupe provides rear discs to its ABS (the 4 door has rear drums). But this automotive’s stopping distance from 70 mph (207 ft) was longer than that of the four-door, most likely attributable to inadequately bedded-in brakes in our low-mileage check automotive. Neon virtues shared by each automobiles embrace an excellent smooth-action shifter, steering that’s mild in effort with out being numb, enticing shapes and textures all through the cabin, and a cut up rear seat that folds down to offer the little Neon substantial cargo capability.
The absence of the 2 rear doorways forces rear passengers to carry out just a few acrobatics on the best way to their seats, however the room again there’s surprisingly enough. Actually, the specs point out that the two-door has extra rear-seat area than the four-door (in apply, the distinction shouldn’t be that noticeable). Chrysler deserves credit score for not throwing out usable cabin quantity with the rear doorways.
At $15,155 effectively outfitted—A/C, cassette stereo, ABS, twin airbags, cruise management, energy locks (however no energy home windows)—the Neon Sport coupe delivers a laudable return on the greenback. However there’s a good higher worth on the market. The Neon Sport four-door is quieter, almost as fast, and gives a extra passenger-friendly package deal. Plus, its base value undercuts the Neon Sport coupe’s by greater than $1000.
Simply inform your fashionable associates that two-door sedans are as useless because the grunge look anyway.
Two-door consumers know who they’re—avoiders of four-doors, which they affiliate with smart sneakers, squalling brats, and falling hair, in ascending order of dread. So they may select this Neon with its peculiar roof formed like a batter’s helmet, its contortionist’s entry to the again seat, and its blocked imaginative and prescient to the rear corners, simply so nobody will lump them into the class of the terminally uncool. I like the best way this automotive’s pedals let me heel-and-toe, and the best way its driver’s bucket hugs my torso on the enjoyable roads. However simply two doorways? Nah, I am not one in every of them. —Patrick Bedard
You have to like this little teddy bear of a automotive, what with its huge eyes and cuddly curves. However I ponder if it is not simply too, too cute for a middle-aged man who flunked sensitivity coaching. I like some edge to my automobiles, a little bit of perspective: much less Little Pink Using Hood and extra Massive Unhealthy Wolf. Maybe Chrysler would contemplate a model of this automotive that claims “Do not tread on me” as a substitute of “Hello.” One thing low and nasty with huge tires, fender flares, a suspension package deal, and a snarl as a substitute of a smile. Bye. —Fred M.H. Gregory
Accusing the Sport coupe of noisiness is like calling Roseanne obnoxious: it is a part of the act. It is a furry little beast, with punchy energy, playful and balanced dealing with, crisp steering, and outstanding seat bolsters. It is not as refined because the lately retired Nissan Sentra SE-R, however it would not undergo the SE-R’s straight-arrow styling, both. For budget-bound pace demons, there’s rather a lot to love on this Neon. Oh, and about that noise: from time to time, my eardrums appear to detect a touch of Weber-carbureted, throaty Italian 4 cylinder in its full-throttle bark. I might get used to that. —Don Schroeder
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