I purchased a preowned Neon 2002 4 Dr. in 2005 with 70,000 Kms. Overall it came out to be an OK car in terms of performance. However I do have to say that every year I have to get some work done on it, like in 2006 I had to re-charge the air conditioning gas.
When this car reached 90,000, its check engine light turned on due to some bad sensor. Since then I am driving the car with this light still on, and it's running as it was when I bought it.
The same year I had to get the front tie rod fixed, and of course that comes with the wheel alignment issue to be fixed as well.
The next year I had to replace its rear wheel bearing since it got very noisy. To me it came as a surprise that rear wheel bearing actually went bad. It usually shouldn't happen, but anyways.
A couple of months later the power steering belt tension-er started making loud noise, and eventually gamed, leaving me going to the mechanic again for a long hourly job to fix the thing.
To my surprise, the rear wheel bearing that I got fixed a 7-8 months ago again started making a noise, and I had to get it replaced again. This time I asked my mechanic not to install Chrysler parts; instead use other brands like Motomaster or GM parts etc. Since then it's running OK.
I think Chrysler has some vendor issues with respects to their ball bearing quality. They get bad at low mileage!
As far as the slamming of pistons in concerned in the morning, I must say yes I have the same problem as well. The engine knocks badly at cold start-up for about 1-2 minutes, and then it gets quiet. I think it's again the timing belt tension-er that has to be replaced with the timing belt and water pump of course. Although I feel 108,000 Kms is still low mileage to replace timing belt! The cure that I have found to reduce engine knocking is I recently started using 91 octane gas, especially in cold weather with some octane boosters if needed when it is -30 Celsius. It really helps the engine in severe cold start.
Yes, one last thing before I stop writing, is that I do have a transmission oil leak somewhere between the engine and transmission, and it's very expensive to fix, so instead I pour transmission leak fix liquid every 2-3 months and make sure the transmission oil level is at the right level.
Using the back wind shield defrost in cold weather does cause the engine a bit vibrate more, and gas mileage goes down a little as well; maybe due to lack of electric amps in the engine.
Overall I am still driving this car since I know I will lose a lot of money if I try to sell it now. So I am continuing to drive it, and it drives OK by the way.
I never had any issues on the road, and I like the way it handles power in its own class compared to Honda and Toyota.
I must also say that this small car has very good road grip, even at 170Km/h. I will continue to drive it to get my money's worth for the next couple of years, and will junk it instead of trying to sell it.