2003 Dodge Neon SE 2.0L SOHC Inline-4 from North America
From FL to MA. The little car that did!
EVAP emissions leak at 47,000.
Oil light comes on periodically. Still trying to pinpoint this problem. The engine is getting oil and is running completely fine. I believe it is a faulty pressure switch.
Coolant temperature gauge jumps up to hot after restarting the vehicle. It will stay there for a few minutes, but the engine isn't overheating, and it eventually drops down to the normal temperature reading.
The fuel gauge is very floaty and inaccurate. Sometimes when I was sure I was about to run out of fuel, it would only take about 4 gallons of fuel, and then it would drive for another 350 miles and read half a tank, I'd fill up, and it would take 7 gallons.
Currently, the CEL is on for a Power Steering Pressure Switch code.
First off, let me say that I myself do not own this vehicle. I simply drove it home from Florida for a good friend of mine. She bought it used in Florida in 2004 (she is an older woman, and used to spend her winters in Florida, but will no longer be doing this, and wanted to bring her car back home to Massachusetts.)
I drove this car over 1,500 miles over a 3-day period, so I got to know it pretty well.
It is a basic model, no power locks or power windows, and no cruise control (my foot is still sore!). The only options it has are (thankfully) air conditioning and a radio.
It gave me no serious issues on my long trip home (scared me a little when the oil light came on, but it didn't stay on for very long, and now that I'm home, I've checked the oil pressure and it is normal, which is why I believe there is a fault with the switch).
The interior, while a bit low-budget (it's an econocar, so that's to be expected) is very roomy for such a small car. Over large bumps the dash would rattle quite a bit, but otherwise it was very quiet inside. Road noise was much less intrusive than I expected, and the ride is quite good for a small car. It isn't bothered by much, and stays pretty well planted to the road with minimal body lean. Never once did I feel a crosswind. What I was most impressed by however was the seats. I found the seats to be extremely comfortable. After 12 hours on the road, I felt no real pain, and wasn't even very stiff.
The radio is also pretty good for a low-end model. Nothing to write home about, but it was loud enough to keep me awake! (Obviously I did not travel at night, because I was alone.)
The engine and transmission, well, they are a bit... jerky. The engine provides more than enough power for this small car (which was doing 70 MPH with the A/C on, and a trunk and backseat completely filled with stuff for 1500 miles). The engine itself doesn't bother me; it runs pretty smooth, and power delivery builds quite nicely throughout the RPM range. In fact, the only time that I felt the engine was struggling at all was when I began to get closer to home, and began to hit the mountains (climbing the large hills on the highway left it a little breathless at the top).
The transmission is where the car fell short, however. The transmission seems to be operating normally, and the fluid is clean and unburned, but I found that it didn't always like to shift down when I needed extra passing power. In traffic, it seemed to get confused, and even shifting it out of overdrive wouldn't stop it from clunking in and out of gears. Despite this, when cruising the transmission does a good job of keeping the highway RPM to a minimum (about 2300 RPM at 70 MPH).
The brakes were also a bit odd. They easily stop the car, but the pedal is extremely stiff and completely lacks good feel. If you push it down maybe an inch, nothing happens. Push it down another half inch, and the car's nose dives and it comes to a sudden halt. It didn't take long to get the hang of modulating the pedal to prevent this, but it's still a bit odd.
Fuel economy was impressive, considering the traffic I was in for quite a while in New York, the temperature outside, the speed I was usually traveling (70-75 MPH), the A/C being on, and having a fully loaded trunk and backseat. It averaged about 40 MPG throughout the trip.
Overall, I think that it's a pretty decent little car actually. I really didn't mind driving it such a long distance at all. It performed quite well, but most importantly, it got me home!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 17th July, 2012