The Dodge Neon is easily the Chrysler Group’s most popular compact of the modern era and while the Dodge Dart was expected to rekindle the Pentastar’s small car program, it just hasn’t panned out like anyone had hoped. On the consumer side of things, the Dart name garnered a fair deal of negativity from the old school Mopar crowd who still pictures the Dart as a small, rear wheel drive muscle car. On the corporate side of things, sales totals have never gotten to the levels expected – whether due to the name, the price, the marketing or a combination of everything.
Because of the relatively poor sales over the past few years, it appears that the Dodge Dart will be killed off in the next few years and the only hint as to what will replace the compact sedan comes from CEO Sergio Marchionne, who simply stated that they would look to one of their partners for their North American small car program.
When Sergio said that, many assumed that the partner would be an outside company like Mitsubishi, but the South American debut of the new Dodge Neon has me wondering if the next small Dodge sedan might be built by Fiat.
The New Dodge Neon
The new Dodge Neon that is headed for Latin America and South America is based on the Fiat Tipo. The Tipo is Fiat’s answer to the Ford Focus in the European market, so while there might be some changes in dimensions – this car should be relatively similar in size to our Dodge Dart.
Details are short on the 2017 Dodge Neon, so I looked up the specs on the Fiat Tipo. We know that the Tipo is built on a similar chassis to the Jeep Renegade The Tipo is a front wheel drive vehicle with four engines in the European market – a 94hp 1.4L gas engine, a 108hp 1.6L gas engine, a 94hp 1.3L diesel and a 118hp 1.6L diesel – and each of these engines is offered with your choice of a manual or automatic transmission.
Really, the biggest issue with offering the South American Dodge Neon here in the US is that engine lineup. With output ranging from 94hp and 118hp, this car would be incredibly underpowered by US standards, but the company has no shortage of 4-cylinder mills that would be great options for the USA. Really, any of the newer 4-cylinder engines in use would work out, but a successful launch for the Fiat-based Dodge Neon in the US would come down to price.
Some consumers complained that the heavily appointed Dodge Dart is too expensive to compete with the bestsellers in the segment, but based on the pricing of the Neon in South America – keeping the cost down might not be a problem. The Neon is expected to start at just over $12,000 south of our borders, so even with an upscale treatment for the US market (which would include larger, more powerful engines), a new Dodge Neon might work better than the modern Dart.
Unfortunately, I have to point out that there has never been any mention of bringing this Dodge Neon to the USA. We do know that Dodge will need a small car in the next 5 years or so, and we know that the South American Neon is built on a chassis already in use in this market. The company would have to go through the painful and expensive process of getting approval for his new Neon, but if this sporty compact sedan succeeds in South America and Latin America – a launch in the United States doesn’t seem completely unreasonable. If nothing else, the Neon would have better recognition as a solid small car, with so many previous Neon owners still singing the praises of their 1990s compact Dodge.