Yeah, yeah. The Neon... "Hi." It's a girl's car...
I'm surprised at how few folks are familiar with the Neon's competition success. It may be the most successful club racing car in SCCA history. For the last 10 years it's won national championships in SCCA Pro Rally, Solo, and road racing. Last number I saw was some 1400 podium finishes, and the last time I check that was a few years ago. I'm sure the number is larger now.
The Neon won 3 classes of the last season of SCCA Pro Rally. The SRT-4 won the open two-wheel drive class against a Porsche 911, an Acura RSX-S, and a MazdaSpeed Protege. For nearly 10 years, since it was introduced in 1995 the ACR has been the fastest front-driver in SCCA autocross. With my 1996 Neon ACR coupe I get by or dog many a Porsche, Corvette, Ferrari, etc. on local road circuits here in the northeast. (Of course, with road racing driver skill is just about everything; you can't buy your way to being fast). It has repeatedly turned in the highest skid pad G numbers of any stock class autocross car in numerous skid pad shoot outs. Sport compact car claimed it to be their best handling project car ever.
I assert that it may be the best performing front drive chassis, certainly right out of the box, of anything we get here in the US. The SRT-4 is a beast. It reset the price/performance value ratio. Bolt up the ACR bits to the SRT-4 and the chassis performance will be as impressive as the engine performance.
I agree with folks on their criticisms of the Neon. It's a dorky car, and not all too expensive feeling, and certainly the early ones didn't have a good reputation for reliability or build quality. But, I have to say that my ACR Neon has a been an outstanding car. In 7 years of ownership it's never had an unscheduled service, parts are cheap but not cheaply made or designed, the overall performance of the package is outstanding. For me I want go and I'm not too worried about show. I have my Lotus and TVRs when I want lots of both show and go.