Reliable, cheap, fun car
It's been a really good car, at 21 years old and approximately 108,000 miles it hasn't had any problems that have been either unexpected or expensive. The only time this car has broken down was once due too a faulty fuel pump. Everything is cheap to fix on this car and although it is slow getting up to speed it has very good handling due to how small and light the car is. It also gets really good fuel economy. It can relate to my cousins 2016 Dodge Dart 2.4l and sometimes gets better mpg then him! Overall this is a really good first car, or commuter car. It's eaisy to work on, reliable, fun to drive, has a large fan base if you ever have any questions, and it's very good on gas. The interior is also simple and has no rattles even after 21 years. As long as you keep up with maintenance it will last you 250k+ miles easily.
The best compact car of its day
It's 2012 and I still drive my 1996 Neon, it has 220K on the odometer. To this day, this car is Chrysler's best compact car because this car (even with its now underpowered engine by modern day standards) has a high power to weight ratio and at the drag strip I can still beat most brand new compact cars. Although part of the reason new compacts get beat by me is because of the modern day safety standards which add significant weight to a modern day vehicle. My neon was originally an automatic and I could consistently get 32-33 mpg per tank, which includes in city and hwy driving. 3 years ago I converted it to a 5-speed (for fun) and I consistently get 36-40 mpg per tank, thus this car if made by Chrysler today would be Chrysler's most "green" vehicle. At 20K the headgasket went, which is one of the only black marks against the car, luckily this was fully covered under warranty at the time. Otherwise the only maintenance has been routine fluid changes. The timing belt and water pump were replaced at 100K and 200K (preventitive maintenance). The fuel pump was replaced at 160K, because it went bad. The original alternator and starter were replaced at 200K (they were going bad). Original struts were replaced at 160K (still not convinced they were bad yet). Also at 180K the original control arm bushings were replaced with polyeurethane bushings which significantly improved handling, significantly reduced cabin vibration, and eliminated any and all steering wheel shake. Also the A/C evaporator was replaced at 180K due to a hole that developed. All in all the engine and tranny (the auto and manual) had/have always been solid. 150K-200K out of the accessory components is pretty darn good.
I had a 1996 2dr highline 2.0L SOHC 132HP 5 speed. It got 36mpg on the highway. Never broke down very reliable it was blue and I had white racing strips painted on it like the viper of that year and had "babyviper" put on the windshield and back window. The babyviper was a very good small car, every bit as good as an other small car of the time.