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    Thread: Battle of USA 5-speed beaters: Cavalier vs. Escort vs. Neon

    1. 06-28-2008 10:21 AM #1
      During their heyday, I've rented each of these, of course with their standard Hertzvisget automatics.

      In these days of looking for more modest transportation, anyone have experience with the five speed versions willing to share?






      Modified by chazbet at 10:23 AM 6-28-2008


    2. Geriatric Member ATL_Av8r's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 10:22 AM #2
      damn....that made me realize I haven't seen a 1st gen Neon in YEARS
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    3. 06-28-2008 10:22 AM #3
      First, this should have been a poll. Second I was very happy with my 98' Neon and wish I never had gotten rid of it.

    4. Member ZoomBoy's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 10:23 AM #4
      Cavalier FTW, and I use that term very lightly here.

    5. 06-28-2008 10:26 AM #5
      Ask Hertz, not TCL. Those cars SUCK. And I mean SUCK.

      Given the choice though, I'd pick the Escort.




      Modified by SickWrathTerror at 10:27 AM 6-28-2008


    6. 06-28-2008 10:27 AM #6
      Would appreciate direction how to make a poll, not having initiated any posts.

      But, isn't a civilized discussion topic just as fun?

      Just to offer additional fodder for comments: Lots of threads exist on what to buy for <$x,000 where x is a small integer.

      Those of us in the mid West tend to see more USA metal, have neighbors/family who work in the industry, etc.

      What if we ruled out the typical Japanese/Euro choices, for whatever reason? Could we get a decent ride from the big 3?


      Modified by chazbet at 10:36 AM 6-28-2008


    7. 06-28-2008 10:40 AM #7
      I know people with Cavaliers and Escorts . Cavalier
      300000 mile cars plus, with maintenance, not to shabby 99% hwy though.
      The Escort is real good but he's only at about 120000, but so you know
      they're real easy to steal. They stole his but he got it back.

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      06-28-2008 10:50 AM #8
      What about:


    9. 06-28-2008 11:32 AM #9
      The Neon was by far the most fun of the trio.

    10. Member Art Vandelay's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 11:35 AM #10
      The GT version of the previous generation Escort (before the one pictured) is easily one of, if not the most fun to drive car for the price. The newer ZX2 is similar. I've heard good things about some Neon models, but I've never driven one. The Cavalier shouldn't even be on your list.
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    11. Member onebadbug's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 11:37 AM #11
      I went to the drag strip last week. I saw absolutely NO Escorts, a couple unimpressive Cavaliers, and several Neons that really suprised me.

      I vote Neon

      Next edit by onebadbug; tomorrow at 10:13 AM.

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      06-28-2008 11:38 AM #12
      I've driven all three. and trust me.. you do not want the cavalier..

      I would choose the Escort because the Neon I drove barely moved at all, maybe there was something wrong with it, I'm guessing it had a 0-60 of like 15 seconds...

      The Escort did feel kind of peppy.


    13. 06-28-2008 11:40 AM #13
      Neons drive like go-carts but the first gens had lots of problems.

      Cavaliers drive like boats but always got the job done and were decently reliable, I see tonnes still kicking with high miles.

      The Escort is the only one I haven't driven but I've always heard good things about their reliability...


    14. Member deepspeed12's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 11:42 AM #14
      I would go for an older body style Escort Gt, I always loved these cars.

    15. Member GTI2Slow's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 11:42 AM #15
      I had a escort ZX2 5MT, it was a great DD. The transmissions fail if you beat on them. And the motor would easily last 200K+ miles.

    16. Member bhtooefr's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 11:45 AM #16
      The Cavalier is a Cavalier, the Neon blows headgaskets, and the Escort is an American-built version of an Australian rebody of a Mazda 323.

      (Of course, with some Ford engines in there. But from what I've heard, the CVH engine is fairly reliable, and there's always the GT/LX-E/Mercury Tracer LTS if you want a Mazda engine, too.)


    17. 06-28-2008 12:47 PM #17
      Ive driven all of them with a 5 speed, and honestly the cavalier IMO was the easiest and most comfortable to drive. Granted its not fast and its not fun, but its reliable and with regular maintenance can go for a long time!

      That being said though if it was me Id go for a 5spd one of these


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      06-28-2008 02:20 PM #18
      At least with the Cavalier you can get some Rally Sport emblems for the quarter panels and pass it off as a rare hipo sports coupe! Anyone remember that fellow posting his on here a few years ago?

      Seriously though, of the cars pictured I would take the Cav as a beater. Its GM and I know those cars inside and out. If there is a little wiggle room in bodystyle & year I would definitely go with a later Escort GT or ZX2. My wife had a 94 GT and it was an excellent sporty driving, fuel efficient, reliable car.

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    19. Member two.twoliter's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 02:30 PM #19
      If you're looking for something fun to drive, I would go for a 98-99 neon r/t without hesitation. Probably the best overall sport compact of the time, especially for the price. Many of the suspension and steering parts of the acr but without the koni dampers for a more compliant ride.

      If you want fuel economy, a sohc 5 speed neon from 98-99 is rated at 29 city/ 41 hwy which is awesome for a 132 hp car carrying 2400 lbs. Dohc cars should still get mid-high 30s on the highway.

      And neons are perfectly reliable if you avoid the automatic and get one with the mls headgasket (most will have this installed by now) Neons aren't the most refined cars, but neither are a lot of CL favorites. They are, however, a complete ball to drive.


      Modified by two.twoliter at 1:32 PM 6-28-2008

      Previous: 87 325e, 90 Accord Coupe, 99 Neon ACR, 91 CRX Si, 93 S-10, 00 Protege ES

    20. Member xdre's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 06:32 PM #20
      Quote, originally posted by bhtooefr »
      the Neon blows headgaskets,

      They blow the OEM plastic headgaskets. The mls replacement doesn't blow. I'd take it in a heartbeat over a Cavalier, but the Escort's a tougher call.


    21. Member bhtooefr's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 06:35 PM #21
      To be completely honest, I'd lean towards the Escort, even if the Neon in question was repaired.

      First things first, I never see 1st-gen Neons around any more... and they were VERY plentiful when they were new. That indicates that something's up. OTOH, I see 11tybn 2nd-gen (not so many 3rd-gen, though) Escorts, and most of them are older than the 1st-gen Neons.

      Second, I'll admit, I've got an anti-ChryCo brand bias. And, a somewhat pro-Mazda one, and underneath the bodywork, the Escort is a Mazda.


    22. Member xdre's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 06:39 PM #22
      Quote, originally posted by bhtooefr »

      First things first, I never see 1st-gen Neons around any more... and they were VERY plentiful when they were new. That indicates that something's up.

      Right. The plastic headgasket. After a potentially major repair like that, a lot of goodwill is used up, and people are more likely to sell the car if anything else comes up (like, say the timing belt replacement at 105k). Cars that have multiple owners in a relatively short time are more likely to be disposable.


    23. Member bhtooefr's Avatar
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      06-28-2008 06:43 PM #23
      But, even something like that still indicates that the Escort would be, on average, a better idea, if the Neons are abused by third and fourth owners that don't care about them...

    24. Member Benjamin.'s Avatar
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      06-28-2008 06:44 PM #24
      I haven't driven one in ages, but I used to have a blast driving a girlfriend's 150hp Neon Expresso 5spd.

    25. 06-28-2008 06:46 PM #25
      I used to have a 5 speed DOHC Neon in high school. It was a fun little car. Never really had any issues with it at all.

    26. 06-28-2008 06:51 PM #26
      I had a 97 two door cavalier 5-speed when I first got in the Air Force (2000). It honestly wasn't that bad of a car, but excelled at nothing. Mine didn't look bad. It was black, had a sunroof, and had those awesome in 1999 headlight tinted covers.
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      06-28-2008 06:56 PM #27
      Quote, originally posted by GLS_VR6 »
      The Neon was by far the most fun of the trio.

      Yeah, they can be a fun drive in the right circumstances.

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      06-29-2008 01:10 AM #28
      The only one I've actually driven in 5-speed is the Neon. It had low miles and it was pretty fun to drive, but like others I have heard nightmares about durability. I see a lot more Cavaliers and Escorts on the road than Neons, and when I do see one it's missing most of its paint. By 85k miles my friend's had lots of relatively minor problems.

      I would lean towards the Escort if it were my money, but that could change after driving it.


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      06-29-2008 01:27 AM #29
      Quote, originally posted by ssaffioti »
      I would lean towards the Escort if it were my money, but that could change after driving it.

      I have driven rental Escorts. They were rather dull and uninteresting, but relatively fuel efficient and did not have any major bad points. Probably the best out of the original three for general purpose.


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      06-29-2008 02:22 AM #30
      Better than driving all three, I've owned all three, and they were all five-speeds to boot. At this point in time, even the best kept examples of any of these cars are going to be rough as a cob.

      Cavalier: JUNK. Drives like JUNK. Holds together like JUNK. It is, for all intents and purposes, JUNK. I would avoid like the plague. Fun to drive? I'd rather cut the skin between my toes with an X-acto knife and douse my foot with habanero chili sauce. I'd rather clean all the bathrooms in Grand Central Station with my tougue. I'd rather dive into a swimming pool filled with double-edged razor blades. You get the idea. I ****ing HATE these cars.

      Escort: If you're talking the pre-97 models, then yes, they're great little cars, all things considered. Even the 88 hp wheezy 1.9 is acceptable with the Mazda five-speed and it has capable, Mazda 323-derived chassis. The '97 redesign numbed the car considerably, IMO, except for fun-yet-buzzy ZX2. Solid middle ground, and probably the most reliable choice.

      Neon: Even the SOHC cars are rev happy, reasonably powerful, and the suspension is plenty capable. Chalking, disintegrating interior plastics aside, the Neon is the best all around package here. As mentioned before, the majority of the head gaskets by now should have been replaced by far superior aftermarket ones, and if they haven't then it's not expensive to have your neighborhood wrench do it. They should be able to do the job for cheap and in their sleep. The rest of the car was reasonably simple and not too much goes wrong with them. The biggest problem with first gen Neons is that they were by and large purchased new on the cheap by people who didn't take care of them, sold to second owners who continued the cycle, and ultimately are now giant pieces of ****. But if you find a first gen Neon in decent shape, then it will reward you plenty, and there is a large aftermarket for them, too.

      Quote Originally Posted by Porridgehead View Post
      There is no such thing as a purist Chevette enthusiast, any more than there is a diarrhetic pedophile metastasized tumor enthusiast.

    31. 06-29-2008 02:58 AM #31
      I will simply say - ANYTHING but the Cavalier...they are truly horrible cars.

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      06-29-2008 03:03 AM #32
      The thing that kills me about the Cavalier is that if casually looking at one, it has the appearance of a decent package. They were relatively good looking, especially after the '95 redesign. It's a car that I have personally tried to like a number of times, but in the end it just plain sucks.

      The only redeeming models were the Z24's, but even they are unfortunately saddled with the platform's basic shortcomings.

      Quote Originally Posted by Porridgehead View Post
      There is no such thing as a purist Chevette enthusiast, any more than there is a diarrhetic pedophile metastasized tumor enthusiast.

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      06-29-2008 03:29 AM #33
      We got the Escort here for years as the Laser, which itself was a decent car. We even got an AWD turbo version of the Laser in the early 90s but I haven't seen many around. That platform more or less spawned the Familia/323 GT-X and GT-R. While Europe got the better Escort in the 80s, America got undeniably the better Escort in the 90s (even though the European one did improve with time).

      The Neon showed that the domestic manufacturers could do a compact that could potentially match the European and Japanese offerings for fun factor but not in refinement or reliability. The SRT-4 showed the potential in terms of performance.

      The Cavalier on the other hand had become deeply archaic by this time, and effectively downshifted in market position due to the sizing-up of small cars. So whereas the Cavalier was in the 80s competing size-wise against the Accord, Camry, Tempo, K-Car and so forth, by the 90s the competition had changed and it was left to compete in a segment with the grown-up Corolla, Escort, Neon, etc and found wanting more than ever.


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      06-29-2008 04:09 AM #34
      I've driven SOHC and DOHC neons, both are fun.

      A word of warning for the ZX2 Escort, a friend had one and it turns out the engine is made by Cosworth. Every part he bought was 5x more expensive that that of a regular Escort.

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      06-29-2008 09:14 AM #35
      Of course, there is another argument for the Escort, over the Neon.

      Neons are all sedans or coupes, Escorts are available (and common) as hatchbacks and wagons.


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