Note: This car is alternatively referred to as either the Dodge or Chrysler Aviat; I chose Chrysler because from what I understand, it was pitched and branded as the 'Neon' Aviat, with Neon as an additional sub-brand under the Pentastar. Since the dedicated Neon brand never happened, I consider it a Chrysler.
You do remember the Neon, don't you?
That poor little Chrysler compact, often derided for its cheap-ness , was on-sale for just 11 years over one major design and one refresh. Whereas the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire tried to appear sophisticated, Neon burst onto the market with a one-word marketing campaign solely dependant on its cute face.
In my interactions with the Neon, I found it quite the impressive little car. Yes, it may have fast-forwarded to a future where interiors are callously plastic—such was the hardness and cheapness of the fittings inside. And yes, it had a cutesy face, which would have been the perfect sedan compliment to a Mazda Miata, maybe—but certainly not a domestic compact, which is expected to be tough and austere.
I drove a Neon SRT-4 with a Stage 2 Mopar upgrade kit, and when the road was slick it'd change lanes instantly and randomly to the left or right. There was so much power and torque but so little grip—it instantly warped my brain. How is this the same underneath as other Neons? And more importantly: Why do I now want a Neon?
In 1994, when the Neon was introduced, Chrysler sought to either show how far they could push the vehicle's chassis and styling or—more likely—to test a future where "Neon" is a family of small cars. The mini-MPV Plymouth Expresso concept could be seen as the most practical take on the Neon theme, with Aviat as the least practical.
In many respects, it's an attempt to answer the problems that manufacturers are facing today: how do we make a premium small car. The Aviat was a simple solution: make it a halo car.
There's little information to be found about the striking design, but it's safe to make a few assumptions.
With its swoopy sides, aggressive profile, and faired-in rear wheels, it can be seen as a sort of Volkswagen XL1 or (first) Honda Insight: a small car that pushes technology forward. Its show car scissor doors, miniature window openings, and uncompromising aerodynamics would have no doubt been toned down for production.
But would people back in the mid-'90s have been happy to pay a premium for an aerodynamic coupe based on the Neon and powered with just a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine?
Sadly, all we're left with are a few press photos and some B-roll footage of the striking coupe.