IMO you really have to appreciate AWD to get why one may prefer an STi over an SRT4 Neon. The first time you are in an STi on anything other then clean dry pavement and still have awesome traction, you know it. Additionally the STi handles the curves well too.
Stock for Stock STi wins hands down in IMHO. However, if you are looking to build a straight line quarter mile monster then an SRT4 Neon is a better platform to go with.
In summary, if you are looking for a car that is great in many ways, makes a good daily driver, live in a town where in occasionally rains and you have to turn to get places then it's STi FTW!