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Priced thousands less than class rivals, the Breeze lacks refinement but offers a generous list of standard features for short money.
Extremely spacious, comfortable seats, impressive handling.
Weak four-cylinder engines, low-rent interior fittings, lots of engine and road roar at speed.
New colors and child-seat tether anchorages update the Breeze for 2000.
Despite Plymouth's death, the Breeze is still gusting along. The Breeze, a sibling of the Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus, was originally poised to lead Plymouth's revival as Chrysler's value brand by offering a stylish, roomy four-door sedan with a decent level of standard equipment for a low price. But that marketing plan, and Breeze sales, are faltering. The Breeze comes standard with air conditioning, tilt steering, six-speaker stereo, rear-window defroster, remote trunk release and a folding rear seat. The short options list includes antilock brakes, power door locks and windows, power sunroof, and a choice of stereos. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. Power comes from a 132-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine lifted from the smaller Neon. Also available is a 2.4-liter engine, which brings 150 horsepower and 167 foot-pounds of torque, and that's just what the Breeze needs to try to live up to its name. Sadly, a manual transmission is not available with this larger powerplant. Both engines meet California's low-emission vehicle regulations. Driving the Breeze proves it to be a strictly point A to point B kind of conveyance. Equipped with an automatic transmission, as most are, the car is dreadfully slow to accelerate with the base 2.0-liter engine, and only marginally quicker to speed with the optional 2.4-liter motor. Handling is surprisingly good, with responsive steering and a flat cornering stance, thanks to a four-wheel independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars. Interior trim is low-rent in feel and appearance, but ergonomics are generally good. Forward visibility is excellent, but the high rear deck and narrow backlight mean reversing can become a guessing game. The raucous engines make lots of racket, and road rumble is plainly evident on the highway. This is not a quiet car.Breeze differs from the Stratus and Cirrus primarily in front and rear appearances and available equipment. When it premiered in 1996, the Breeze was a real value, giving buyers a midsize-car package on a small-car budget. While it is still a relatively inexpensive car, it's no longer an exceptional value when equipped with options. Plus, buyers looking for more variety or a V6 engine will want to choose the Chrysler or Dodge models. It's problems like these that nailed the coffin shut for Plymouth.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.